There was an Arkanoid coin-op nestled away in a dark, beer-soaked corner of one of the on-campus food outlets when I was busy at University. It wasn’t new – I’m not that old – but it still held a unique attraction: the funky little trackball was (and is) the perfect control method and it was the sort of game that anyone could just pick up and play without so much as a nod towards the instruction panel. Pure, arcade mechanics and rather handy at keeping you upright after a long night’s, er, studying.
Its metallic sturdiness aside, these same principles (since Pong) have been repeated ad infinitum over the years, from the mostly monochrome Batty on the ZX Spectrum (arguably one of the best free games ever) to the likes of Shatter and Magic Ball on the rather more colourful PlayStation 3: move your paddle to keep the ball in play, smashing into blocks as you go and slowly moving through the levels. Sure, each new game has thrown in a few new twists, but none have gone as absolutely, well, batty as Gameloft with Block Breaker 3.[drop]So, introduced to the mix are branching, multi-screen levels; an Ibiza-esque vibe complete with half-dressed hipsters, bouncy house music and neon aesthetics; more weapons and power-ups than your average first person shooter and – count ’em – eight game modes. It’s like Gameloft have looked at every other bat and ball game ever created and thought “none of them are nearly crazy enough, let’s throw them all together and feed whatever comes out loads of drugs.”
Bizarrely, it almost works. Sure, it’s frequently in danger of being an all-out assault on your senses, graphics flashing like strobes and all manner of things whizzing around the iPhone’s screen, but the actual game – once you find it beneath the showy exterior – is actually not bad at all. There’s a hundred levels, split over a handful of themed areas, but each one seems to have its own distinct atmosphere and style, even if the pacing doesn’t really let up. Even the presence of enemies, pinball-like sections, Sonic-esque tunnels and boss battles isn’t a surprise, only the absence of an actual kitchen sink raises an eyebrow.
Control is either via the gyroscope or a sliding bar, neither of which ever feels particularly right: whilst the gyro method leaves a finger free for activating power-ups, the touch screen is more accurate even though there’s a discernible (and intentional) lag – the paddle never quite keeps up with your movement. We’d have preferred the touch controls to be a lot snappier, especially as the gyroscope method goes too far the other way and is actually a bit too twitchy.
Still, there’s loads here: game modes include, away from the main ‘story’ mode, Endless, Block Master, Time Attack, the wonderfully titled Crazy Mode, Versus, Frenzy, Boss Rush and Survival. None of which really stray too far from the core idea, but variety and a neat way of unlocking extra content throughout the span of the main game. It’s all technically neat enough, the graphics are certainly sharp and high resolution, although seem to judder a little, and the game’s really not bad at all. It’s hardly original, though, despite its best efforts, but might well tick a few boxes for you if you’re after something a little less cerebral.
You can buy it here – the game requires at least a 3GS.
- Loads of content and game modes
- It’s only 59p – great value
- Some impressive visuals and the music’s alright
- The styling feels a little crass
- There’s often just a tad too much going on
- The controls lag a bit, and screen updates aren’t always smooth
You can’t fault Gameloft for trying. This upgraded, updated port of their recent mobile platform game certainly looks the part, even if the style of the game doesn’t always feel terribly fresh. There’s some interesting ideas – the sheer scale of some of the levels for example – but there’s an omnipresent risk that there’s literally too much going on, and when you’re losing lives that you can’t really attribute to anything you’re particularly doing wrong it can be quite frustrating. And perhaps some of us just like things simple…