Review: Brick Break Blitz (OUYA)

Breakout clones have been a part of gaming for at least 30 years now. After the era of Atari ended, they were relegated to being a niche, or just thrown into bootlegs until the cell phone market emerged as a way to play games a decade ago. Since then, the genre has seen a small resurgence, but few games manage to make the content engaging. Shatter did so about five years ago on the PS3, but most just stick to the basic setup from three decades ago, and wind up with something that is worth playing for a few minutes at best — and that’s assuming the joystick controls allow you to move the paddle around and feature decent ball physics. Brick Break Blitz doesn’t quite do as much as Shatter did to change up the formula, but is an excellent example of a modern-day break-breaker most of the time.

BBB keeps the usual formula alive by giving you a small paddle to bounce off of with minimal direction changes, leading to physics taking over and your overall goal being to clear every breakable block on your path. Many of the later stages have long sets of unbreakable block sets that make it much harder to actually hit the blocks you want. This requires you to make smart use of the power ups and power downs available. If you get an extra ball or multi-ball pickup, you can knock a bunch of bricks out quickly at the expense of knowing that you’ll probably lose a few of them fairly quickly. The big ball power-up take out a few bricks in one shot, but has a much slower trajectory. The best ball power up is the power ball, which sets the ball ablaze and allows it you steamroll through entire columns of blocks in one shot.

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You’ll need sharp reflexes to excel at the game, and even sharper ones to grab all the little score-increasing stars that fall from the sky. Avoiding the power downs is a huge part of things as well. While you can risk them towards the very end of a level when you’ve only got a couple of bricks left, they can be disastrous if you get one early on. You could have your score muliplier killed, or wind up with a crazy ball that just goes wherever it wants to. While it makes for an amusing visual, it does make actually planning things out a bit impossible. Thankfully, these power ups and power downs are all color-coded, so you know to grab anything green and avoid anything red as a general rule, and then you can figure out exactly which icon on the colored blocks stands for which power up to regain some sense of strategy.

BBB plays really well most of the time, although a few technical hiccups hurt the flow of things. When you get the (frickin) laser beam power-up, if you just blast away with them, there’s a metric ton of slowdown. Slowdown also pops up whenever you get the six ball power-up, or just wind up with a slew of balls flying around due to getting a few extra ball power-ups as well. With the extra balls, the slowdown isn’t as bad as it is with the lasers, but it can still be jarring. The OUYA’s controller also seems to cause some issues with the game not quite responding as well as it should. 99% of the time, everything works as it should, but there’s always a point in a longer play session where the stick or d-pad will move you a little slower than they seemingly should. When combined with massive slowdown from power-ups, that equals an unpleasant experience.

Brick Break Blitz has a low-frills visual style that is both pleasing and fitting for the genre. The bright color schemes and sharp graphics make everything easy to see, while also paying tribute to the origins of the genre. Some real-time lighting changes help give the bricks a bit of depth and are quite impressive. When you see an entire section of golden bricks with lighting passing around them in an almost wave-like formation, it’s beautiful and a moment that’s easy to get lost in. Then you lose a ball and snap back to reality, praying that you’ve got at least one spare life to avoid having to restart the entire stage.

Musically, the game features the most enjoyable soundtrack yet for a brick-breaker. Each of the four themed level setups have their own music style to them. The Funky Retro section is chiptune music that’s easy to hum along with, while the Galaxy Far Far Away is a bit more sci-fi flavored, and the Candy Smash music is pure pop that would sound right at home as the backing track for All Saints, and Beyond the Sea features a lot of relaxing music. The best music definitely comes from the Funky and Beyond the Sea areas, but the other stuff isn’t bad, it’s just not as memorable. The sound effect work is solid, with different-sounding effects for the ball bouncing depending on the velocity of the ball, how often it’s bouncing, and what it’s bouncing off of. The multi-ball deal doesn’t just lead to visual chaos, but audio mayhem as well as they each have sound and add to the excitement.

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Closing Comments:

At a mere two dollars, Brick Break Blitz is an easy recommendation if you enjoy Breakout clones. It modernizes the concept fairly well by changing up the formula a bit with all the crazy level designs, and features some impressive visual flourishes. It’s also got an outstanding soundtrack that you’ll be humming while playing and afterwards. Leaderboards add a bit of replay value, but take a while to load and when combined with the slowdown, results in a fun game with some fairly rough edges that hurt it, but not enough to prevent it from being worth its meager asking price.
score3.5
Platform: OUYA