Revisiting old classics on a new platform is often a risky business. Nostalgia can be a cruel mistress at times, and with gameplay mechanics and current trends seeing alterations in time periods as short as a single year, attempting a comeback after thirty-five years might be a bit tricky.
Thankfully, with the surge in the mobile market, primarily that of the iOS App Store, providing the small shots of the past in smaller, cheaper packages has seen some promising success. Enter Atari and the re-release of popular brick-breaking game Breakout: Boost.
The aim is simple, to break all of the bricks by bouncing a ball of a paddle at the base of the screen. It’s the same Breakout that has been round for decades although with one interesting twist. The speed for the ball is adjustable mid-game, with faster speeds increasing the points-based multipliers at the cost of increased difficulty. It not only allows for a wide range of abilities to play the game, but also an interesting take on tactics. Whilst your typical speed may be six or seven, as mine was, when the ball gets blissfully lodged in a game of tennis with the ceiling and other bricks, bumping it up to ten for an additional bonus is well worth the while. It’s then on your head when it goes wrong and you forget to switch back though – the game never feels as though it’s cheating you.
Special ball upgrades attempt to mix up gameplay with varying success, whereas the different bricks on show do manage to greatly change a level. The angle at which the ball bounces off of your paddle determines the angle that the ball shots off at, providing you with actual control over its destination, rather than letting luck decide the outcome. The save and restore in-progress games is a welcome inclusion, making the game far more pick-up-and-play that it would’ve been otherwise.
Adopting the freemium with in-app purchases model, the game offers suitable bang for your buck. Download the game from the App Store for free (for either iPad or iPhone – being played on the latter for this review), which comes included with a solitary five levels to provide a taste for what is to come. Then, at the cost of 69p each, there are three “booster packs” with between seventy-and-eighty levels in each which offer the real content.
Unfortunately, much like the concept, the design is very simple – bordering on bland. The style is simplistic but neither stylish or minimalistic, more like a design based on a limited budget or time frame. There’s no flair, no life, no soul. Music is missing entirely and the sounds are seemingly ripped from the seventies. In that respect, the game does at least harp back to the days of old, although any intentional to the fact is unlikely.
Controls are fine however, despite being a touch-only approach to move your paddle – sorry, but no tilt controls for you. Thankfully, there’s a dedicated space underneath the paddle to accommodate the screen space that your finger will occupy, something that’s too often overlooked.
The thing with Breakout: Boost is that, although it doesn’t really wow you in any department – achievements and leaderboards are present but somewhat understated, it’s solid in everything it does. Whilst the free version won’t offer you a lot of game time, it’s a format that works well; allowing you to have a quick go at the game before deciding to sink a poultry 69p into one of the booster packs. It feels like there’s untapped potential here, but it’s a good Breakout game in the end.
Version 1.2 on iPhone reviewed.