Breakout Boost Review: Boost Breaks Bricks Brilliantly

Call it Breakout. Call it Arkanoid. Call it Brickles. Whatever title you use, everyone is familiar with the “bricks-and-balls” genre.

A small paddle is located at the bottom of the screen while a large wall of bricks is located at the top. Using the paddle, players must knock the ball back into the wall until all the bricks are destroyed. It’s such a simple design that the genre is often referred to as “one-player Pong.”

Platforms: iOS
Publisher: Atari
Developer: SixHourSoft
Genre: Breakout-Style
Release Date: December 15, 2011
iTunes App Rating: 4+

So it was only a matter of time before Atari resurrected the Breakout formula for the iOS. And they, along with developer SixHourSoft, have done just that with Breakout Boost. However, instead of bringing to life the twisted and shambling corpse of a 35-year old game, they’ve created something that is a must have for all iOS owners.

In Boost, players must guide the paddle by sliding their finger across the bottom of the screen, as well as controlling the ball’s speed by using a slider along the left side of the screen. Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure Breakout Boost is the first Breakout-style game that lets players change the speed of the ball on-the-fly.

And the inclusion of that slider is completely brilliant.

Moving the slider up increases the speed of the ball, but it also doubles the number of points each broken brick is worth from five to ten. Dialing the speed way down slows the ball to a crawl, but it also cuts your scoring opportunities down to a single point per brick. However, constantly changing the speed of the ball is key to racking up the biggest score possible (crank it up to ten whenever you’ve got the ball “stuck” on the top of the wall) while still being able to catch the ball on its return flight.

After completing the five-level free version, players will be encouraged to purchase Booster Packs that add additional levels to the game. These packs (there are three available for $0.99 each) will treat players to a dizzying array of new levels (over 200 in all) and a wide variety of special bricks including ones that unlock Fire, Acid, Splitting, and Grenade Balls as well as Exploding, Mystery, X4, and Metal bricks. Mystery blocks will drop point bonuses as well as granting access to the awesome Missile Paddle.

The Booster Packs also add some interesting new gameplay twists, especially the “Brick Revenge” levels. In “Brick Revenge,” bricks go marching down the screen in a mash-up of Breakout and another classic game, Space Invaders. It’s a little change, but seeing the bricks move adds a whole new frantic dimension to Breakout Boost.

Sadly, it’s very easy to slide your thumb into the wrong position on the iPod’s slick screen, sending the paddle just off-course during the game. Practice will abate this little sensitivity problem, but players will never eliminate it entirely. Boost’s controls are just a tad too sensitive. Moving your thumb a bit higher on the screen doesn’t work either as then you’re just trying to play through your fingers.

While I’m finding flaws, I usually play mobile games with the sound off, and Breakout Boost didn’t give me any reason to change that habit. The blips and bangs you hear as the ball bounces off bricks are the same generic sounds you’ve been hearing for decades. And there’s no background music to speak of. Sure, it gets the job done but, after seeing the slick audio/visual presentations of other retro redos, like Pac-Man Championship Edition for example, Breakout Boost’s non-existent sound effects and rather plain graphics are a little disappointing.

For players looking for a Breakout-style game on their iOS device, it’s hard to go wrong with the original. Breakout Boost is a fantastic brick-breaking game that’ll only get better if it’s ever ported to the PSN/XBLA with d-pad controls. But as is, Boost’s great gameplay and inventive use of the speed slider have inspired me to dial Warp Zoned’s review score slider pretty high.

Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Breakout Boost was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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