Friday, March 23, 2012


Sorry for not posting in awhile.  I had to take my "1,001 Video Games" copy back to the library.  I intend to buy a copy, but until I do, I will play a few Breakout games, since Breakout is the next game on the list.  First is the original Breakout for the Atari 2600. 

I wanted to note beforehand, that unless one owns an actual Breakout arcade machine, playing the original version of the game is pretty much impossible.  Breakout was programmed with discrete logic, rather than via a microprocessor.  What I'm saying is that as a result, games that don't use processors cannot be emulated.  As it is, there were not many versions of the original Breakout that were ported.  The most well known was for the Atari 2600, and I played it using the Atari Anthology for the original XBox. 

When I think of Breakout, I usually think of the more modern games like Arkanoid, Brickbreaker, and others.  Playing Breakout was taking a huge step backwards in time, as I'd not played it in many, many years.  And with the exception of Pong, you cannot get more simple than Breakout.    I immediately noticed differences.  For one, you do not take out one brick at a time, but rather, there are rows of bricks that your ball must hit, one by one.  Ideally, you should try to hit the ball towards the far right or left, so that the ball gets trapped in the top area, but this is often easier said than done.  When you hit certain bricks, the ball veers quickly and wildly, making it difficult to reach it in time.

Almost needless to say, the graphics and sound are very basic.  And so is the gameplay.  Arkanoid pioneered the use of new elements to the Breakout experience (multiple balls, lasers, other power-ups), and this game was years before Arkanoid.  The variants that can be utilized don't add much to the experience, although I thought the "invisible" mode was kind of cool.  I did not use a paddle controller, but the Xbox 360 controller was serviceable, although I highly recommend using the digital pad to move your paddle; the analog stick is way too loose and I had lost many balls before switching to digital.   

In the end, this game held my attention for awhile, which is more than I can say for Pong.  Not to say that Pong is bad, quite the contrary, but Breakout is more of a single-player affair, whereas Pong was always more of a multiplayer experience.  But it does lose its appeal after a time; I started gaming in around the mid to late 80s, and I tend to struggle holding my attention when it comes to playing games released before that time (there are a few exceptions, most notably Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Galaga). 

Included below are videos of the original arcade version of Breakout, and a review of the 2600 version.  I was impressed with how the arcade version looked; also, the bricks are separate, rather than long colored rows like the 2600 version.  However, it's actually black and write, with color overlays placed where the bricks are located.

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