Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Super Breakout

Sorry, I know it's been awhile; been working a lot and I came down with a pretty bad chest cold.  Anyway, I am back to review the sequel to "Breakout", known as "Super Breakout".  Unlike the first game, Super Breakout is programmed via a microprocessor, meaning that it's been much easier to port it to other systems.  Hence, it's been included in numerous compilations, unlike the original Breakout.

The only version of Breakout I'd played was on the 2600, but from what I'd heard, Super Breakout is the same game with some added new features.  I used the "Atari Classics Evolved" game for the PSP to play it.  The first thing that I noticed, and that took some getting used to, was that you have to turn your screen to the vertical side in order to play.  I'm not sure why, maybe the screen wouldn't fully fit in the default horizontal position?  Anyway, as a result, the controls take a little getting used to, but I got the hang of it, to a degree.

Unlike the 2600 Breakout , Super Breakout is more in line with the Breakout gameplay that I remember.  You use the paddle to hit individual blocks with a ball, and you must intercept the ball so that it hits more blocks until there are no more blocks.  The graphics are basic, and the sound is pretty sparse, but that's in keeping with the time.  However, there are three different modes of play that you can choose from.  In Progressive Mode, once you destroy a wall of blocks, other walls come down to the center and gain in speed the longer the ball stays in play.  In Double Mode, you control two paddles (one on top of the other) and two balls, only losing a life when you lose possession of both balls.  In Cavity Mode, you get one paddle and ball, but there are two additional balls that are trapped within the blocks.  Once you free those balls, you can use them to destroy more blocks.  In the latter two modes, you get extra points if you can keep the additional balls in play.

While I was glad to take this stroll down memory lane, I thought what brought the experience down for me was the control.  As I may have said previously, the analog nub on the PSP is infamous for how small and useless that it is, so I went with the digital pad to move the paddle.  It turned out being no replacement for the traditional paddle/trackball setup that was popular at the time, and hence was close to mandatory for many games of that period.  So, I flat out sucked at Super Breakout, missing many balls.  I don't know if I would have missed them anyway if I was playing on the original arcade cabinet, but I will probably never know.

I thought the Evolved version of the game was pretty cool.  Regrettably, there is only one type of version included for the Breakout game, unlike the four included for Pong, but I still enjoyed it.  The graphics look slightly better, with a glowing ball, sparks that fly when you hit a brick, cool sound effects and music.  Maybe it's my imagination, but I found it slightly easier to play than the original version.

I wasn't happy with the one clip that I found of this version, but it was all that I could find.  I recently purchased a Playstation Vita, which has a pretty cool camera built in that you can use to record videos.  I tried doing that with this review, but holding my Vita in one hand to record, and the PSP in the other to play a round of Super Breakout and show you how it looked on the system, was difficult and awkward to say the least.  


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