IGN Review of Nervous Brickdown
The original Breakout design was a simple creation: a paddle, a ball, and a whole lot of bricks. By putting controls on an analog knob, players had direct control over the paddle - it moved with the exact rate of your twisting, which in turn gave the feeling that you were manipulating a real object left and right. Clones of the Breakout design have spawned throughout the years, but if they didn't use the knob control they never held the same fun factor as the original.
But the Nintendo DS offers the ability to try something similar - instead of twisting a knob, you simply slide the paddle around as slow or fast as you can using the stylus on the touch screen. D3Publisher's Break 'em All was one of the first games to clone Breakout on the Nintendo DS, but didn't inject enough creativity into the mix. Nervous Brickdown, however, oozes a tremendous amount of creativity into the classic Breakout design. This production is more style over substance - fun variations on a classic old-school theme. It's still Breakout, though, so don't expect a whole lot of options beyond whacking a ball around with a paddle.
Nervous Brickdown is French development studio Arkedo's tribute to Breakout. The game is a level-based design that features multiple themes of different ball-whacking challenges. At the first boot-up, you get the standard Breakout design: a ball, a wall of bricks, and a ball to bounce around. After you clear the first wall, you'll clearly see that this isn't your average Breakout game.
There's an amazing amount of clever ideas in Nervous Brickdown - each "theme" plays off the paddle-and-ball idea in different ways. In "Paper," you draw the paddle at the start of the game and try to eliminate blobs of ink. In "Curve," you whack around a miniature golf ball not just left and right, but up and down a golf course and even a breakfast table. "Speed" turns the ball into a beam of light, and you'll blast retro-style vector blocks with its power. And speaking of retro, "Retro" levels feature side-scrolling platform jumping while whacking the ball around. There are ten different styles of levels to unlock, each with their own creative ideas surrounding the Breakout idea. The only thing that's missing is a mode that simply approaches Breakout in the more classic fashion. There's no simple "endless" mode - every level ends and moves onto the next round.
High scorers are rewarded with extras that are added to the game - you'll earn additional lives if you hit one milestone, and at another you'll gain the ability to "blow" the ball and adjust its trajectory through the microphone. Normally I hate the use of breath in Nintendo DS games, but Arkedo manages to use it in such a way that makes the game cool - the team even makes it look cool in the "Ghost" level, where they apply a visual wind effect that gives the impression you're huffing misty breath into the world.
And speaking of visuals, this game really is something special. Yes, the core experience doesn't need much but a paddle, ball, and blocks, but the game's designers took creative control to make a title that has a style all its own. Each theme pushes a different art direction, from the use of silhouette characters in the "Water" levels to the old-school shmup imagery of the "Shoot" levels. Most of the themes even push impressive 3D engines that play second fiddle in the background
you might not notice the smooth and detailed visuals going on while you play, but they're there, and they're nice icing on a very pretty cake.
But when it's all said and done, the game's really just a bunch of short, single ball Breakout levels - don't expect intense multiball action, because there really isn't any. And as cool as the game looks and plays, it's only good for brief play sessions - the feeling of boredom does tend to set in quickly with Nervous Brickdown since the core gameplay doesn't really change. It's probably the best Breakout clone yet created, but that's its ultimate issue - it's just Breakout.
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