Reviewed: September 9, 2006
Released: June 20, 2006
Break ‘em All is the newest addition to the Nintendo DS’s budget line of games from D3. Attempting to recreate the fun of the original Breakout for the arcade we older folk like to reminisce about, little in the way of gameplay has been modified. The paddle, blocks, ball and ball-destroying abyss are still present and mostly unchanged. The updates come in the form of power-ups, gameplay modes, and graphics.
There are three modes to choose from: Tokoton mode, a standard block breaking game featuring 50 standard levels or 3 million randomized ones; Quest mode, a nice addition in which you break blocks to move forward in the levels in attempt to reach a boss in which you must beat; and survival mode, a versus match against human or computer opponents in which you try to be the last one remaining on the screen.
The game itself is pretty simple; you have a paddle in which you attempt to bounce a ball across the screen and into bricks of varied durability in attempt to destroy them all. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it really is. This game harks back from the day when the ability to manipulate things on a screen was the greatest thing ever and it didn’t take much to impress us. Don’t take that the wrong way, however, as 30 years later it remains one of the most well known and reincarnated games out there.
Break ‘em All adds a new twist on the game in the form of power-ups. Chosen at the beginning of the game, you have the option to either slow down or speed up your ball speed; use a ball catcher or rebounder; split the ball into 3 or 5 parts; create a barrier below the paddle or create a secondary paddle; increase or decrease the size of your paddle; and finally, use either a laser to destroy all blocks you pass through or bomb to blow up all blocks around the ball.
Once these are chosen, the chosen game begins. The ball moves agonizingly slow at first but slowly builds up momentum until you’re racing around the screen attempting to keep up with the ball. Speaking of moving around the screen, there are two options for moving the paddle-either the stylus on the touch screen or the two shoulder buttons.
The stylus is excellent for quickly and precisely moving around the screen, but unfortunately obscures the view of the paddle. Using the shoulder buttons results in a clear screen, but unfortunately is rather slow and clunky compared to the stylus. Neither of the two options are perfect, but with practice, either becomes tolerable.
While the graphics are obviously light years above its original design, they’re still not quite up to snuff. Granted, there’s only so much you can do with a ball, a paddle, and bricks, but the entire scheme comes off as more of a Super Nintendo game than a DS one. I’ve seen flash games based on Breakout that manage to pull this off much better than Break ‘em All does.
For each level there is a scrolling backdrop that matches the “theme” of that level, the ball flashes each time in connects with something, and the power-up text lights up each time a new power-up becomes available, but it all feels very 16-bit.
Like I said for the graphics, this game feels very Super Nintendo-ish with its music and sound effects. The ball makes unidentifiable clinks and whooshing noises when it hits the paddle, walls and bricks, and the music is definitely old-school MIDI. I can tell you right now, Lumines this is not. Do yourself a favor and plug your ear-buds into your MP3 player instead.
As noted before, this is one of Nintendo’s budget titles. At only $20 anyone who even kind of enjoys Breakout style games will be hard-pressed to pass this up. It has both single-player replayability and a multiplayer mode to pass time with your friends. Neither will keep your attention for long gaming stints, but is a great way to pass the time.
The game at its core is fun; its continued existence is proof enough of that. The problem lies in its presentation. After years and years of Breakout clones, I find it hard to believe that this is the best D3 had to offer. The Nintendo DS has shown us its capability time and time again, and Break ‘em All seemingly refuses to take advantage of it. The controls are weak and at times counter-intuitive, which confuses me as to how such a simple concept can invoke even a small learning curve.
The best part about this title is that once you get in, it plays just like the original in all its addictive glory. Additionally, as one of Nintendo’s budget titles, it retails at only $20. That’s about as much as taking your date out to one of those noisy movie theaters. Wouldn’t you two rather be playing Breakout? I think the choice is obvious.