Reviewed: October 5, 2007
Released: June 26, 2007
Perhaps one of the oldest, albeit simplest concepts in video game history is that of a single virtual paddle smacking around a single virtual ball. This concept was something birthed by what could perhaps be called the granddaddy of all video games, Pong. This modest game has spawned numerous reiterations of this same basic concept, such as Breakout and Araknoid, which sported more frills than their predecessor, but at their core still remained the same game.
There is something to be said about the old adage ďIf it ainít broke, donít fix itĒ but occasionally even the oldest concepts need a little spit and polish to make them feel new again, which is exactly what Nervous Brickdown aims for.
Nervous Brickdown is a new handheld release from Arkedo Studios for the Nintendo DS and attempts to breathe new life into something of an ancient concept in the archives of gaming. While the idea of batting a virtual ball into multicolored bricks may seem a bit simple for todayís gaming audience, every aspect of this game strives to twist some aspect of this otherwise rudimentary scenario and does so with both style and aplomb.
While its core concept remains older than dirt, the basics behind Nervous Brickdown remain the same. The player uses a paddle positioned near the bottom of the screen to rebound a ball into a collection of bricks near the top. The player moves this paddle with the use of the DS touch screen. The touch screen, apart from allowing an ease of control, also opens up a multitude of interesting new gameplay mechanics.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect about Nervous Brickdown is that its best qualities come from being slightly more than the sum of itís parts. The whole of the game is not just simply one cool trick spit out over the course of a few hours that give the game itís fun. Itís the fact that the game divides itself into several themes that are so varied, that playing each one is a unique experience unto itís own.
To break things down, the game divides itself into ten levels, each with their own very distinct variations on the basic playing style. For example, one level gives players the option of drawing their paddle, no longer restricting them to just straight horizontal lines, while other levels allow the player a free range of movement for the paddle, giving them the ability to actually push the ball.
The differences in the levels arenít limited to just the paddles themselves, as most of the levels have some kind of twist that effect either the behavior of the ball or the way the level itself is played. In fact, these changes between levels feel so estranged; at times it feels as if you are playing a different game altogether.
A prime example of this is one particular level which borrows its theme from classic top-down shooters like Gradius, in which the player not only has to deal with keeping the ball afloat, but also must avoid incoming fire from enemies on the top screen. To perhaps put a final, ever-chaotic cherry on this level, the player can also shoot back at the enemies while all this is happening, and this is just a taste of one of the several distinct levels that Nervous Brickdown has to offer.
Another minor, but nonetheless unique feature of Nervous Brickdown is that it actually features boss battles at the end of each level. While none of these are particularly challenging, they are fairly interesting, tie in well with each levels theme, and serve to mix things up just one more time in what would otherwise be a run of the mill Breakout clone.
In addition to the touch screen Nervous Brickdown also makes limited use of the DS microphone by giving players the unlockable ability to blow into the mic to keep their ball airborne. While this does detract any kind of skill from the game, it still remains a fun and original game mechanic.
Itís needless to say by now that each level in Nervous Brickdown is incredibly unique in their various aesthetics, making each level feel fresh in itís own way. Before one concept gets too old, it seems that another rises to take its place. This idea of making a game that feels like many, like some kind of magical vacuum bag, keeps Nervous Brickdown feeling fresh throughout its entirety.
Nervous Brickdown lacks nothing in the way of graphical quality or variety. Every level in the game sports its own unique graphical theme with vibrant colors that seem to jump off the screen. While there is little complexity to these graphics, they still get the point across and look excellent. What Nervous Brickdownís visuals lack in depth, it more than makes up for in itís variety.
With a game like Nervous Brickdown, it is generally difficult to find points to nitpick about, especially since the game is fairly simple to begin with, but in the case of Nervous Brickdown its graphical department came away with flying colors and was right on the money.
The music and sound for Nervous Brickdown is composed of the typical techno fare, with a few pieces that stand out as better than the rest. Thankfully, there is enough variety to keep the music and sound interesting, and enough quality to keep it from sounding like something my brother threw together in garage band. Altogether, there is nothing lacking in either music or sound from this game.
With enough uniquely designed levels and plenty of unlockable features to make you go back and play the same game twice, Nervous Brickdown is simply just the game that keeps on giving. All of this provides for a solid handheld experience that is well worth what you paid for it.
Even with a concept that seems slightly dated, Nervous Brickdown does an excellent job of taking old-school gameplay and putting just enough new school glamour on it to make it feel fresh again. While the basic concept that forms the core of this game may still be too simple for some to find entertaining, it still provides a fairly lengthy and fun game with several outstanding qualities.