BreakQuest: Extra Evolution|
Bouncing a ball to break bricks has been done to death over the years, but BreakQuest: Extra Evolution still manages to feel fairly fresh. Though the game is decidedly old school, it has more than 100 levels and a staggering amount of power ups. It’s also more accessible than many similar games and can be great for short gaming sessions.
The original BreakQuest was one of the first PlayStation Minis: bite-sized downloadable games at a low price. Many reviews praised the Arkanoid/Breakout clone’s excellent design but criticized its sluggish controls. Unresponsive controls can mean the difference between success and failure — especially in a game of this nature — and so BreakQuest’s reviews were tepid overall. Three years after its initial release on PSP, developer Beatshapers has crafted a follow up.
Having never played the original, I can’t speak to whether or not the controls in Extra Evolution have improved. They respond adequately. Sensitivity can be adjusted through the options menus, but unfortunately this can’t be done while playing. Since the sensitivity falls on a slider and not just "low," "medium" and "high," it would have been nice to have the option to simply pause and adjust on the fly. Regardless of the accuracy of the controls, the game seems to play at about 20 FPS or so. Things don’t move quite as smoothly as they should. Extra Evolution is a very small download, so some sacrifices probably had to be made. Still, the frame rate combined with the low resolution makes this feel like a PlayStation title.
To compensate for any possible control issues, Beatshapers has made the game more accessible and less punishing. At the bottom of the screen, shields constantly regenerate. One shield covers the left half of the screen, and another covers the right half. They begin generating at the edges and slowly work inward. At any time, players can hit the left and right bumpers (L2 and R2 on the PS3) to activate the respective shields. This will prevent any further shield growth if it was incomplete, moving the shields up slightly and making them active. More shields will begin growing immediately, so players can always have a set in reserve. Each shield can withstand two hits before disintegrating, so the game can be fairly lenient when it comes to returning the ball.
Another nice feature in Extra Evolution is unlimited use of the Gravitor. By pressing square or triangle, players can increase the gravity and cause the ball to descend. This allows for more control and really helps to change the ball’s trajectory. With a little practice, hitting those pesky last few blocks is much easier in BreakQuest than many similar titles.
Extra Evolution also sets itself apart from its brick-breaking counterparts by removing the “bricks.” One look at the stylish graphics reveals environments that look more organic. The levels seem more natural, with objects that look like they belong. Though the overall look may be more pleasing, it can also make gameplay confusing. Some objects that look like they’re in the background are actually in the foreground and vice-versa. There are also some objects that are merely there as obstacles; they’re indestructible. It can take some time to figure out precisely what needs destroyed to complete a level.
As in other similar games, power ups occasionally fall after destroying a brick. Some of the power ups do strange things, like changing the shape of the ball or the paddle. In my experience, these power ups hardly impacted the game at all. Other power ups, like guns and mines definitely made things easier. Extra Evolution runs the risk of having too many types of power ups available. It’s difficult to remember which power ups do what, though at least they are loosely color coded. Blue power ups tend to be positive. Red and green drops are generally negative.
One of my biggest complaints with Extra Evolution is the scoring. At the end of each level, a score is added to a running score across all levels. This increases the player rank, but has little impact on anything. There are no leaderboards to compare scores globally or with friends. Furthermore, there’s only room for one save, so it’s impossible to compare scores on a local scoreboard too. This would matter more if there was some kind of meaning to the score, but the game never makes it clear how points are tallied.
There is definitely a lot to do in BreakQuest: Extra Evolution. It adds some interesting ideas to the brick-breaking formula. The additions may not be innovative enough to appeal to all, but fans of these games should be able to enjoy it for a while.