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Nintendo DS Review: Break ‘Em All

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Way back in 1976, Atari founder Nolan Bushell created a game called Breakout where players would use a paddle, a la pong, to bounce a ball and break several lines of multi coloured bricks. Though the game was simple in design, it was incredible addictive and shortly after its release many clones appeared on the market trying to capitalize on it’s success.

Now, more then 30 years later, D3 Publisher of America has desided to bring back classic ball-breaking game play with Break ‘Em All.

Keeping in line with other popular Breakout clones such as Tatio’s Arkanoid, Break ‘Em All features a number of useful power-ups to help the player accomplish his goal, however unlike many clones these power-ups are earned by breaking bricks and rallying, not by catching falling items.

In addition, players get to choose which power-ups are available from a series of options such as:

  • Slow, or fast with a point boost
  • Wide paddle, or or small paddle with a point boost
  • Catch the ball, or mirror bounce

Having the option to choose power-ups allows players to craft the game experience around your own abilities, which makes the play experience more comfortable for novice players, while at the same time giving hardcore players the ability to knock up the difficulty.

Break ‘Em All expands on the original Breakout style of gameplay by offering players several drastically different modes of play.

The first is “Tokoton Mode”, which itself comes in two distinct flavours, Stanadard and Random. In standard mode player’s simple bounce their way through 50 preset levels by breaking ever block on the screen, but in Random mode the level are generated on the fly offering players over 3,000,000 different combinations. It’s simple classic arcade game play and it’s just fun.

Next there’s Quest Mode, which requires players to bounce the ball into an exit rather than destroying all bricks on the screen. Each mission in consists of three regular levels followed by a boss battle where players are required to hit a specific target a number of times in order to defeat their enemy.

Quest mode also features a multiplayer variation where players compete head to head in a race to the finish. While simple, it’s actually quite fun and allows less skilled players a chance to try out the more difficult missions.

Finally there’s Survival mode, which can easily be called the games weakest point. Instead of following the Breakout mould, survival mode instead makes the player a brick and fires hundreds of balls in their general direction.

As players survive, they’ll eventually gain greater defenses to protect their brick. However often they do more to hinder than help. Simply put, Survival mode just plain sucks in every way possible. Even the multiplayer is crap.

Touch control in Break ‘Em All is tight and players can easily activate power-ups simply by tapping the on screen button. Using buttons to play is equally smooth, however it’s not as easy because where touch screen which allows your paddle to immediately jump into position you need, button control makes you scroll over.

Curiously, one of the game’s only major flaws is the catch power-up, which doesn’t have an on screen release. Thus players using touch control are forced to use the one of the face buttons — this can be quite the distraction. While at first it may just seem like a minor annoyance, it becomes quite frustrating when you realize the power-up doesn’t end until you lose a life.

All in all, Break ‘Em All is a fine addition to the legion of Breakout clones already on the market. And while it’s impossible to stress just how badly Survival Mode sucks, at the end of the day it’s still a good game.

Break ‘Em All is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Jason Westhaver

  • Ken Edwards

    This is one of those games that you just know is going to get passed on by the masses. For $20, its a great game. Other than that Survival Mode, of course. Break ‘Em All is great as it is not just a clone of Breakout.