BreakQuest review – Give it a Break!
The original BreakQuest had already built up something of a cult following when it was released on PC back in 2004, so for many this was one of the most eagerly awaited of all the Minis. The PC game had its roots in Atari’s 70s classic BreakOut and Taito’s ‘80s Arkanoid. Even if those names aren’t familiar to you, the moment you start playing the game you’ll instantly recognize the concept, which involves bouncing a ball off your space-ship shaped paddle at the bottom of the screen and directing it at the brick barrier at the top of the screen. It’s one of the most ubiquitous video game images of all time, along with the likes of Tetris, Space Invaders and Pong.
What appealed to so many about the original BreakQuest on PC was the way in which it breathed vibrant new life into this most basic of themes. Instead of just a static paddle and bland bricks, BreakQuest’s use of the DynaMo physics engine meant that all the objects onscreen could interact with each other, which made for the most magically manic gameplay at times, with spinning, whirling ‘bricks’ moving all over the screen and delightfully eccentric power-ups such as Glue that stuck the ball to your paddle. It had a slightly anarchic, crazy feel to it, what with the yin-yang symbols, floating monster heads, flower-power icons and manic music and sound effects.
If you read Chris’s interview with Ukrainian developers Beatshapers CEO Alexey Menshikov, you’ll know that this PSP Minis version of BreakQuest is very much a labor of love, with Alexey being a big fan of the game who had wanted to make his own version since it first came out. Alexey’s enthusiasm has ensured that the Minis version is as authentic and faithful a recreation as possible.
If you’re used to playing the PC version you might find the controls a little difficult to get used to at first, but Beatshapers has provided the choice of using either the analog stick or the d-pad, as well as the option to tweak the sensitivity, so hopefully you’ll find a method that suits you. I actually preferred using the analog stick as it felt a little quicker and smoother to me, although it seems like it has slightly less precision of control than the d-pad. Whether or not you’ve played the original it will certainly take you a good couple of levels to get comfortable with the controls, and the fact that they’ve made the very first level totally old-school and hard-core actually helps in the long run, as once you’ve got past that everything else in the game seems like a doddle.
When it comes to the overall feel of the game, I’m happy to report that it seems to be an almost flawless interpretation of the maverick spirit of the original. There’s something really special about those moments when you find yourself indiscriminately spraying crimson Spread Gun bullets at a sea of multi-colored bouncing cartoon creature faces that turn red with anger when you hit them, or batting the ball at a bunch of floating yin-yang discs with dreamy flower-power icons drifting in-between. Makes you want to laugh out loud at the sheer madcap exuberance of it all.
In terms of the basic gameplay, there are two modes, Quest and Arcade, with Arcade consisting of randomly generated levels which can only be unlocked by collecting Keys, which are earned by destroying all the bricks in a level in Quest mode. Quest has three difficulty settings, Easy, Normal and Hard, and there are 100 levels in total to unlock, as with the original game. This is no mean feat as each level is pretty challenging, even on Easy, so you won’t be zooming through all 100 any time soon. Arcade has the usual difficulty settings, plus Armageddon, Fast, Master, Minimal, and Beginner, all of which offer different levels of challenge, such as no bumper, stars or ball size bonuses in Armageddon mode, or ridiculously fast ball speeds in Fast mode.
What I find most enjoyable and addictive about BreakQuest is unlocking each level in turn in Quest mode, and being just so excited to see what awaits you on the next screen. When you come across an old-school space invaders type level, or a mosaic consisting of a giant cow and snail, or a traditional BreakOut style level, it plasters a big grin on your face, as do all the highly inventive power-ups, such as several different types of missiles and guns, and all the really cool ball power-ups such as Fireball, and my favorite, the lurching Drunk Ball, with its bilious face and silly smile!
At £2.49, BreakQuest is another Minis bargain. You don’t have to have been a fan of the original to revel in its eccentric brilliance, and this may well turn out to be the Mini that I play the most this week. Now if you excuse me I’ve got a giant cow to destroy!