BreakQuest: Extra Evolution Review—Peak of Evolution

BreakQuestEETitle

Beatshapers has supported the Minis program from start to finish. Their first game was the original BreakQuest, a port of a popular PC Breakout- or Arkanoid-style game by Nurium Games that featured a huge amount of cleverly designed levels that pushed the boundaries of what a Breakout/Arkanoid-style game could do. BreakQuest: Extra Evolution pushes those confines even further, creating a novel and artistic experience beyond anything I could have imagined when I played Breakout on my Atari 2600 thirty years ago.

At its core, the basics are the same: you control a paddle at the bottom of the screen, and there is a ball that bounces off objects which you must keep in the field of play. But the big difference is what you hit with the ball. Instead of an elaborate layout of simple bricks that you must break, BreakQuest has always featured something quite different, a playing field that looks like a picture, with some of the elements of that picture being the “bricks” you must destroy in order to complete a level.

Finding the blocks to destroy is part of the fun.

Finding the blocks to destroy is part of the fun.

But in BreakQuest: Extra Evolution, that picture is no longer static. Each level is alive thanks to a very robust physics model, with your ball setting objects in motion, which in turn can set other things in motion. There is quite a bit of aural and visual feedback—lots of animation and sound effects, almost a visual overload at times. More than anything else, it reminded me of the original Lumines, though not quite as intense.

The really remarkable thing is that each level is completely different, and there are no less than a hundred of them. The variety is astounding. You have a futuristic cityscape, a simple forest (where the blocks are leaves hidden in the trees), a group of tethered zeppelins, a race course complete with race cars going by, and so on. It’s almost like flipping through your TV channels randomly. One level even seems to be inspired by an old commercial.

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Beyond the stylistic appeal of the levels in BreakQuest: Extra Evolution, a lot of effort has been made into making it a fun Breakout/Arkanoid game. The levels aren’t too lengthy, and when you get down to only a brick or two, a rocket power up drops. This lets you fire a slightly inaccurate rocket at those remaining bricks. You probably won’t hit them directly, but the rocket explodes in a burst of shrapnel which has a good chance of getting them.

This is a really clever solution to a common problem in these type of games, where sometimes you can be stuck for several minutes just trying to get that one brick. It’s not an automatic way to finish the level, as it leaves it in the player’s control and just gives them a very good chance of quickly finishing things up. You also can nudge the ball a little, in case you get stuck in a rut where the ball is bouncing back and forth in the wrong area.

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Progression is also handled extremely well in this game. On the level select screen, there are ten rows of levels. You start off with one level in each row unlocked, and as you beat that level, another one in that row becomes unlocked, until finally you reach the end with a boss. But each row is independent of the others, so you always have options; if you get stuck on a level, you can simply play another row. Besides finishing all hundred levels, there are a host of achievements to earn, too.

Graphically, it’s one of the better-looking Minis. Judging BreakQuest: Extra Evolution by the screenshots is misleading, because in those it looks almost like a Flash game—a few sprites over an elaborate background. But in reality, virtually everything is movable or interactive. Seeing it in motion is impressive. The sound is also excellent, with lots of different sound effects and a variety of music in various electronic styles.

Not the usual boss

Not the usual boss

I have been playing Breakout-style games for over 30 years and have reviewed more than a few for this site. BreakQuest: Extra Evolution is by far the best I’ve played, both in the experience it provides and the refinement of the gameplay itself. I’m afraid it might get overlooked, releasing this late in the Minis program and with PlayStation Mobile launched, but for those of us that don’t have a Vita, it’s a real treat getting such a quality game. It’s also lengthy; with a hundred levels, it will probably take at least ten hours to beat the game, so it’s a good value even at a somewhat high-ish price.

10/10

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Comments

10 Responses to “BreakQuest: Extra Evolution Review—Peak of Evolution”
  1. O says:

    Wow. Don’t see many 10/10s here.

  2. onmode-ky says:

    I thought I had had enough Breakout-style gameplay to last me for a few more years, but man, a 10/10. I’ll have to take another look.

  3. Huicho says:

    Congrats to Beatshapers!

  4. I at first thought this game was a very interesting concept but purely a novelty. For this I was going to skip it as I don’t like games like Arkanoid/Breakout though I loved Arkanoid on the arcade back when I was little (I’m 37 now). What you use for controls on these type of games are the biggest reason I don’t care for them but not the only reason. They also just got stale and boring after so many years with the little tricks thrown in just being novelty that wears off fast.

    Now with it being said that I don’t care for this style of game anymore let me say that I LOVE THIS GAME! I would not have known I would have felt this way nor given it a chance to know that if it weren’t for this review (THANK YOU). This great review really helped to push to get me more interested in buying and trying it even though this just isn’t my style of gaming. I would be on the fence about that choice right now except that score of a 10. I know how rare a 10 out of 10 is here and knowing that this game got a 10 out of 10, this just pushed my curiosity over the fence so much so, that I had to buy it.

    I have so far only played it on my PS3 (purchased a few hours ago). I was only intending to give it a 5 minute go and ended up spending a good 45 minutes and having to force myself to put it down so that I could get to the other things I had lined up for this evening. The moment you get to the menu screen, you are shown your money was well spent. The menu’s, the sounds in the game, the game play, the fact you aren’t just busting bricks, and so much more makes this game a must have. I’ll probably play this on my PS3 more then my PSP which is rare that I enjoy playing a mini on my PS3. It looks pretty darn good on the PS3 and 1080P TV, about on par with a Wii game on a 1080P TV.

    Words just can’t say how happy I am I purchased this game instead of passing it over as I had planned. If you have even only thought that maybe you would like this or have just some curiosity as I did, you will want to grab this. There’s just so much good I could say about this game. One of the best mini’s I ever played. Now remember, I don’t even care for this sort of game now days. So that says a lot coming from me.

    My only complaint is that I wish there was some manual for this game. At least one online that shows what the powerups do and what a few other things in game are, though I have figured out most of what all is except for the powerups, such as the controls and the bumper bar at the bottom.

    Out of the tons of games I own, this will be one of the 3 most played. The other two being Tokyo Jungle and Spelunker HD. If there is at least a guide for the powerups, someone please post it here.

  5. Alexey Menshikov says:

    Thanks guys!

    The Beatshapers team!

  6. JeremyR says:

    Glad you liked it, Vsin. I always get nagging doubts when I give a game a high score because I worry other people won’t like it as much as I did and possibly waste their money.

  7. Doug Brunell says:

    I bought the first game in this series and loved it. When I read the write-up here, I bought this new game within a half hour. I’ve been playing it ever since. Great game, well-made and inspired. I cannot thank you enough for turning me onto this one.

  8. Amigo155 says:

    for Thane E Ahrens aka Vsin
    BQEE Game manual on my Tumblr
    http://amigo155.tumblr.com/post/33888354020/breakquest-extra-evolution-game-manual
    Thanks for the positive feedback!

  9. Thanks for the manual link. I’m glad I checked back in, I don’t get notifications on posts I have made (wish I did). I am about to check it out now. (still wondering what a few of those power ups do)

    I just finished this game last night (except bonus level). This thing has had me glued like no other mini has. I wish there could be more of this, I surely would buy it but only for the PSP as I won’t be buying a Vita (nor a DS). I tried for a few hours to beat that bonus level but that thing is hard. I can clear the side rows of numbers without issue. But that bottom row, there must be some trick I don’t know. I’ll try a bit now and then but I feel that bonus level is one I won’t be able to finish. The only bad thing I can say about the game is a minor bug issue where the background music won’t stay turn on very long (keeps turning itself down). The same happens with sound effects but not nearly as badly. Like I said, it’s minor and this is easily my favorite mini release.

    It would be nice if the control scheme for this game could be used in the first one. ;)

  10. onmode-ky says:

    I recently got this game, and my copy of it does have a software manual that explains all the controls and power-ups (press Triangle when the game is selected on the XMB to open up the software manual option). I can’t tell if the manual was part of the game at release, but it’s certainly there now.

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