BreakQuest: Extra Evolution Review—Peak of Evolution
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.