Friday 6 November 2015

Alleyway (Game Boy review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1, Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1989

Alleyway is a Breakout clone (1976, Arcades) and a launch title for the Game Boy.

The object is to use your paddle to continuously bounce a descending ball onto the blocks at the top of the screen; once you've cleared them all you move onto the next stage. There have been many Breakout clones but this one adds some variety to keep things fresh. There's the usual static screens but also stages that scroll from right-to-left as well as areas where the ceiling starts to drop. The paddle controls are responsive and I love how accurate the ball angles depending on which part it strikes. The hit boxes are also fair so rarely will you be struggling to smash that one remaining block. Although your paddle occasionally shrinks in size to make things more difficult there's no power-ups, and items like guns or multiple balls are sorely missed. The game is fun for a while but the ball speed never really picks up and it takes forever to complete stages, especially when unbreakable barriers start to appear that impede your path. There's also no music (apart from the Bonus Round) so atmosphere is lacking. After 20 minutes I found myself zoning out due to the slow and effortless gameplay and that was the main reason I ended up losing lives. A total of 24 stages are available but reaching the higher ones requires some serious patience. After completing three stages you take part in a Bonus Round where you need to clear a series of blocks within 95 seconds. These are a lot of fun as your ball can pass through several blocks at once which keeps the action fast-paced. The humorous part is that the block patterns are shaped like famous Nintendo characters such as Mario and Koopa Troopa!

Alleyway starts off well with its smooth controls and inviting difficulty setting but after a while it becomes repetitive and seems to run out of ideas. The lack of challenge is disappointing and once you've beaten each stage there's very little reason to ever return to the game.

Random trivia: The game was re-released on the 3DS Virtual Console in 2011.

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