Wednesday 27 April 2016

Breakout (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1978

Breakout is a block busting game that requires use of the Atari Paddle Controllers.

The objective is to continually bounce a ball off your paddle to smash two walls. Points are awarded based on the brick colour you hit, with the most valuable being towards the very top. You only have five balls per game and if one lands below your paddle a ball will be deducted. What initially seems like a slightly more advanced version of Pong (1972, Arcades) proves to have a surprising amount of depth. For example, there's twelve different modes that each affect how the game plays, or how you should play it. Game 2 allows you to steer balls in the air; it's tons of fun as there's always an element of danger considering your paddle moves along with the ball! In Game 3 you can catch balls as they fall downwards (great for beginners) while Game 4 has an invisible playfield that only reveals itself when you hit a brick (a brilliantly unique variation but the incessant screen flashing is off-putting). Game 5 introduces an upwards timer as a new challenge; this adds another layer of strategy as ideally you want to break down one side and hit a top brick to quickly increase the ball speed. Weirdly though, the counter doesn't stop when you break the last brick and instead you have to waste time sacrificing any remaining balls! In Games 9-12 balls travel straight through blocks which increases the speed and offers a nice change of pace. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the game holds up and the wealth of options mean that several hours can pass before you know it! The paddle controllers work wonders and do a great job of offering a high level of accuracy and responsiveness.
Breakout is a remarkable game that adds some much needed depth to what is essentially an incredibly simple concept. There's so much to see and enjoy here, and whether you're playing alone or with a group of friends the variety of modes will keep you occupied for a long time.
Random trivia: A sequel called Super Breakout was released on the Atari 2600 (1978) and Atari 5200 (1982).

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