BreakQuest, by Nurium Games
The Best Breakout Game Ever?
Review by Kevin Steele
You know, I seem to start of a lot of my reviews with a "true confession." Well, here's my true confession for this review: I'm not a big breakout fan. Actually, that's not quite true — I like breakout games, but they frustrate me very quickly, especially when you get down to just one block on the screen and you're forced to sit there and watch your ball ricochet twenty times around the screen en route to missing that solitary block by mere pixels, forcing you to repeat over and over this tedious and mind-numbing attempt to end a level.
Okay, with that out of the way, let's clarify something here: I love BreakQuest. Absolutely, positively love it. A can't-stop-playing-though-it's-3am kinda love.
So, what makes BreakQuest different than all the other ten million breakout variants out there? Quite a lot, actually.
First off, the reason for my love: this is a breakout game with a sense of mercy. Can't hit the last ball? After just brief minute or two of helpless bouncing, BreakQuest will kindly drop a missle or gun "powerup" for you, so you can blast that &%$# block out of the way and get on to the next level.
Don't want to wait two minutes? BreakQuest also has a very handy "gravity" button: push the second mouse button and the ball suddenly gets "heavier," dropping faster than it would normally. A very handy tool to get your ball back faster or to tweak its trajectory just enough to score a hit.
Need more? There are powerups galore in BreakQuest: missles, mines, multiball, and even "sputniks," i.e. tiny orbiting satellite balls that follow your main ball. Of course, what would a powerup game be with out "bad" powerups, such as a drunk ball or a powerup that changes the shape of your paddle?
The "mercy" factor alone endeared BreakQuest to me, but it was the amazing variety and physics of the levels that sealed the deal.
Something for Everyone
I have never been so amazed at the sheer variety of level styles in a breakout game. We're not just talking different colored blocks or having some blocks that take a couple of hits. We're talking about blocks roped together that swing across the screen, blocks shaped like asteroids that shatter into smaller rocks when hit (sound familiar?), blocks that act like pool balls, blocks that grow, blocks that...well, you get the idea.
There are 100 different levels in BreakQuest. These can be played in either "Arcade Mode" or "Quest Mode."
In Quest mode, you start at level 1 and work your way up, catching keys that unlock levels as you go. You can always return later and pick up where you left off, or jump back to earlier unlocked boards. In Arcade mode, you start at level 1 each time, and attempt to progress as far as you can.
I loved all the different board styles, especially the retro-tribute levels that recreated (in breakout style gamplay) classics such as Asteroids and Space Invaders. There is always a different challenge, always something new to try.
Eye and Ear Candy!
I've got to mention the fantastic graphics, particularly the particle effects. Nearly everything disintegrates in a shower of sparks, flowers, or fire. The effects are truly extraordinary, and are amazing to watch.
One thing to watch out for: quite often there are so many particle effects going on that it's hard to actually see the ball bouncing around. Get a multiball going and the entire screen can be awash in flying, exploding special effects.
The music deserves a special mention as well: it's extremely well done, and sets the mood without overpowering the onscreen action. There's also a good variety of tunes, and they all pass my 'hummability' test, meaning I've caught myself humming them later in the day.
Fine-Tuning the Experience
BreakQuest has a number of configuration options, and a couple curious ommissions.
First, the ommissions: the game is limited to a display size of 640x480, and there are no options to remap the mouse controls. Other than that, however, you can tweak quite a lot of the game's features, especially if you go into Arcade mode.
Arcade mode is where you can really fine-tune BreakQuest for your tastes. Everything from the choice of powerups to the ball speed can be adjusted, creating an entirely new experience. This alone should give this game a long life on your hard drive.
Nurium is based in Barcelona, Spain, headed up by Fèlix Casablancas. The language difference only shows up in the opening "story," a hilarious bit of mangled english and meaningless storyline that reminded me of the "engrish" opening intros of many classic arcade games (and I mean that in a good way!) Luckily, you can turn the intro off.
Needless storyline aside, BreakQuest is an impressive achievement, a breakout clone that actually advances the genre and accomplishes what I thought was impossible, making a breakout game that is challenging with out being mind-numbingly annoying.
BreakQuest sells for $19.99, which comes out to 19 cents per level, a bargain as measured by gaming economics. There's a lot more to the game that I haven't mentioned, but why spoil everything? If you're looking for the ultimate in breakout action, this is the game you want. Recommended by RetroBlast.