Some call it BrickBreaker. Some call it BreakAway. Beatshapers pumped it full of steroids, sent it to art school, and called it BreakQuest. But can you really improve on a classic, or are some things better left in the past?
I’m going to come right out and say that I was a huge fan of Breakaway on the Atari. There’s just something about breaking away at those bricks that appeals to me. If it has a flaw though, it is in the eternal sameness of it all. The bricks may be in different patterns, but the levels are pretty much the same. I never really minded that, considering it to be more of a pick up and play a few levels type of game. But then I met BreakQuest, and everything changed. This is one of those games where you promise yourself you’ll play “just one more level” and soon realize that two hours have passed.
The basic premise of BreakQuest is the same as Brickaway: you have a paddle on the bottom of the screen that you can move around using the L stick. Along the top of the screen is a collection of bricks. You shoot out a ball that you must bounce onto bricks to break them away. The level is over when all the bricks have been cleared. That’s the basic premise, but then it gets interesting. When you hit bricks on BreakQuest, some of them drop little pill-like packs. You can collect these with your paddle to get all kinds of different variations of bumper sizes and shapes, weapons, multiple balls, and much more. Of course, you’ll also have to keep hitting the ball, and it isn’t easy to both catch the packs and keep the ball in the air at the same time with only one paddle. Oh, and your paddle isn’t really a paddle; it’s a ship. You can change ships at the main menu between levels if you like, and they look and perform differently. There are also all kinds of different items that float around on levels, and each of them can deflect your ball, causing it to shoot in different directions.
All of that is pretty cool, but my favorite part of BreakQuest is the levels themselves. There are 100 different levels, and each of them is like opening a new pack of candy. They are at different times creative, quirky, artsy, fun, and even just plain odd, and they add a whole new element of variety to the game. From levels that resemble hanging piano keys that chime when hit, to swinging circles that sway to and fro, to a line drawing devil made from bricks that flame when struck, these are not your ordinary levels. It was a reward reaching a new level, just to see what they came up with next. The coolest thing about it is that the levels don’t just look different, they react differently as well. Some levels have portions that will move when the balls hit them, adding a considerable challenge to completing it. Others have bricks that are oddly shaped, causing the ball to deflect differently. Some even have bricks that are connected via cable, causing them to bounce against each other. All of this makes for some pretty fast paced action that can have you struggling to keep track of the ball.
In fact, keeping track of the ball was one of the few complaints I had with BreakQuest. With colorful backgrounds, bricks, patterns, and powerups all floating around, the ball kind of gets lost in the shuffle on some levels, just because there is so much going on. On most of the levels, I considered it to just add to the challenge, but there were a few where there was just a bit too much going on. The other complaint was with graphic quality. Since BreakQuest is a mini, I didn’t expect too much, but it is rather basic looking to gamers used to the vivid games of this generation.
BreakQuest takes a classic game and makes it even better, a task that is not simple to accomplish. You can pick up and play just a few levels, or lose yourself in it for hours, and you’ll have a great time either way. With 100 different levels and tons of replay value, this Mini is a great deal. While the graphic quality could have been a bit better, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this game. I give BreakQuest a 7.5 out of 10, and recommend it to BreakAway fans, casual gamers, and anyone looking for a lot of gaming for a little cash.