Review: Block Breaker Deluxe (WiiWare)

Can this Arkanoid clone match the block-breaking fun of its predecessors?

Arkanoid clones were two-a-penny many years ago, particularly on home computers; however gamers have not been treated to many games like this in recent times. It would seem the timing is perfect for Gameloft to bring the first game in their successful cell-phone based Block Breaker series to WiiWare to see if it could find a sizeable audience on the Wii. Gamers never tire of quick, accessible fun like this.

In Block Breaker Deluxe, you take the role of a famous champion who wants to enter a tournament being organized by a billionaire for the top 10 players in the world. However, one obstacle is preventing you from entering the competition of your dreams: the entry fee of $1 million. So, in order to raise some dough, you have to hit the block breaker night scene and take characters’ challenges (each challenge being a level of the game).

The first thing you’ll notice is that the presentation in this game is trippy. Gameloft upped the ante in terms of visuals for this port and really pushed the '80s vibe. It’s nothing particularly special, but the visual style is crisp, clean, and appealing. There’s so much neon though that some players may find their eyes getting tired quickly and turn the brightness down on their TV. The visual effect for the explosive blocks in the game warrants some specific attention. It may look cool, but at times it crowds the playing field and makes it hard to keep track of the ball; we predict that numerous lives will be lost thanks to this issue.

The audio all around is fair too; the sound effects are on par, and perhaps most importantly, the sounds the ball makes when bouncing off of different surfaces are not irritating. In terms of the music, we’d say it’s of a higher calibre than the sound effects, but there isn’t much of it, so it does get repetitive fast.

Since this type of game doesn’t come around all that often anymore, the style is a bit of a sight for sore eyes. However, with some prior games in this vein already in existence, Block Breaker Deluxe doesn’t really distance itself from these other titles in terms of level design. That it isn’t to say that there wasn’t any creative muscle flexed by the company though. Some of the power-ups are quite original: take the Yo-Yo for instance. This allows you to pull the ball toward your paddle, adding a unique element of control. There are the more generic power-ups as well, such as lasers that allow for shooting at blocks with your paddle and a multiball.

When it comes down to the core gameplay, Block Breaker Deluxe does a pretty good job of emulating the classic feel of Arkanoid with the Wiimote. Controlling the paddle is simple. Seeing as the Wiimote pointer basically serves as a mouse in 3D space, Gameloft decided to just have the player move the paddle left and right. It makes enough sense, but when it comes to finer and quicker adjustments, the IR control won’t always pickup the player’s motions so smoothly.

There is one other option for controls though, and that is using the D-pad to move the paddle. Taking into account that some items require the use of the A or B button though, this option really doesn’t utilize the Wiimote’s functionality very well. We really wanted to see what it would feel like to play this title with the Wiimote on its side tilting it left and right like Sonic and the Secret Rings or Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, but unfortunately that option wasn’t there. The pointer has one more use in gameplay though: in addition to collecting power-ups with the paddle itself, there is a pointer on screen that can be used for the same purpose.

It is a safe bet that getting stuck will be a huge obstacle for some people. The levels in this game can get particularly tough at times, and with the finer movements and quick adjustments mentioned earlier, they can get downright frustrating. There are also boss fights at the end of each set of levels to keep you on your toes. However help is at hand. There are things that can help in the game's shop. Since you’re playing these levels to earn money, you can go back to earlier stages that you’ve played to scrounge up some cash for items and try to conquer those tough stages over again.

If you get bored of the single player story mode, you might want to try out the 2-player versus mode with a friend, which predictably boosts the entertainment value of this title somewhat. You have a choice of six stages and you basically compete against each other for the highest score head to head. Player one’s paddle is at the bottom of the screen and player two plays upside down from the top. The idea is to keep the ball in your side of the court and get all the power-ups to ensure you get the highest score before all the blocks are destroyed. This mode is entertaining for a short time, but what is on offer isn’t that substantial.

Conclusion

Block Breaker Deluxe is a pretty decent game on the whole, but at times it takes some patience to play. It may have not utilised the Wiimote as much as it could have, but the control is pretty slick still. Give it some time and it might just grow on you. Gameloft released Block Breaker Deluxe 2 on cell phones recently, so maybe Wii owners will be able to get a second shot at it in the future if Gameloft choose to revisit it on WiiWare - hopefully with additional online modes.