Review: AlphaBounce (DSiWare)

Quite possibly the best Arkanoid clone ever

AlphaBounce started out life as a free to play online game. Borrowing heavily from Arkanoid and other "move the paddle to bounce the ball and break the blocks" games, it added a few rather unique twists, rather than being almost a direct copy like most of them are.

The game focuses on one of three prisoners, each one representing a different difficulty level, although the hardest will have to be unlocked. They've been sent to a mining colony in space for crimes they committed, and their punishment is to go around searching for minerals around the galaxy by controlling "envelopes," which are identical to the paddles in other similar games. These envelopes, of course, launch out balls, which are used to break blocks and collect minerals.

There's hundreds, if not thousands of levels (The developers actually even claim there's millions!). They're all displayed on an absolutely gigantic map screen that's divided up into squares, each square representing one level. You can't play them all instantly, however; you're smack dab in the center of the map, and the only way to reach other levels is by clearing those in your way. For every level you clear, the adjacent levels open up for play as well.

A number of levels will reward you with special items once cleared, as indicated on the map. These items can be almost anything — you might simply widen the area you can explore, but you can also find new envelopes, balls and other equipment to alter the way your ball behaves, potentially making any future levels easier.

Although most games like this only have a handful of different bricks for you to destroy and a very limited amount of powerups, AlphaBounce goes absolutely crazy with both of them. There's over 40 different brick types, each of which acts different, and there's no less than 26 items you can find in them, which range from the usual multi-ball and magnetic paddle powerups, to ones that cause the entire stage to split apart, two or more columns of blocks disappearing off the side of the screen and thus automatically being cleared.

Of course, there's bad powerups as well, so you'll have to keep a close eye on what items are dropping down — you don't want the balls becoming "drunk" and going in all sorts of crazy curvy directions. This can be hard at times, though; some levels barely have any powerups, but others are absolutely littered with them. It's not a rare sight to see 20+ powerups raining down on you at the same time.

The game's ultimate goal is to escape imprisonment and make it back to Earth, but achieving this can take quite a while. There will no doubt be perfectionists who will attempt to clear every single stage on offer, and if you're one of them, this game could easily last you weeks, if not months. If you haven't had enough, you can go through it all again on Hard.

Of note is that the game does feature a few small changes from the flash version. Originally (and, in fact, still) a free online game, there was actually a limit on how much you could play it: each day would give three additional plays, allowing you to explore three more sectors. Imagine how long that would take to clear! The flash game also actually gave you the minerals you found in every stage as currency to buy items with, but as these have been turned into level rewards for the DSiWare release, there was really no point in keeping the collectable minerals around either.

Although the general look of the game isn't really that impressive, the music is actually quite good; it gives off a Commodore 64 vibe, which, in our book, is excellent. After selecting a level and waiting for it to load (which, thankfully, doesn't take that long), you'll also be able to read detailed information on planets and other things in the game's universe. There's an absolute ton of different info, which definitely shows dedication from the developer.


On the surface, AlphaBounce appears to be the umpteenth generic Arkanoid clone, but looks can deceive! It offers far more content than any other iteration of the game, and will keep you entertained far longer, especially with the customizable envelopes and balls. We're quite confident in saying that this is perhaps the best Arkanoid-esque game ever made — and for its meager 500 DSi Points asking price, it should be an absolute no-brainer.

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