The Wii U's compatibility with tool-sets such as Unity and the Nintendo Web Framework has made the platform accessible to small, independent developers whose games would otherwise not be available on consoles due to high costs and other barriers. While this has made for some wonderful eShop experiences — Ittle Dew and Stick it to the Man are just two standouts — some download titles just aren't meant for the big leagues. Nexis Games' BrickBlast U! is a Breakout clone that feels more like a game design student's first attempt at making a playable prototype than a professional, paid piece of software. With atrocious visuals, unwieldy controls and presentation that recalls old freeware games made using Klik & Play, BrickBlast U! is a muddled mess that gamers should avoid.
BrickBlast U! has immediately familiar gameplay. A ball is launched off your paddle toward the top of the screen at a formation of blocks. After hitting a block, the ball bounces off to another spot, eventually destroying the blocks. The objective is self-explanatory — clear all the blocks to go to the next level. Bigger blocks take several hits to destroy, while smaller blocks are easier to break; as the ball bounces around power-ups will fall from random blocks, which you can grab with your paddle — some power-ups will grant you lasers and bombs, while others will enlarge your paddle. There are also some power-downs, one of which will actually result in instant death; had there been any indication of this, we wouldn't have minded, but getting the instant death drop a few seconds into our first time playing was an unwelcome surprise. Each level is timed, but there's rarely a panic to finish... unless the ball starts bouncing horizontally, wall to wall, in which case you just wait for the game to push the ball back down to you, which takes too long.
One of BrickBlast U's more unforgivable missteps is its extremely clunky presentation. The controls work, but are not responsive enough. The paddle moves with the analogue stick and shoulder buttons launch weapons; like everything in BrickBlast U, the controls are too slow and it's actually tricky to time your movements.
The visuals in BrickBlast U, meanwhile, are terrible. We get what Nexis was going for — the electric music at least complements the pseudo-techno look – but the colours are poorly matched, it's often confusing to see where the ball is, and the power-ups are nothing but little icon boxes. The real issue, though, is that everything moves extremely slowly and with a motion blur that is incredibly disorienting and unnecessarily elongates every level. Whether Nexis Games did this as a stylistic choice or to mask a terrible FPS count, it essentially ruins the entire experience.
Players are prompted to create a profile, which we suppose is for keeping scores, but it seems pointless. "Tap the screen to continue" appears when using certain menus, while "Press A" appears other times. Constantly having to fight with the menu just to get into the game is extremely frustrating, especially when pressing A to get to the level actually just prompts the game to begin loading the level. Since there's no indicator of this on-screen, it just feels like the A button isn't working. The little text in BrickBlast U is in a small, white font that is hard to see, and it took us a minute to find our laser count while we played.
BrickBlast U! is clunky, boring, frustrating and generic. While it's great to continue to see indie games arrive on the eShop, they still need to have a modicum of polish and professionalism. BrickBlast U has neither. There are plenty of Breakout alternatives on the DS, 3DS, and smartphones — stick with those. We sure do miss the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality...