In 2008 and 2009, Neko entertainment's would-be mascot Cocoto made two appearances on the WiiWare service. Cocoto Fishing Master and Cocoto Platform Jumper weren't total write-offs, but neither were they particularly impressive. They were competent but unmemorable dips into genres revealed by their titles. Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker follows in every footstep set by its predecessors.
Cocoto is a strange little devil cat thing, we guess, and in this outing he travels from planet to planet, fending off alien invasions with a shield on loan from Captain America. There's really no need for a storyline in a brick breaker, and fortunately that's about all we get of one. The game wisely focuses on the action instead.
The main issue, though, is that it's hard to become truly invested in that action. Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker proves once again why a flat, rectangular paddle always makes for the best brick breaker games: its hit-box is clear, and it's easy to know where your shots will go once you rebound them. Here you're controlling a rounded orange blob that holds his shield off to the side. When a projectile gets close to you, Cocoto whips it out to bounce it back. That makes it extremely difficult to know whether or not you're close enough to hit the shot — a problem that gets quickly compounded when there are multiple shots on the screen — and almost impossible to know where it's going to go after you hit it.
This turns the frustrating fun of trying to hit the last remaining target using frantic geometry into a careless and uninteresting game of patience, maneuvering Cocoto again and again into line with the shot and hoping against hope that eventually he'll bat it away in the right direction.
You control Cocoto with the circle pad, moving him left and right. He can also jump, which comes into play in seemingly-out-of-place pit crossing challenges between levels, and the jumping physics are so bizarre you're bound to lose a few lives to this instance of needless padding. You can also collect power-ups that allow you to fire back at the aliens (or "alien bricks" we guess), as well as ones that expand your paddle or make it sticky.
The presentation, as in previous Cocoto games, reaches for a sort of oblique cuteness it never quite manages to grasp, making the whole thing just feel pointlessly strange. The music is not particularly bad but the game itself is so dull that you're unlikely to remember much of anything about it.
Of course, there are some nice bonuses, which for those who actually enjoy the game will add significant value. For starters, there are trophies you can earn in each stage. Pausing the game and tapping the trophy icon will reveal to you the things you must do in that stage in order to earn a trophy, such as successfully making a number of particular trick shots. It won't win over naysayers, but it's nice to at least see some gesture at replayability.
There are also bonus stages that play more like Space Invaders, but since you can fire as many shots as you like at the approaching aliens it sort of defeats the strategy of the original.
Three modes of play are on offer. The only one unlocked from the beginning is Story Mode, which is discussed above, but completing a planet will unlock Classic Mode, which restricts Cocoto from jumping and punishes him with a lost life for every missed shot. Completing two planets will unlock Arcade Mode, which is basically an endless variant of the main game.
There's also StreetPass functionality, which will award you special tokens if your score is better than those you meet out in public. We're positive this will lead to the founding of many Cocoto Fanatics StreetPass Meet Up groups, and we look forward to that (we're being sarcastic, in case you didn't notice).
Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker is a pretty neutral experience. It makes some grand gestures toward replayability with its trophies and extra modes, and it's nice to see more eShop releases utilising StreetPass, but overall the game is too dull to be memorable and not precise enough to allow proper strategy. If you're just looking for a basic time-killer you could do worse, but at this point in the eShop's life you can almost certainly do a lot better.