Ball Breaker (CRL) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

Ball Breaker
Amstrad CPC464

Published in Computer Gamer #27

At last a bit of originality as Ball Breaker goes 3D

Ball Breaker

Ball Breaker is the name of the game, although it's more of a nerve wrecker! CRL is the latest in a long line of companies to produce a game based on an old faithful, Breakout.

First, a re-cap for all those young bloods who were elsewhere (like hiding in a cave in Ulan Bator) in the Seventies when games of this type were all the rage. It all started with Nolan Bushnell's game, Pong - you know, two bats and a ball bouncing around the screen. The game was loosely based on table tennis and was just about all the technology of the time could handle.

A short while later the first Breakout machine appeared on the scene - a simple twist paddle arrangement controlled a moving bat at the base of the screen. A ball bounced around knocking out bricks in a wall above you and the game ended when your balls ran out.

Ball Breaker

This was hailed as a great advance in video game technology: simple and easy to understand for the non-technological public - and completely mind-numbing; but remember this is before Space Invaders.

A nummber of variations on the theme appeared, and the game gained in popularity until, as better things came along, it faded into obscurity. It cropped up on an Atari VCS cartridge about ten years ago and on some of the crude late Seventies home-built computers.

However, this was not forgotten. In the hyped up high-speed, high tech world of the video game old ideas are never forgotten, merely recycled.

Ball Breaker

Breakout was turned into a new high-tech paddle/bricks/bouncing ball game called Arkanoid. It caused a sensation in the arcades and as we all know, good coin-op games eventually end up as computer games.

Ball Breaker is one of a number of games based on Breakout but given a re-working. But Ball Breaker is the furthest from the original idea and, dare I say it, the best, or at least the most challenging of all such games I have come across.

To start with, it is in 3D. What would normally be the vertical playfield of Breakout screen is now horizontal, with the view being taken from slightly above one corner.

Ball Breaker

The bat runs up and down one edge and the ball travels across it. The bricks are scattered in the usual manner, but with one difference - they also are vertically stacked. This means you can knock a brick out and the three or four other bricks in the pile will fall down one step. This raises interesting possibilities for blasting as you can make a hole in the wall and then have the ball rebound off the back board and then the 'hole' again as it fills in. All the piles slowly start to reduce without you seeing the ball *at all* - this is because it is hidden by the 3D wall.

In common with the new Breakouts, in Ball Breaker bricks have different functions: some are bombs; some have monsters on them that will kill you; while others will shrink your bat or destroy all the bricks on that level.

To help you, you have ten missiles. These travel slowly across the screen but can be extremely helpful in destroying bricks the ball cannot get to.

The game's graphics are stunning and the animation and colouring superb. My only gripe is that the graphics can get a bit stuttery if a lot is happening. The gameplay is very challenging, although when you get a new ball it is shot at you from such close range you can't get to it in time. This is a common design fault and usually happens when the designer or programmer gets too good at the game he is designing. Perhaps more intense game testing is called for next time, lads.

But, other than this basic flaw, the game is very good and I hope it does well.