The 3-D version of the Breakout concept was pioneered by CRL in Ballbreaker (64%. Issue 46), and its sequel comes with a pedigree: several screen designs come courtesy of Ian Andrew, creator of Driller, Jez Sands, author of Starglider, and Simon Rockman, editor of Amstrad user.
The game takes place over 30 levels of monochrome 3-D arrangement of pyramids, cylinders and cubes in various formations. A sphere drops into the screen from above: taking control of a bat capable of moving from left to right, the player attempts to keep the ball in play until the arrangement of bricks has been destroyed. Each time it hurtles off the edge of the screen one of four lives is lost.
Different blocks have different properties, as indicated by a catalogue which can be examined before play. Those blocks impervious to the ball's touch must be destroyed by one of an initial arsenal of ten missiles. Other bricks hide extra weaponry, bombs, points or bonus lives; some alter the size of the bat, allow instant access to the next round or need to be struck from a specific angle. On later levels the destruction of specific bricks triggers the release of aliens, whose fatal advance can only be stopped by firing a missile or setting off a bomb.
'In theory a 3-D Breakout game is an innovative and original concept - in practice it doesn't quite come off. By nature of its design the screen always hides the ball behind the bat when you need to see it most. The game also lacks a sense of perspective: despite the 3-D graphics the ball always looks as if it's skimming across the surface of a 2-D screen and the rebound angle is the only indication where it's actually meant to be. Still, the music proves that you can simulate more than the sound of an electric razor with a Spectrum sound chip and the graphics are impressive. Whether you take the risk depends on how much of a Breakout connoisseur you are.'
'Unlike film follow-ups, computer sequels are usually much better than their predecessors (Match Day and Arkanoid for example) - Ballbreaker II is a sad break in the trend. If only the programmers had listened to, and corrected, the criticism levelled at the original game they'd have had a fast, playable and addictive little game - but they didn't, so they haven't. Some of the levels are particularly infuriating due to bad programming - try firing a missile at a pile-up block on Level 2 and getting back to the other side of the screen for the ball - impossible. As the old saying goes '2D's are better than 3' (when it comes to Breakout clones).'
'It's bad enough having to put up with 2-D breakout games but when it comes to 3-D versions it's beyond a joke. Ballbreaker II is excellently presented and has a nice tune with some great sound effects; it's just a pity the game itself isn't as good. The backgrounds are messy, being far too detailed, and play is hindered since your view of the ball is often obscured by the bat. The job of destroying all the blocks is made a mite easier by the few missiles you're armed with at the beginning, but these soon run out and then you're left with just your luck! Ballbreaker II may hold your attention for a while but it will never have any lasting appeal.'