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25Nov/090

XBLIG Review – Aardvark

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Yeah yeah yeah, another Breakout/Arkanoid style game. There are a few spread out in the indie games section, but the only one that really succeeds on most fronts is Bricks4Ever. It’s going to take a hell of a lot to top that.

But where the other ones fail horribly (most notably ArkX which has the single worst level design I’ve yet seen in a game of this type) this one almost hits it. Despite a few nagging annoyances and issues, this is a pretty good bat and ball game.

A couple of things that kind of stood out for me are, well, the name of the game. Aardvark? What the hell? And the developer goes by the name of “idiot”. It’s that kind of stuff that will draw me to a game immediately for some reason.

Probably because I’m a cynical ass who would probably do the exact same thing. But we’re not talking about me here, or the developer or the screwball naming of the game. We’re here to talk about the game itself.

screen4_WebGraphically, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. A simple run of the mill Breakout game doesn’t need all that much graphically to be honest. Hell, the Atari 2600 version of Breakout holds out as one of my favorite games that I still pop in from time to time. This game has very basic graphics in it’s style. The bricks just kinda pop out of existence when they’re hit, it uses the same generic font we’ve all seen in countless indie games on the 360. The paddle doesn’t look all that great, although it’s pretty cool seeing it fade out of existence when you miss the ball for some reason. The explosions from the bomb ball is pretty cool, even though it explodes the exact same way no matter what it hits. The powerups are a little too small for my tastes though and they’re not very immediately recognizable. And the backgrounds don’t look all that great. They’re just static pixelated images. The graphics are average at best when it all comes down to it. It’s definitely not going to make your eyes bleed, but they are rather bland. But it’s a Breakout game, they don’t NEED to be glitzy. But it sure as hell helps.

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The sound is pretty typical of what you expect to hear in a game like this. The bing of a block being hit and the little po when it hits the wall. Laser sounds from the gun. Pretty standard stuff really. When you collect a powerup a woman’s passive robotic voice pops up telling you what it is, though it’s a bit fuzzy. The music however is pretty damned cool, especially the title screen music. Sometimes I’ll load up the game and just let it sit there on the title screen for some background music while I’m writing stuff or just screwing around online doing this and that (mostly just digging around trying to find neat stuff to waste time with).

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The gameplay however is top notch. The paddle does exactly what you want it to do when you do it, and if you hit the trigger you warp forward a little bit because you ALWAYS have those times where you just BAREY miss the damn ball and slamming on the other analog stick like some of the other games do to go faster usually screws me up and I just slide right past it. Great addition there for me. When you use it, you’ll find that the little colored part in the middle of your paddle will go down and you can’t use it again until it recharges, will adds a bit of complexity to the game when the ball really starts moving. And thankfully it doesn’t have that retarded “advanced” control scheme that never works. Oh, and you can actually AIM the ball when you initially launch it. Something that always puzzled me about Bricks4Ever on why they didn’t add that to the game. Another great addition here. And the three difficulty levels do a decent job at spreading the challenge, though I mostly just plat it at the medium difficulty. I play these to relax, not to have a brain aneurysm.

The level design itself is, for the most part, pretty good. Though they can be a little irritating at times overusing the bricks that are there purely there as an obstacle. And there are other types as well … like ones that, when hit they will move into the background and either come out again after a little while or will alternate as other ones are hit. And naturally you have the bricks that will blow up the ones surrounding them. There are a few misses with the level design in my opinion, but for the most part it stands up pretty well for itself.

The big difference here of course is the fact that it has an insultingly simple (if not very well thought out) level editor. You can save up to 10 of your own levels. And it uses a very simple grid based system. You just move the cursor around the grid hitting the right and left bumpers to cycle through the various types of bricks and hit the A button to place them. Of course, that’s where it kind of hurts because you have to keep cycling through them and making complicated levels can be rather tedious and repetitive. And, unfortunately, there’s no way to share them with other people which, along with having infinite save slots (or at least a hell of a lot more than 10) is something that would really make this game damned well worth the 240 point entry fee.

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With a game like this, I can deal with the somewhat bland presentation and spotty sound. But there is a rather annoying long load time for some reason when you hit A to get to the main menu. It does have a save function, but if you’re at the last level of a stage and quit to reload the game, you’re back at the first level. Which is an insane annoyance. And the fact it only has one save slot. While it’s not THAT big of a deal, considering it has two player cooperative play, it means only one person can play the game single player. Which doesn’t make much of a difference for someone like ME because I’m the ONLY person who ever even touches the 360 in my house. And while it does have powerups, it still feels a bit light for some reason. For example, it has the gun, but it doesn’t have the ball magnet. Or the speedup powerups, which … yes I do in fact call them powerups because sometimes I just wanna get that sucker moving faster.

6.5 – If you’re just a casual player for these games, there’s not much of a reason to pick this up at the 240 point price tag when Bricks4Ever is in there for 80. That’s definitely not saying the game is bad. It plays great, the level design for the most part is superb, but it has a very generic feeling to it and doesn’t quite feel finished. Having the level editor is GREAT however, and I find myself fighting through the tediousness of it TRYING to build decent levels (hey, I’m just a player. I’m perfectly content with that.). And it would be awesome if I could share them with some sort of password system or something. But if you’re like me and you love these games this is a definite must get due to the fact that it actually gets the gameplay RIGHT. Even if it does have a weird name. ;)

*UPDATE* I stated in my review that the game only has one save slot, which I got corrected with an email from the developer. Even though, yes, it does in fact only have one save slot if you've got multiple Live accounts on your system, each one of those accounts are allowed their own save.

This is something I would have NEVER noticed on my own being that I only have ONE account on my system. But yeah, I thought I'd throw that in there.

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