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7Aug/090

Bricks4Ever - Xbox Live Indie game review

xboxboxartNow let's not kid ourselves, there is a LOT of crap in the Indie Games section of Xbox Live. Everyone knows it. It is rare that you find a game in there that is even worth LOOKING at let alone downloading. bricks4ever by Running Pixel on the other hand breaks that mold delivering a great game. I've been a Breakout fan since the Atari 2600 days (I still play it with my Atari 2600 TV game paddle thing from time to time), but a lot of the recent attempts at remaking this classic game go WAY overboard graphically. Or they botch the gamplay to almost an unplayable state. Or they just have boring unimaginative levels. bricks4ever on the other hand keeps the simplicity of the game in tact. Yeah, it's got the powerups (and the "screw you" stuff along with it. The things that drop down and shrink your paddle for instance. Or make the ball go faster at just the wrong time), which are a welcome sight when done right. This game delivers.

Graphically, it has this really cool neon look to it that are bright and vibrant, reminiscent of the old vector graphics games of the 80's. The ball has a comet style trail behind it which really comes in helpful because it pretty well tells you exactly where the ball is going.  You can adjust the "psychadelicness" of the graphics by either going to the options menu at the main menu or just by hitting either Start or B on your controller during gameplay giving you 4 different settings (it doesn't matter which one you pick the game is still going to perform the exact same way). It defaults to normal where everything has this slight glow to it that really breathes life into the graphics and to what's going on before you. And the higher in those settings you go, the more profound the glow gets. And the paddle itself (which is very important) is rather basic in appearance, but has this yellow beam that bounces back and forth inside of it. And when your down to the last block, when the ball gets near it, the game slows down and zooms into that spot to show the hit. Which is really impressive when the ball happens to hit one of the metal bricks that can't be destroyed. The game looks GREAT in it's simplicity.

The sound effects itself are in the same basic tone, with the metallic bings and bops. The sound of metal on metal, and of course, the explosions. None of it is overwhelming, but it's not underwhelming either. Pretty light in the sound department, but perfectly suited to a game like this. The in game music is a relaxing synth/orchestral style that really sets the mood for the game. Totally different for the main menu though that is more of an upbeat 80's style music. I could have gone without that personally since I hate 80's music. But hey, can't win 'em all.

The gameplay itself is much faster paced than one would expect from the overall tone of the game. You use the left analog stick to control the paddle, and it controls as one would expect it to. You jam the stick all the way to the left or right, and the paddle shoots across the screen. If you ease it over, it moves accordingly. You can also move both analog sticks in the direction you need it to Katamari style to get one heck of a speed boost if you need it (and when  you get the multiball powerup, trust me. You'll need it.). You use the A button to launch the ball, and use certain powerups such as to shoot the lasers, or to relaunch the ball after snagging the glue powerup.

In regards to game modes, there's the obligatory Fast Play that just shoves you straight into the game. But there's also Classic mode that gives you 10 stages with 5 levels each which will keep you busy for quite a while because the levels are very well done and thought out and offer a good challenge. There is Zen mode, which is basically kind of a training level. You get infinite lives, a very long time limit. But very few powerups for some reason. If you don't destroy the bricks in time they simply get blown up at a certain point. In Endless mode, the game just randomly generated the bricks and you just tear through destroying them as you go. Kinda like Breakout Survival mode. Then there is the toughest mode of the game. Bipolar. You start off with two paddles each with a ball to launch. One paddle is controlled with the left analog stick, the other with the right stick. For the life of me I just cannot get used to playing like this, but I want to because once you get good at this you could really impress people because this is a hell of a way to play the game. The game DOES have local multiplayer, and co-op. But I only have 1 controller right now, so I'm unable to try it out. But multiplayer is always a good thing.

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Now for the bad points. There is one "bug" (I think it was just an oversight), when you have the glue powerup that causes your ball to stick to the paddle to be relaunched and you get the multiball powerup, it just cancels out the multiball powerup completely. I'm used to seeing that situation and the other balls just shoot out, or automatically become stuck. Here, it's nothing. The main menu and pause menus are pretty generic, but then they're just menus. They serve their purpose. And the paddle, while it controls flawlessly, threw me off the first time I played it because it moves pretty quick, even without the speed boost. But it only took me a few levels to get used to it. The slowdown effect I mentioned earlier with the last brick ... it does it anytime the ball gets anywhere NEAR that brick, which gets a tad irritating when you miss. Of course, it's a tad irritating when you miss PERIOD, just that slowdown tends to shove it in your face. ;) And something that really isn't a bad thing per say, but a level editor/designer with a way to share your levels with your friends and/or a community? That would have been icing on the cake to an otherwise great game.

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Final Score : 8.5 - The game is only 80 MS Points (right at about $1), it's only 18MB so it's not going to take up ANY space. It has a good amount of challenge, excellent gameplay, tons of levels to keep you busy. Even with the few things that are wrong with it, you have no reason not to get this game. This game is a diamond in the rough among all the stupid controller vibrating shovelware in the Indie Games section of the Xbox Live Marketplace, and ... in this writer's opinion, beats the hell out of that Arkanoid Live! Taito released recently (it helps that this game is also 1/10th the price of Arkanoid Live! as well).

Check out what other people think of it at XBLARatings.

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