Arkanoid was one of my favorite games on the NES. The thing with this Taito classic was that it took the Breakout formula and added power-ups and enemies (among other tweaks) to the mix. The game was as insanely fast, challenging, and addictive as ever. Fast-forward to Nintendo’s latest system, the Nintendo DS, and Breakout makes another appearance, this time by publisher D3, best known for its budget Simple Series, which often feature buxom ladies fighting, playing tennis, or doing other sorts of things to show off their assets.
We don’t get any of those games over here. But we do get this one. Yay! Seriously though, Break ‘Em All is a budget title, but it succeeds for the most part in being worth the price tag, especially for those with a hankering for portable Breakout action. A better idea? Release an arcade port of Arkanoid or heck, give us an Arkanoid compilation (they didn’t even include them on the recent Playstation 2 Taito compilations!) In the meantime, Break ‘Em All offers an almost-as-good experience and is perfect for that bus trip or visit to the doctor’s office.
Multiple modes divide up the game, though you will either enjoy this twist on the Pong formula or you won’t. Tokoton Mode let’s you play through an almost unlimited amount of randomly generated levels while using power-ups. Mimicking Gradius, the power-up gauge increases as you complete combos and gain more points. You can customize your power-ups as well; for instance, you can choose either the laser or bomb for your most powerful accessory (the laser rips through blocks while the bomb destroys blocks within a given area).
Quest Mode throws bosses into the mix and Survival Mode messes with the paddle design and let’s you play against the computer or friends via wireless connection. And that’s about it. One area of relative interest is that the paddle is now controllable via stylus or the L and R triggers. No d-pad? I almost wrote the game off from the get go until I discovered that the game did work without the stylus. For those who love to use that cramp inducing thing, great.
But honestly, it made the game harder to control, because as the ball reached max speeds, it became a pain to move the stylus back and forth fast enough to keep up with the game while keeping my hand from usurping the screen (and thus causing death on more than one occasion). It felt much easier to control via the triggers and would have been even better had they simply let the d-pad do the work.
Though it doesn’t have the inventiveness or polish of Arkanoid and reeks of its budget status, Break ‘Em All takes the Breakout template and provides enough variation and challenge to warrant a purchase for those who truly love this type of game.