The very first video game ever made was a game called Tennis For Two, the idea for which was later popularized in a game that quickly became a household word. Pong, as it was called, is a very simple game of hitting a little white blip back and forth between two player-controlled paddles on opposite sides of the screen. What makes the game fun is the open-ended play that results from two different people controlling the paddles in play; in other words, Pong doesn't offer much as a single-player experience.
Enter Breakout, a single-player variant of Pong that was conceived and developed by Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak in 1976. Rather than trying to hit the ball past an opponent, the objective in Breakout is to eliminate all of the bricks from play by hitting them with the ball instead. Easily understood and simple to play, Breakout is a classic example of a casual game, and one that has spawned many other games like it. One very well known descendant of Breakout is Arkanoid, a game which introduced the concept of gameplay-altering power-ups that randomly fall from the bricks as they are destroyed. Arkanoid was released 20 years ago and is now a classic in its own right.
While the core gameplay is essentially the same: destroy all the objects in the upper part of screen while preventing the ball from touching the bottom, Nurium Games thoroughly invigorates the classic formula in BreakQuest by including 100 levels, each one with a different theme, and an excellent, flexible physics engine.
Since the rotary knob originally used in Breakout and Arkanoid is rather uncommon on modern PCs, you'll be stuck using a mouse to control BreakQuest, which actually feels more intuitive. Move the paddle by moving the mouse. [Left-clicking] fires your weapon, if you have one. Each life provides you with a spare ball, which you can release at any time with a [Middle-click]. BreakQuest also introduces a creative solution to the often frustrating last brick problem; holding down the [Right] mouse button will apply a bit of gravity to all the balls in play.
In addition to stationary bricks, you'll find a wide variety of objects including pendulums, scales and nets, all of which swing, sway and bounce realistically. 47 different power-up 'pill' types that help or hinder play, and featuring old favorites like multi-ball and glue, as well as new ideas such as sputnik (a second, smaller sphere orbits the ball) and several paddle-affecting or distorting diseases.
BreakQuest is great fun, and it raises the bar to a dizzying height for future Breakout clones. The presentation and attention to detail is top notch, as are the pleasing sound effects and visuals that include some very impressive particle effects. Most importantly, the wide variety of levels is so compelling you will actually want to unlock and experience every single one of them. At only $0.20 per level, BreakQuest is well worth a look.
With thanks to Noah for collaborating with me on this review. =)