From iPods to cell phones, block-breaking games have appeared on just about every piece of technology with a screen, so it was only a matter of time until the Wii got an Arkanoid-style game of its own. Block Breaker Deluxe doesn't steer too far from the established block-breaking formula, but it offers enough challenge to be worth a look.
Block Breaker Deluxe casts you as an amateur block breaker hoping to climb the ranks of celebrity block breaking. The theme is incredibly cheesy, with "cool" hosts for each set of levels and enough neon to outshine Vegas, but Gameloft fully commits to it. The stages are spread across a city map with several hot spots playing host to a set of levels. Completing levels unlocks new hot spots and challenges, and nets you some cash. The money can be used to purchase extra lives, stronger power-ups, and fancy gifts that will help you get into some of the more exclusive clubs. You can earn extra money by successfully completing challenges such as beating a level without losing a ball, or breaking all of the blocks within a set amount of time.
The end of each set of levels will pit you against a boss character. Bosses range from space ships to switch puzzles, and their difficulty gradually builds to maddening levels. You're given 10 lives to make it through each set of stages. You do have unlimited continues, but using a continue eats up a lot of your cash. You don't need too much money to progress through the game, but power-ups such as the explosive ball or ultra shield are worth saving up for.
The basic gameplay should be familiar to most. You launch a ball from your paddle at the bottom of the screen and attempt to keep it in play as it bounds around the screen while destroying blocks and gaining momentum. Block Breaker Deluxe features most of the fancy blocks and power-ups that you'd expect from a modern game of this kind: explosive blocks, blocks that require multiple hits, switches, unbreakable blocks, and blocks that can be destroyed only by hitting them on a specific side, to name a few. The power-ups include lasers, magnets, ball multipliers, and more. A couple of unique power-ups help to set Block Breaker Deluxe apart from similar games. These include the yo-yo, which pulls the ball toward the paddle when you hold the A button, and the precision shot, which lets you single out any block and destroy it.
By moving the Wii Remote you control both the paddle on its horizontal axis and the cursor directly above it. The cursor can be moved anywhere on the screen as you use it to point at and collect power-ups, but moving it horizontally forces the paddle to follow it. Not having to wait for power-ups to fall to your paddle puts a different spin on the formula and makes for some interesting puzzles. The only drawback to the controls is that unless you put the remote on your lap, there is no absolute stop. Even those with the steadiest grips will lose a ball to a slight waver of the controller every now and then. It's not enough of a problem to break the game, but it can be a nuisance on the later levels that require more precision. There is an option to use the D-pad, but it's more of a hassle because you have to keep the remote vertical, which makes reaching the A button used to activate power-ups awkward.
The one multiplayer mode, which is a lot of fun, pits two players against one another in a contest of points. One player controls a paddle at the bottom of the screen, and the other player controls one at the top. The players share the ball, so keeping it on your side is the key to victory. Power-ups are first come, first served, so even being quick with the cursor can turn the tide of a match. The player who destroys the most blocks wins. Several stages feature some tricky layouts that require smart thinking and fast reflexes if you want to beat your opponent.
Block Breaker Deluxe is actually a port of a cell-phone game, and it doesn't look like much has changed in the transition to WiiWare; the visuals are of noticeably low resolution. Some of the flashy effects from power-ups and exploding blocks can crowd the screen and make you lose sight of your ball. From the blocks to the background, everything in the game is extremely bright. Block-breaking games aren't exactly known for mind-blowing visuals, but the Wii is certainly capable of crisper, higher-res graphics.
The music sticks with the nightlife theme. The goofy cruise-ship tunes get old fast, but there's an option to turn them off. All of the sounds related to the paddle--power-ups, and contact with the ball--come from the remote's speaker, which helps strengthen the connection between you and the paddle.
Block Breaker Deluxe offers more than enough engaging block-breaking action to justify its 800 Wii points asking price. The nightlife theme feels more like a corporate marketing team's idea of cool than anything that might actually pass as hip, but the core gameplay is solid, and the challenging level designs and unique controls help this game stand above the rest.