The block breaking game may have been created when Breakout was released back in 1976, but most modern block breaking games instead take a page from the book of Taito's 1986 arcade game, Arkanoid. Taito's game starts with the same basic concept as Breakout--you control a flat paddle at the bottom of the screen and you must use it to hit a ball up at a series of blocks until you've hit them all. But Arkanoid also adds power-ups to the mix. Items that cause your paddle to get longer, items that split the ball into three balls, and even an item that lets you fire lasers at the bricks are just some of the things that Taito brought to the table. Since that time, most games in the genre tend to follow the Arkanoid formula pretty closely. Gameloft's newest Breakout-style game, Block Breaker Deluxe, delivers a decidedly Arkanoid-like experience while wrapping a story mode around the more traditional block busting proceedings. The resulting game is a great fit for mobile phones.
Block Breaker Deluxe is broken into areas, each of which is a bustling night club, where Block Breaker is the entertainment of choice. It is the game world's competitive sport, its proving-ground. In order to advance in Block Breaker, you'll have to impress each of the game's attractive club owners by collecting gifts that suit her particular tastes. These gifts are found hidden behind blocks within the game's many levels. For example, one of the club owners is a high-maintenance socialite who happens to bear more than a passing resemblance to Jessica Rabbit. In order to win her support, you'll have to shower her with expensive sundries, such as pearls and mink coats. If you impress these well-connected individuals, they will help you advance to new areas. At one point, you'll have to get one word of a passcode from each club owner, so that you may gain entrance to a highly exclusive Block Breaker tournament.
Though it may take after Breakout and Arkanoid in a few different ways, Block Breaker Deluxe also adds some new levels of complexity. Often, you will have to hit particular blocks to unlock parts of a level. There are power-ups to make your paddle larger, smaller, magnetic, invisible, and to make it capable of shooting laser beams. There are collectibles that make your ball faster, slower, and more powerful. There's even one that makes your ball act like a yo-yo, flying back to your paddle every time you press the 5 key. This adds an interesting strategic element, as balls yo-yoed back are capable of destroying any block, even the nigh-indestructible silver ones that become increasingly prevalent as you progress through the game. The game even features boss battles.
Players will find that particular combinations of power-ups are especially potent, such as the marriage of the multiball generator (which spawns two balls in addition to the regular one) with the magnetic paddle power-up. That combo will let you magnetically store one of the balls on your paddle--almost like an extra life--while you knock around the other two. Speaking of extra lives, you'll start the game with ten of them. If you run out of lives, you can sacrifice $200,000 of your club competition winnings to replenish them. You might find yourself doing this on the same few levels; Block Breaker's difficulty can be somewhat unbalanced. Certain stages, especially some of the boss battles, take forever to clear, while other ones are a breeze. You rarely know what kind of challenge you're in for.
Block Breaker's presentation is appropriately excellent. Its graphics are colorful and chug along at a healthy clip. The game's anime-inspired club owners are well drawn, and they pack a lot of character. The game's sound, while relatively simple, is on par with that of most Java games, both in fidelity and variety. The opening of each round is marked by a few measures of calypso music. Crisp sound effects accompany the rest of the gameplay. Music during play is woefully absent, however. It would have been nice to hear some of the tunes the club members are apparently enjoying in the background; they're certainly not jumping around to the beeps and bops of Block Breaker.
The bottom line is that Block Breaker Deluxe is a truly excellent game that, as time has proven, packs lasting appeal. It may be nothing more than a repackaged Arkanoid, but it plays well and makes for a great mobile game. The story mode is innovative and the play is wonderfully chaotic.