This being the fourth release under the ‘Recharged’ banner, the foundations and formulae have been properly laid out now. Under a reinvigorated Atari, their classics are being brought kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Breakout: Recharged represents the last game in the initial four, but more are on the horizon.
The granddaddy of brick-breakers, Breakout first graced arcades way back in 1976. Itself inspired by PONG, you control a paddle at the bottom of the screen. You move this left and right whilst preventing a ball from falling below. This ball then hits bricks at the top of the screen. Your ultimate aim is to destroy every brick.
It’s such a simple concept that you will have likely played one of the literal thousands of clones without actually realising it. And don’t think for one second that Arkanoid came first. Breakout is the OG brick-breaker.
In this Recharged version of Breakout, you get that same classic gameplay with a few – not too many, mind – extras. If you have ever played any of the other Recharged titles released recently, be that Asteroids, Centipede or Black Widow, you will know what to expect: same design, aesthetics and extras.
There is once again the Arcade mode, but this time you have additional decisions to make, not just whether to play on your own but with a friend. Recharged mode is the same Breakout gameplay but with just one life. To make up for the lack of lives however is a whole range of power-ups you can unlock. The majority of which are really useful too. There is also the Classic mode: no power-ups but three lives. And finally, there is Classic Recharged, which represents the best of both worlds: Power-ups and three lives.
Something else that the original Breakout didn’t have is the ability to play in co-op. This didn’t work as I expected but the way it has been incorporated makes a lot more sense than the chaos I had imagined. Each player gets half of the screen to themselves, yet their paddle cannot pass through the barrier in the middle. The ball can, however. And you start off with two balls instead of one, but there may be times where you don’t have a ball to paddle as they may be on the other player’s side. The final score is shared between players, as are the power-ups. If you’re lucky in getting a power-up that helps clear your side of the screen before the other player, then unfortunately all you can do is sit and wait until a ball comes over or the bricks reappear. Sometimes the wait can be a bit too long, particularly if there is one annoying brick the other player cannot hit.
All three Arcade modes are playable in co-op.
Regarding those power-ups; many are pretty much as you would expect, such as elongating the paddle, slowing down time or showing the ball trajectory. However, some feel way over-powered. Several power-ups will attach a gun to the paddle for a short period of time and it can fire homing missiles, shots straight up or shots out in three directions. These can absolutely decimate a series of bricks in very short time so are well worth picking up.
If you have nearly cleared the screen of bricks, new sets will drop in from the top. However, if one or two bricks remain, the new set will sometimes start dropping in early. This can occasionally mean that there isn’t much action on-screen as you are breaking the bricks as soon as they appear, leaving you with periods of just waiting for a substantial amount of new bricks to appear.
Challenge mode also returns with some very devious missions to complete. Again, in single player or co-op these will test your skills in brick-breaking in a variety of ways. Some will ask you to achieve certain scores, clear bricks using specific power-ups or destroy a certain type of brick.
The different brick types help provide some variation to the basic format. Alongside the ones that take more than one hit to break are others that explode upon impact and can take other bricks with them. There are also two types of bricks that will fire back at you: one when it is destroyed will fire a single bullet down towards you and another that fires repeatedly until destroyed.
Old-school players will be pleased to know though that the tactic of getting the ball to bounce between the roof of the playing area and the top bricks is still the best method and should well be employed.
The challenges do get more difficult as you progress, but many can be completed without too much skill needed. The biggest challenge comes from those bricks that drop down the screen quickly. An area near your paddle will be marked and if a brick enters it then you automatically fail that challenge.
Once again though for a Recharged game, that’s all there really is. But as with the others, they are such simple concepts that would see changing them too much becoming detrimental. One thing that Breakout: Recharged has over the others is that addictive nature to it. There is something immensely satisfying about clearing a set of bricks, and that will never get boring – no matter whether it is your first brick or number 10000. Few games can claim a legacy of nearly 50 years and still be relevant, but Breakout: Recharged is one of those.
Break the walls down in Breakout: Recharged on the Xbox Store