When it comes to games, there are some classics so old – and so iconic – that even people who have never played a on console or held a controller know what they are; the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Mario, Sonic and even Pokemon. But there are a few others without an iconic character attached that are just as well known to the masses. One such game is Breakout, and no matter how many different variations and names it has had over the years, there are few out there who wouldn’t recognise the paddle and bricks experience. Magical Brickout is the latest variation on that classic title, but is it a variation we’ll be looking upon fondly or is it a step too far?
Breakout has been a big part of gaming for many years, with the original releasing on Atari all the way back in 1976. Since that point there have been hundreds of iterations that have come and gone, many proving acceptable, some diabolical and others purely fantastic, but with one Breakout inspired title – BrickBreaker – already available on Xbox One, Magical Brickout has to provide something different. Different isn’t always good though, and with the latest mechanic to be introduced completely changing the way the game plays, it’s hard to say it’s a welcome amendment.
The overall goal of Magical Brickout is still very much the same as that of every other Breakout title. You must bounce the ball off your paddle and into the remaining blocks on the screen to clear them – causing the trapped fairies inside to be freed – as you try to progress to the next stage, whilst avoiding the ball going off-screen.
This is usually done with one platform paddle across the bottom of the screen, and all the bricks placed above. That’s where the first of the changes to Magical Brickout comes as instead of having just the one paddle, you have multiple paddles placed around the arena, and instead of hitting the ball with your paddle from the bottom of the screen, you now move your multiple paddles around the screen in a circular motion, with all the bricks in the centre moving around as you do.
This is a very odd mechanic and one that takes quite some getting used to. It’s also one that can become especially irritating when the ball bounces off a paddle towards the outer area of the screen. This happens a lot if you hit the ball whilst moving, and this causes a nonstop cycle of trying to save the ball without it ever going into the middle.
It’s not an overly enjoyable mechanic either and after initially completing just a few of the levels from the 48 available, I was wishing for the traditional platform along the bottom of the screen to return.
Besides irritating ball physics, there are also two vials to pay attention to. Sitting beside the play area, one fills up as your score multiplies and the other offers additional balls when filled. Filling the vials is as simple as you’d expect and is done by smashing the bricks within the level.
Another surprising aspect of Magical Brickout is the fact there is a story that has been woven into the different levels, with the story telling the tale of a fairy stealing wizard that you must overcome. This is expanded upon before each level via way of text and comic style messages, which help to explain the art seen in the background of each level, but unfortunately, as exciting as the inclusion of a story is to this type of game, it’s not all that exciting or memorable. It certainly isn’t one I’d recommend paying attention too.
Whilst it’s disappointing to see the story prove so fruitless, the glaring issues within the game all stem from the gameplay aspects of Magical Brickout, and unfortunately there are some issues that come into play after just a few levels.
The biggest is in regards the ball itself. As mentioned previously, hitting the ball whilst moving provides a big problem thanks to its outward trajectory after contact, but it doesn’t help that the ball doesn’t exactly follow the laws of physics. There’s no real reason for this to be the case, but the issue still persists and at the start of each stage – or each respawn after losing the ball off the side of the screen – the ball spawns in the middle of the play area and will immediately travel upwards; but from the moment it touches the first platform, things start to go astray, with it not always going in the exact direction it should. This often means you are left playing more in hope than prediction, especially if you’ve hit a speed increase powerup.
Fortunately, the levels don’t take a particularly long time to complete, even with the occasional unpredictable ball mechanics, as you only need to eliminate the blue fairy bricks to complete a stage.
Another problem comes about from the powerup bricks and how awkwardly placed they are. Coming in the form of positive and negative effecting bricks, with positive ones adding things like extra balls into play whilst negative ones can speed things up drastically, these type of powerups are hardly new to this type of genre and usually they would be applauded for bringing variety to an otherwise repetitive objective. When they bring overlays that crowd the screen and hinder visibility – with them often found sitting in front of the necessary fairy bricks that are required to finish a level – it doesn’t take long to feel frustration at the level formation and the placement of each brick. Sure, we don’t want a level to be too easy, but with ball physics already proving hard enough to understand, it’s even more frustrating to be forced into hitting a negative powerup just to get to the fairy brick behind it.
The biggest issue though comes from the lack of gameplay options available. With games like Breakout having been around since gaming began, it’s hard to find much to shout about when a new addition comes along with just one game mode that can be completed within a few short hours. It would have been much nicer to have seen some different game modes included to at least shake things up a little.
Sure, there are already multiple levels to master with them all spread out across eight different areas, but with things feeling highly repetitive after just a few attempts, it’s unlikely that many will find reason to push through of all of them for anything other than the collection of achievements.
I don’t like to be completely negative about any game though and there is one thing about Magical Brickout that is rather positive – the rather unique soundtrack that accompanies things. Whilst it doesn’t make much of a change to the issues within the game, it is certainly soothing to listen to and sets the tone of things well – a surprising feat for such a simplistic game.
Magical Brickout isn’t the best version of a Breakout game you can play right now on Xbox One. Sure, it’s nice to see the genre return, but with mechanics that completely change the game not functioning as well as they should, and poor brick placement and difficult ball physics often making an appearance, Magical Brickout isn’t quite the revolutionary change it could have been. Those who have a love for these types of games may find some enjoyment, but if you’re looking to jump into a classic ‘brick breaking game’ for the first time, then you would be better off looking elsewhere.