There’s also something about the moment where your ball gets caught at the top of the screen, obliterating most of the level while you do nothing at all. And while brick-breakers can be tense, they can be zen too, as you achieve a flow of bat and ball that makes you feel like the nerdy cousin to a pinball wizard.
On a personal note, I love them. Arkanoid was released thirty-five years ago, almost to the day, and it was my gateway. There’s something about the flow of a game that gets me. You start claustrophobic but slow, with a wall of bricks batting your ball back, but then escalating to that end of game situation where the ball is at top-speed, and there’s only a few bricks to get. But you keep missing and missing and missing.
If you’ve got that same impulse and feel those same joys, plus you happen to have an Xbox, then allow us to present the brick-breakers available on Xbox. A few are backwards compatible on Xbox One and Series X, others are dedicated to those platforms, and all can be played today. These are the ten that we’re aware of, so do let us know if there are others we’ve missed, and we’ll duly slot them in.
Imagine a basic Breakout game, but you control the paddle by moving an FPS-style reticule to the left of the screen to move left, and to the right of the screen to move right. Imagine the complete and utter lack of speed and control that offers you. Now make the Breakout game difficult, and lock the rest of the action-adventure game behind success. It’s like pausing Call of Duty multiplayer and asking a player to juggle four balls while wearing crab hands before they’re allowed to start again. Yeah, it didn’t go down well.
A bit of a cheat this one, but the 2021 action adventure game ‘Protocol’ has a brick-breaker sequence, which is used to convey a ‘hack’. We wanted to include this for two reasons: one is that it follows in the cute tradition of movies like Jurassic Park, Hackers and Swordfish where ‘hacking’ is a visual and exciting game, involving people screaming about worms, trojans and backdoors as they spin around on chairs. The second is that it’s the worst example of brick-breaking committed to a professional platform. It’s awful.
9. Radon Blast
In true Arkanoid tradition, we have a brick-breaker that sounds less like a game and more like a brand of bleach.
Radon Blast is a throwback to public domain and floppy disks, and it could have been bundled free with a magazine, alongside some extra Doom levels. It’s no-frills to the point that there’s a single audio track.
What damns Radon Blast to ninth, though, is the breaking of a cardinal brick-breaker rule. Bricks shouldn’t come back. Take enough time to complete a level and they just start reappearing, undoing all of your progress. Frankly, that’s not okay, Radon Blast. Back to the detergents cupboard with you.
8. Brick Breaker
You can’t beat that Ronseal naming. “We’ve got a brick-breaker game here, Neville. What shall we call it?”. “Good idea”, says Neville. That will-this-do attitude carries over to the game, which is effectively Arkanoid but with a VFX intern on staff. It’s basic brick breaking but with a huge number of explosions. The explosions are the main source of Brick Breaker’s biggest problem, as it goes, which is the sheer amount of visual noise. Gain any power up and the screen is lit up like a game of Fantavision, which makes seeing your paddle, let alone the ten multiballs, a challenge.
7. Glaive: Brick Breaker
Glaive: Brick Breaker
Glaive: Brick Breaker, to its credit, looks the business. It’s got a chunky, tactile art style, and it doesn’t have the ‘firefight in a fireworks factory’ look that cripples Brick Breaker. What it does have, though, is wonky ball physics (and nobody wants that), as the ball refuses to careen off in wild directions when you arrive late with the paddle or hit the ball on the side of your craft. The brazen dismissal of these core tenets of brick-breaking would be bad enough, but the complete lack of any high-score tables is somehow worse. Glaive: Brick Breaker looks good and has plenty of content, but there’s a misunderstanding of exactly what goes into a brick-breaker.
6. Magical Brickout
You could argue that classics like Marble Duel and Peggle wouldn’t be here without Breakout, Arkanoid and the like, so could feasibly have been added to the list. That feels like cheating – they’re probably a deviation too far – but if you were on a journey to those two games, you’d probably pass Magical Brickout on the way. Magical Brickout is a polarising game. For some, it will be too willfully different. You control paddles on the outer ring of a circular game field, and you are batting balls into the centre of that circle. Bricks move around like they’re in a game of Asteroids, and you have to clear them out. It takes a lot of getting used to, and dubious physics plus a taped-on story don’t help things. But if you’ve got a bit of patience and want something different, Magical Brickout might be worth a dabble.
5. Arkanoid Live!
Aha, now we’re getting somewhere! The old lady of brick-breaking, Arkanoid, made its way to the Xbox 360 twelve years ago (twelve!). It’s backwards compatible, though, so there’s still the opportunity to re-live one of the classics of video gaming. And reliving is exactly what will happen, as Arkanoid Live! makes barely any changes to the old formula. It’s multi-coloured bricks getting bashed by your ball and paddle, with power-ups like multiballs and paddle extensions making life easier, and power-downs like shrinking paddles making it harder. The sheer vanilla-ness of Arkanoid Live! might irk a few, but if all you want is to take down DOH again, it has your back.
Another elder statesman of the Xbox, Astropop came out in 2004 on PC, and 2006 on the Xbox 360. That makes it one of the earliest Xbox Live games, emerging among some classics like Geometry Wars, Marble Blast Ultra and Uno. You’d expect it to be dusty and creaky, and you’d be right. It looks ropey, it doesn’t have a huge number of features, the levels are basic, and it’s on the slow side. But it also gets a lot of the basics right. It has a cracking soundtrack, is insanely colourful, the power-ups are solid, and it’s an ideal stepping-on point for youngsters. If you’re interested in bringing the next generation to the genre, Astropop is probably the best choice.