In the beginning there was Pong. It was basically a game with a square blip knocked back and forth by two
paddles, but it launched the entire video game industry. Pong was made by Atari, which came out with the Video
Computer System, considered by many to be the granddaddy of all console game systems. One of the most popular games
back then on the Atari VCS was a Pong variant called Breakout, which also happens to be an old favorite
of mine, along with an enhanced version called Super Breakout.
Those games were released more than 20 years ago, and now SCi, a leading game developer in the U.K., has come out
with Cool Bricks for
Game Boy Color, a Breakout variant for today's generation of gamers. Currently, this game is only available in
Europe while a US release has yet to be announced.
Cool Bricks plays exactly like Breakout--you control a paddle (or bat, as it's called here) that bounces a ball
around to knock some bricks. Some bricks can be knocked out by hitting them several times until they shatter, while
others are indestructible. You're given 5 lives at the onset, and the game ends when you lose all of them.
150 Levels are provided in Cool Bricks, with lots of brick configurations and arrangements, but what keeps each
level interesting are the various power-ups that you can get when you hit certain bricks. These power-ups can last
indefinitely for that level or for a short time, and can affect your bat in different ways, like magnetizing it,
making it wider, or even reversing its movement (avoid this one!).
The power-ups also give you weapons--among my favorites include the Rocket Bat, which gives you the ability to
shoot a steady stream of rockets that knock out bricks; the Laser Bat, which makes you fire laser beams that can
also knock out bricks; and the Plasma Bat, which fires twin plasma beams that destroys all bricks in a straight
Aside from the bat, the ball can also be affected by the power-ups--there's the typical multi-ball mode, where
you're given three balls at the same time; and another favorite, the Ninja Mode, where the ball transforms into
a spinning shuriken that knocks out every brick where it flies.
There also special power-ups, like a heart that gives you extra lives, and a smiley face that automatically warps
you to the next level, plus an occasional spaceship that fires--make sure your bat doesn't get hit, or you lose
Controls, Graphics, Sound
Controls are responsive, and are simplicity in itself: direction pad to
move the bat left or right, and Button A to release the ball or fire special weapons. The Start button is also
used to pause the game.
Graphics are very good--this game uses the Game Boy Color's High-Colour Mode, displaying more colors than it usually
can, resulting in detailed backgrounds resembling marbled walls and other textures. Some nice touches include the
metallic tubular border of the screen with some spot animations, and the bricks themselves look like they're made
of shiny metal.
However, the High-Colour Mode also has a drawback; in some levels the background is too overwhelming that it's
difficult to spot the ball or even the bricks. Oddly enough, I expected the screens to be more bright and colorful,
but the palette used seemed somewhat diluted.
Sound effects are good, and music is okay, with techno-like blaring music that changes every few levels or so.
The music becomes a bit repetitive and annoying later on though, and fortunately you can turn it off.
One bad thing about this game is that high scores aren't saved--the game
gives you passwords after every four levels, and it's a pain to remember these or write them down in the middle
of a game. So it's practically useless and laughable to input your name for the high score list, since you know
it won't even be saved.
The fonts used are also heard to read--it's difficult to make out if the letters of a given password are "B"
or "D" or an "X" or "H", which can lead to frustration when you realize you've been
trying to enter the wrong password that you were sure you copied earlier.
But Cool Bricks marks a welcome return of Breakout-style games to the Game Boy (another Breakout variant called
Dragon Dance has been recently released in the USA); with lots of levels, power-up options and innovative
High-Colour mode, it's highly addictive and very well-suited to the handheld format. Now if they can only place
a battery back-up save...