Review: Block Breaker 3 Unlimited HD


What do you get if you take all the existing 'Block Breaker' titles and mash them together - and then add another 50% again? And then optimise everything for higher resolution screens and graphics acceleration chips? You get this, Block Breaker 3 Unlimited HD (I can't believe the developers resisted the temptation to add 'Deluxe Pro: Rise of the Meta Ball' or similar, too.....!) It's absolutely the most comprehensive 'Arkanoid' game I've ever played and is an absolute blast, even if it does add rather too many layers of game complexity for my liking. 

Author: Gameloft

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You know Arkanoid, right? You have a bat that can be slid from side to side, and you have to keep a bouncing ball in play - as it travels around a game board it knocks bricks from a wall and when you clear a level of bricks you're on to the next level.

Sound easy? Sound simple? Well, yes, it used to be. This, however, is Block Breaker 3 Unlimited HD. And it's a beast.

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The title screen, one of the 20 or so help/tips screens and a welcome choice of seven different languages

You see, over the years, developers have been trying to find ways to build in more excitement to the basic Arkanoid premise. So we've had the idea of:

  • special bricks that release drop down bonuses that you have to catch on your paddle. 
  • a curved paddle, giving more control of how the ball bounces off it.
  • extra game modes, including multi-ball action.
  • ever more elaborate patterns of bricks

To these, Ball Breaker 3 Unlimited HD adds:

  • a back story (yes, really, an array of virtual 'opponents')
  • items to collect (and buy, in a virtual shop) that relate to your opponent and the current 'city map'
  • irregular playing area, with tunnels and channels to bounce the ball into, leading to other areas
  • not one, not two, not three... etc. but seven different game modes ('Survival', 'Endless', 'Time trial', etc - all initially locked and you unlock them as you along, clearing levels and hitting things)
  • eight different city maps, each of which has 15 levels, each of which typically has two or three sub-game-levels embedded within it
  • 'Angry Birds' style star ratings for how completely you got through each level (i.e. hit everything, collected everything, avoided all the hazards)
  • various gameplay innovations (of which more below)

I'm not even sure the list above is definitive, there's so much on offer here. It's all a bit overwhelming - and this is before you've bounced your first ball!

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As you start to play Ball Breaker 3 Unlimited HD, pop-ups appear to tell you about each new type of brick or bonus you encounter. These are a little annoying if you've already read right through the Help screens (as I did!) but for those diving straight into the action the pop-ups are a good idea.

And then it's into 'breaking', with single and then multi-ball Arkanoid action. Paddle control is done via sliding your finger along the purple bar at the bottom of the screen - this works well to keep your fingertip away from the actual paddle, i.e. your view is never blocked. It's a shame that the help pop-ups all tell you to 'touch the left and right of the screen' - I'm guessing this message is from a port of the game to a different mobile platform. On Symbian, it's definitely a one-finger-slide game.

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Showing some of the wierd and wonderful gameplay layouts you'll encounter, tunnels and channels everywhere - there's been a lot of effort put into level design! 'Hit combo' and 'Triple climax', eh? Wow.

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More tunnels and formations of blocks - it's all rather reminiscent of navigating the innards of some huge 'Death Star' - not that I've done this, you understand... Well, not for real...

There's a lot on screen at any one time, from the ball and paddle to the often animated block formations, graphical effects, falling bonuses and hazards, but it's been coded well for Symbian^3's graphics acceleration and the frame rate never became too slow. It was never silky smooth either, mind you, but the amount of processing needed never got in the way of the fun I was having, so I'll give Ball Breaker 3 Unlimited HD a definite 'pass' here.

I did mention 'innovations' earlier - several of the features here employ the technique of tapping and holding the paddle to activate (e.g. some of the more 'explosive' ways to clear blocks. Most impressive of all was the way Gameloft's programmers have got round the age old problem of the last block on a level being almost impossible to clear.

Traditionally, you'd keep bouncing the ball around, varying the angle of reflection and desperately trying to get it right to clear that last, pesky block. It would take ages and was definitely Arkanoid's weakest gameplay area. Here in Ball Breaker 3 Unlimited HD, when down to the last couple of blocks, tapping and holding the paddle effects an 'auto-aim' on the bounced ball, sending it exactly in the direction of the remaining blocks. A huge time saver and a great idea.

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It's fairly easy to progress in the game, but don't take this as a sign that it's too easy, since there are a huge number of levels to get through and, even if you play the same level twice, it's never going to be the same, thanks to the on-screen action depending on what you do with your paddle (and depending on your reactions). 

Most importantly, even if (like me) you only really get to grips with about half of the special powers and bonuses on display, you'll still have a blast - this is most definitely the best ball & paddle game I've played on a mobile device. A graphical key to all the special blocks and bonuses would have been nice rather than just text descriptions, but I'm being somewhat picky.

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The 'opponent' system (a.k.a. back story) is a gimmick, of course - I can see the point in building up virtual dollars to buy extra lives or extra powers, but what use is a virtual smartphone or laptop?

Ball Breaker 3 Unlimited HD therefore comes with my unqualified reservation, especially at just £1.50 in the Nokia Store. Concentrate and study the extras and you'll have a really immersive and rewarding experience - or just leap straight in, collect, bounce and blast everything in sight and enjoy the ride. Either way, old time Arkanoid fans will love this title.

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 14 Nov 2011

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