Some games get all the clones. As a matter of fact, it's such an expected thing these days for certain age-old games to receive new and updated versions that calling them clones isn't derogatory at all. It's more like a defining genre of gameplay, and easily one of the most popular of said genres is the Breakout clone. 1976 marks the first iteration of Breakout gameplay on the Atari, the Queen Mother of the hive one could say, and since then, the game has undoubtedly touched every game system known to man under some other guise. The DS has already been privy to one such release, known as Break 'Em All, and we felt that even that budget release paid homage well enough to the original, all while keeping gameplay fresh and unique.
While it may have been a nice game, it seems Eidos Interactive is looking to replace D3's Break 'Em All with a new top-tier Breakout clone for the DS, and this time they're going for the gold. The quaint 16bit visuals of Break 'Em All are about to face a rude awakening in comparison to the lush, vivid designs of Nervous Brickdown. It's probably not fair to go comparing these two side-by-side further, as the earlier budget title might lose face in comparison to its newer, full-priced brother. Both games are Breakout clones, and that's a simple enough place to draw the line.
Nervous Brickdown starts with the same age-old gameplay that Breakout originated. Players take control of a small paddle to deflect a bouncing ball towards breakable blocks in order to clear the level by destroying them all. The paddle moves left to right and ... honestly, is this Gaming History 101? Breakout's been around so long and in so many incarnations that if you haven't seen at least one version you're living under something ... a rock I'd say, but in this case it might be more like a mountain.
Where this game seeks to revitalize the old mechanic, as most Breakout clones attempt to do in some way, is in managing a regular Breakout style of gameplay using the DS's various input techniques. Players won't just use the touchscreen to move their paddle, but also to occasionally draw their paddle as it is needed. This is one of the unique modes of gameplay available across the 135 stages in Nervous Brickdown, and the others include using the stylus to have a character jump pits and stay alive in retro stages, as well as using the much lauded blowing into the microphone mechanic to turn away enemy ghosts and help destroy particular bricks. These modes are going to make for a unique take on this classic gameplay, but hopefully they never serve the purpose of making things overly confusing and difficult for the player.
The visual style of this game in all the different stages is where Nervous Brickdown takes one more jump towards being a damned interesting Breakout clone. 135 stages are going to provide a huge variety of appealing atmospheres, and the ones we've seen so far are no letdown. Notebook stages have the player controlling his drawn paddle to clear inkblots on a sheet of regular college rule, 2D platformer levels have the player navigating Breakout on the bottom screen while controlling the actions of a traveling character on the top (we've seen a great 2D sprite stage and an even better stage that calls forth the long lost style of PS1 classic Vib Ribbon), and other levels like jungles, haunted houses, space shooter themed stages, golf courses and more are all included. All of this makes for one hell of a charming Breakout package, as long as it plays well.
Add to that the occasional power-up, hidden level, and a two-player mode (with wireless single cart sharing), and it's easy to see why comparing Nervous Brickdown to Break 'Em All is an unfair proposition. The games are in different leagues just in terms of overall content alone. Ultimately, here's hoping Nervous Brickdown makes it into the fantastic tier of classic gameplay re-envisioned on the DS through such unique titles as Flipper Critters, Tetris DS, and Quickspot. Nervous Brickdown ships June 27th, so look for this Breakout clone then if you're desperately in need of filling the summer lull. We'll do our best to have a review of the game once it hits retail.