Publisher: Taito
Year: 1987
Genre: Breakout Clone 

Every day, people in the civilized world encounter, at bare minimum, four walls (presuming they have a coffee can in their bedroom to poop in), and you know what? Sometimes, we don’t like it. Sometimes, a man just has to say, “You know what, Mr. Wall? Who the hell are you to come into MY house and tell me which of MY rooms are partitioned from one another?” For those of you who, like me, have found themselves injuring some portion of their anatomy in a furious tequila-fueled attempt at libero cubiculum, Arkanoid may well prove to be the cathartic experience you need.

"Hey, kid - wanna eff up some walls?"
“Hey, kid – wanna eff up some walls?”

In Arkanoid, the time and era of the story is unknown. After the mothership “Arkanoid” was destoryed, a spacecraft “Vaus” scrambled away from it, only to be trapped in space warp by someone. Make sense? No? Well, that’s all the game will give me in its poetic opening sequence.

A haiku: I pilot my Vaus / Wait, now it is a paddle? / Japan is so strange.
A haiku: I pilot my Vaus                            Wait, now it is a paddle?                        Japan is so strange.

The manual does expound a bit on this, explaining that the Arkanoid was actually a refugee ship from an earth-like planet that was attacked by brutal aliens and is now captured in some sort of space warp. There’s a bit more when you beat the game, but if you want it spoiled, you’ll have to look somewhere else (such as Google Images).

This could take a while...
This could take a while…

Now, as a Breakout clone, it should be understood that the gameplay is repetitive. If this is NOT understood, you really don’t know anything about Breakout. However, unlike Breakout, Arkanoid features powerups that give the Vaus and/or the big shiny metal ball it uses to demolish walls certain powers. These powerups descend from the heavens in pill form when you break the correct* block, and do everything from making the Vaus longer or giving it lasers, to splitting your ball into three or slowing it down. Since you can only have one at once, you might find yourself risking losing a ball just to avoid a powerup, which is just one of the many ways this game tries to kill you at your own hand (the other obvious candidate being the frustration of having exactly one nearly-unhittable block left).

Beautiful! ಥ_ಥ
Beautiful! ಥ_ಥ

In terms of the most important aspect of any Breakout clone (level design), Arkanoid is a triumph, featuring levels that are a joy to play, juxtaposed against levels that are diabolically cruel, sprinkled with a few levels that are artistically stylish.

But what really makes this game is the control scheme. If you were fortunate enough as a child to own an original copy of the game, you got the Vaus controller, which I affectionately called the “paddle” controller (after the Atari 2600 analogues). If you don’t have one from those blissful childhood years, it’ll most likely set you back $50 or so on Ebay. It is, of course, possible to play the game with a standard Nintendo gamepad, but eff that noise unless you’re specifically doing it as a self-imposed challenge, in which case – good luck, you’ll need it.

John’s Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0. This game is seriously awesome. There are other decent Breakout clones – at least one of which is available for the Nintendo, but Arkanoid stands head and shoulder above them. Accept no substitutes.

* More accurately worded “at random,” for those of you who don’t like pretending the game is deterministic

You see those indestructible gold blocks? Eff those indestructible gold blocks!
You see those indestructible gold blocks? Eff those indestructible gold blocks!


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