If there is one game genre that has stood the test of time and can be considered as a grandfather to all video games, it’s the Pong/Breakout ball and paddle style game. Born in the early 70’s, Breakout clones have been a dime a dozen and have been updated even in today’s modern gaming world. Hyperballoid HD puts the usual modern day twist on the genre, by adding HD graphics, powerups, and upbeat tempos, but ultimately fails to truly separate itself from gaming’s oldest genre.
Besides the direct comparison to the earliest Breakout games, Hyperballoid also has another stiff competitor more specifically on the PSN – Shatter. If Hyperballoid was released before last summer’s Shatter, then fans of the paddle and ball gameplay style would not have had to think twice to get a decent entertainment kick for a decent price. But with so many other Breakout clones on the market today, Hyperballoid could have used some additional options to help further validate the point of the purchase.
It is not that there is anything necessarily bad about Hyperballoid, just the whole experience is ultimate bogged down by a bunch of little inconveniences and gameplay nuisances. Power up icons are almost impossible to differentiate because of their small size and similar color, there is no leaderboard option whatsoever so gaining a high score is almost pointless, there is no multiplayer mode (not even local), hitting the last few bricks can be quite tedious and frustrating, the hint system is beyond lacking, there is no option to change controls and there is also a complete lack of a button controller scheme screen which forces the player to mindless experiment with the controls and powerups, and on-screen text is extremely hard to read even on a high def TV.
The biggest complaint about the Breakout style gameplay probably revolves around clearing out those last few bricks. Shatter’s sucking and ball blowing technique was an interesting attempt to alleviate this problem whereas Hyperballoid gives the player an option to avoid this problem altogether. When about 95% of the bricks have been cleared out, a sphere will drop from the top of the screen. If the player catches this sphere with the paddle, then the player is rewarded clearance to the next level without the need to destroy the remaining bricks. While I understand why this featured was added to the game, I am not sure that I agree with it. It basically says “yeah, we know hitting those last bricks can totally suck, so we are just going to avoid it by offering the player the chance to immediate skip to the next level instead of coming up with a fun and creative solution.” This is kind of like saying, “we couldn’t think of a cool boss battle design when fighting Ganon, so we are just going to show a cutscene that shows Link stabbing Ganon with the Master Sword instead of having a player controlled action.” I hate nailing those last bricks just as much as everyone else, but I still can’t help but feeling that this is taking the cheap way out.
The graphics are definitely high resolution and carries an overall theme that reminds me a lot of Luxor 2 or even Zuma. But like Dead Rising, I think players that play this game on a non-HD TV might have some trouble reading text and determining the difference between powerups because of the HD graphics. The music also carries itself well but definitely takes a backseat to the stellar soundtrack of Shatter.
However, props have to be given to the game’s level design. Instead of blowing away the typical patterns of bricks, the player will be destroying elaborate brick designs, some of which are even animated. It is just too bad that a level editor was not included as each level is a great form of inspiration to the player. Add in some online connectivity to upload and share level designs and something special could have been created. But for the low price point of this game, it is not hard to see why these additional features were not included.
If Hyperballoid spent just a little more time in development and had just a little bit more of a budget, it could have been a great addition to the flooded ball and paddle genre. It will still offer entertainment, best used in small increments, but do not expect to the blown away by cool options or anything truly special.
Better Than: laying bricks by hand
Not As Cool As: Shatter (PSN)
Also Try: Arknoid: Doh It Again (SNES)
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