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Review: Brickies – convention-breaking brick-breaker

Brickies takes a classic game formula and mixes in some modern mechanics – but is it enough to revitalize the genre?

Price: Free
Size: 85.3 MB
Version: 1.0.4
Developer: Noodlecake Studios Inc

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The brick breaker game; a staple of the action-puzzle genre since Breakout was released in arcades way back in 1976. For the uninitiated (where have you been?) brick breakers involve maneuvering a paddle to bounce a ball into a formation of inanimate bricks. You know, to break them.


Things get pretty hectic with the multiball powerup

Brickies is everything you would expect from this type of game, with a few new elements thrown in to mix up what has become a slightly unfashionable genre. Most notably, the game features two paddles instead of the usual one, meaning that bricks can be attacked from both top and bottom. This makes the game feel a little bit like a co-operative version of Pong, and means you get more chances to affect the gameplay. It’s simple, but a welcome twist on a dated genre.

The touch controls are straightforward – swipe left and right along the bottom of the screen to move both paddles simultaneously. There’s also the option to enable tilt controls, but we found them to be a little sluggish. Luckily the standard touch controls are smooth and movements feel responsive.


We enjoy the purposely rubbish ball puns and cute achievements

Brickies has a series of powerups, mostly borrowed from convention (explosive, speed, multiball) with one unique touchscreen-specific power that allows you to drag the ball around the screen. It would be nice to see a little more of this type of mechanic, though – nothing else really takes advantage of the platform. The powers appear randomly at generous intervals, requiring decent aim to be collected before they disappear. Some of the powerups stack, creating carnage and unlocking achievements like ‘guided missile’ or ‘unstoppable’. The powers are really satisfying to use and keep the game from getting stale.

The level design is varied and reasonably creative, with new types of brick around every corner. Some split in two, others grow, spin or take multiple hits to destroy. Despite the name, the ‘bricks’ come in all shapes, colors and sizes – always personified by two little eyes, Super Mario style. We almost felt bad destroying those little guys! Brickies also throws in the occasional ‘boss level’ – a rare treat for puzzle games, and a nice touch.


The ‘boss’ in the middle takes multiple hits to destroy, and is protected by a circle of minions

Unlike conventional brick breakers, there’s no system of lives to speak of. Missing the ball simply ‘deactivates’ it temporarily, meaning you can’t destroy bricks until you hit it again. Having no lives doesn’t mean there’s no game over, though – instead, each level is given a time limit in which to destroy everything on screen. This rewards speed and accuracy and makes sense for the one-level-at-a-time approach of mobile gaming.

If you fail a level, you can either replay it as normal, or watch an optional video ad to try again with more time on the clock. It’s a nice non-intrusive ad system, paired with infrequent pop-ups to keep the game free. If you get sick of the individual levels, there’s also an ‘endless’ mode which tops up the timer every time you score points.


Some levels are impossible without the help of powerups or extra time

Brickies is a solid time killer, but despite a few gimmicks it doesn’t feel like it’s evolved as much as it could have in the forty-odd years since Breakout was first released. That said, it’s well polished with cute sound and graphics, plus a lot of content (80 levels and counting) for a free game. It’s not as innovative a take on the brick breaker as Polynoid, but it’s well-rounded – and more importantly, it’s good fun.