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DS  header logo

Nervous Brickdown

For: DS

Reflect in its glory

Product: Nervous Brickdown | Developer: Arkedo Studio | Publisher: Eidos plc | Format: DS | Genre: Puzzle, Retro | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Nervous Brickdown DS, thumbnail 1
When it comes to solitary sports, a bat, a ball and a wall is about as good as it gets. Because however you choose to define the resulting tennis-squash hybrid, you're always in control of the action. Throw in a spark of imagination, and you're well on the way to winning your own Wimbledon wall tennis championship.

But whichever collection of top rated players you choose as your to-be-beaten opponents, your real enemy is the bounce of the ball.

It's a situation that's fully explored in Nervous Brickdown, Eidos' latest twist on gaming favourite Breakout. It's an obvious game to reinvent in terms of the benefits that can be provided by touchscreen control, but with an eye on remix culture and previous 'style games' such as Lumines, French developer Arkedo has taken a wide view in terms of how far it can extend the bouncing ball experience.

Still, the first level is traditional. Called Pow, it sees you take control of a good old-fashioned bat with your stylus, moving it left and right on the bottom DS screen to bounce the ball and break the blocks above.

Hit certain blocks and power-ups drop down, which, when collected by your bat, momentarily grant special abilities. These include turning the ball into fiery orb to provide extra block-breaking capability, or making the entire baseline reflect the ball back, giving you the opportunity to give your stylus a rest.

As you make your progress through the ten stages that make up each level, you can also gain extra rewards for performances such as completing a stage without losing a life. Each level has a points rating, too, which combines into an overall stage rating that you'll need to beat to unlock the next stage in line.

Indeed, aside from the imagination that's gone into the design of the levels themselves, one of the most impressive features of Nervous Brickdown is its structure. Once you've successfully played through three stages – three sets of three are played before you take on the final boss stage – the game autosaves your progress, enabling you to replay those stage in any order.

As well as encouraging replayability and short bursts of gaming, it also makes it easy to go back and earn those rewards and boost your points tally, as well as just gaining further enjoyment by playing the stages you enjoy the most.

This is important considering the huge variation of styles and gameplay. For instance, the Paper stage gives you the ability to draw your own bat shape as well as actually hitting the ball, rather than just letting it passively rebound. You're not destroying blocks either: in this case you use the ball to 'hit' ink stains and dripping paint.

Other examples of the type of innovation you can expect include: Ghost, in which you have to pop bricks by tapping them directly, as well as blowing monsters away using the DS microphone; Speed, which is a vector graphics-based world requiring you to reflect a Tron-style line instead of a ball; and the Space Invaders-themed Shoot, where as well as reflecting back the ball, you have to dodge incoming enemy fire.

Of course, in such as smorgasboard situation, everyone is likely to focus much of their attention on certain levels, while ignoring others.

Our favourites, then, were Switch and Water. The former brings colour into play, with the ball's tone changing depending on the last block it hit. You, in turn, have to tap either the yellow or blue buttons on the touchscreen to change the colour of the bat to match the incoming ball. It's a simple concept but one which thanks to the neatly animated stage designs – including large rotating wheels – provides plenty of last-second thrills.

The best stage, however, is Water. This sees you moving a submarine around to reflect a ball that collides with platforms on which little stickmen stand. Eventually, the ball will unbalance the platforms, dropping the men down the screen, thereby forcing you to position your submarine in order to catch them.

Adding difficulty to your task is the fact the water level rises as time goes on and, when it gets high enough, it also dislodges the men, again bringing you into saving action. As you're only allowed to miss three of the so-called Waterboys, the action gets pretty frantic, especially as the occasional shark will appear (you have to tap them with your stylus to stop them munching through any descending bodies).

Rounding off the impressive package, there's even a multiplayer gamesharing head-to-head co-operative mode, so you don't have to take the solitary approach if you don't want to.

Overall, it's certainly a concept that's some way removed from the original Breakout idea. But the enjoyment encapsulated in many of these mini-games, combined with the wonderful audio and graphics, as well as solid controls throughout, ensure Nervous Brickdown bounces in as a surprising delight.
Nervous Brickdown
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 16 October 2007
An innovative collection of Breakout-themed mini-games, Nervous Brickdown is a well-designed and beautifully realised slice of DS pocket gaming
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