Justice Playthrough #192: BREAKER

Hey, I’m still doing these!

Coulda called it quits after the last one; Octodad would have been a legit high-point to go out on. But, nah, screw it, I’ll keep coming back to these from time to time, I think, just so I can pretend I still have a creative streak or something. And I can definitely hit that #200 milestone if I push myself a bit!

As for this game, it’s definitely … a game. That exists.

Page 25, Game 15: BREAKER by Daniel Linssen

The summary text describes it as “a blend of breakout, space invaders and ikaruga,” and … no. At least, not those first two. The core game mechanics superficially resemble Breakout, but otherwise doesn’t feel anything like it. The retro-style graphics are the only connection I see with Space Invaders. And just what the hell is Ikaruga? Wikipedia says it’s a vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up, so I feel pretty safe declaring us oh-for-three here.

No, the actual best comp for BREAKER is Tempest. There are shenanigans going on in the middle of the screen, you shall deal with them by rotating around the screen. However, you don’t shoot things: you deflect them! (Hence the not-totally-bogus Breakout comp.) Things in the center of the screen are shooting balls, you shall defeat them by Judoing those balls right back at ’em.

Some balls are red, others are blue. Which ones can you deflect? Depends! If you’re going clockwise, you can hit the red balls! Counter-clockwise, you can hit the blue!

I’m that flat paddle over on the right, ready to SPANK SOME BLUE ASS

And if you fuck it up and hit a blue ball while you’re red, or vice-versa? Lose a hit point, sucka. Lose all your HP, game over.

In the abstract, this sounds interesting. I don’t recall a game where I have such complete moment-to-moment control over what I’m vulnerable to. I feel like you could make a really tense, engaging game based on that mechanic.

However, “tense” and “engaging” are not appropriate adjectives here. BREAKER is more … languid. Lazy. Chill. These are not adjectives I want to hang on a game that’s clearly gunning for an old-school quarter-munching feel.

BREAKER clearly draws its aesthetic inspiration from the arcade games of my youth; the graphics absolutely look like something I could have found while bumming around Aladdin’s Castle in the Southern Hills Mall. But those games were fast and urgent; those games had a sense of PURPOSE. They all had a ticking clock baked into them somehow, somewhere; they had to keep those quarters flowing from your pockets into their innards. Get out there, do something, or … or the invaders from space will complete their slow march to the bottom of the screen and you’re done. Or those damned ships will scoop up all of your people and turn into mutants and scream and fucking wreck you. Or the drones will finish building that stupid huge face that taunts you as it bites you in half.

BREAKER has none of that. If you’d like to progress, swoop out there and swat those balls back to the center of the screen. Or you can … not do that. There’s no penalty for just hanging out and watching the various bullets pass you by, or even avoiding them entirely. You’re not protecting anything, there aren’t any immediate threats to worry about. Go whack those balls, or don’t. Whatever. If they just go drifting off into space, it’s nothing you need to worry about. It’s all good, dude.

Some of these games are very difficult to take screen shots of. In the time it takes me to hit [Shift]-[Win]-S and then [Ctrl]-v that sucker into GIMP, I’m used simply dying. A proper old-school arcade game will, when you simply wander away from the console, kill the hell out of you.

In BREAKER, the game barely seemed to notice. Unless I was in a boss battle — which DID generate some of the tension the game so desperately needs, though not enough of it — I could be reasonably certain that the game state would be more or less unchanged by the time I got back to it.

Which makes the whole thing feel decidedly “meh.” There are skills to be developed here, I think, but … who cares? The game isn’t pushing me, it’s just kinda taking up my time.

It’s certainly not gawd-awful, and as of this writing it’s free, so if it sounds the least bit intriguing there’s no reason NOT to give it a look, I suppose. But, yeah, this one is really just kinda there.

Will this next one hide an obvious modern game engine beneath a pixelated costume?

Page 58, Game 19: Outdoor Adventurer Tileset by reshmush

“pixel grass and dirt path tiles, stage characters, & a cat”

Actually, yes! Or no. Sounds like an asset pack, so the game engine is very much a YOU problem.

Buy, hey, kitty!