No, sci-fi brick-basher Hyperballoid 2 isn’t named after a rare and debilitating medical condition. But if it were, symptoms would include excessive muscular contractions around the wrist, darting eyes, heightened blood pressure and an irresistible compulsion to remain glued to the PC. A highly engaging and surreally beautiful take on the ancient art of arcade-style, Arkanoid-inspired block smashing, it’s the sort of value-minded title that successfully lobbies hard to earn a spot in your personal gaming collection.

Officially subtitled “Time Rider,” the outing – and we say this with honest affection – would better have been dubbed “Time Waster.” It’s so good, in fact, that you’ll be compelled to squeeze in additional rounds during coffee breaks at work, just to see if you can bang out a few more levels before turning back to that TPS report. But enough gushing: You’ve got four uniquely-themed (and named… get a load of the pidgin English behind such featured groupings as Original, Ancient, Planets [sic] and Hitech World) realms to conquer. Quirky nomenclature notwithstanding, you’re free to tackle all at your own pace, hopping back and forth between each aesthetically-varied category as the mood strikes.

And believe us… Want to experiment you will, as a relatively basic gameplay formula – move your mouse left/right to make a bottom-mounted paddle swat bouncing balls back into the destructible bricks waiting above – is quickly transcended by the adventure’s stunning feature set. Not only will you play on beautiful, individualized backgrounds featuring moving parts, animated blocks that dart in/out and oscillating designs based on Trojan horses, swirling nebulae and the inside of chugging machines. You’ll also get to annihilate over 280 kinds of bricks (steel, stone, glass, etc.) using a whopping 45 special bonuses and detailed physics modeling.

Mind you, it’s plenty satisfying clearing stages while trippy tunes play given a set number of lives and standard-issue weapons like fireballs, lightning strikes and cannons to fiddle with alone. But seriously – how many games of this ilk actually offer you special powers that let you clone your paddle to create handy ball-stopping mirror images or optional flamethrower attachments as well? Not to mention, that is, also serve up plasma-spewing spheres or aiming cursors that, for a limited period of time, effectively enable you to keep balls jiggling in the air towards any desired target? You know you’re in for a treat when a game’s help screen is hilariously devoted entirely just to cataloguing all the negative (life-ending extras, ball-/paddle-shrinking options), positive (magnets, nukes, rockets) and neutral (ball-speeding/-slowing specials, brick-pushing powers) abilities it offers.

Frankly, we’re blown away by the level of detail invested into the product, which boasts an impressive 200 glowing, imaginative and lively levels to begin with. However, loving touches even extend to the point that the motion of all highlighted items is further simulated with some level of real-world accuracy vs. typical fantasy-type disdain. Because of such caveats, it’s actually possible to destroy objects by bumping them into one another or watch chains of bricks shatter into bouncing parts – not just batter them down as in competing products. Pack in automatic software updating options, a level building tool that lets you point and click your way to new challenges and options for instantly downloading user-created add-ons, and the sum total’s predictably hard to resist.

What minor niggles we could do without? Well, there’s the barebones menu system, general lack of an underlying storyline and the repetitious nature of the action, which tends to grow tiresome over marathon stretches. Level warps also help you jump ahead if you’re taking your sweet time on any given stage, though it’s all-too common to still get stuck attempting to bash down those three or four last remotely-situated pieces standing between you and advancement to boot. Nor, for that matter, is it likely that most will appreciate the powerful, but complex custom stage creation suite’s lack of a tutorial.

Be that as it may, we wholeheartedly recommend the outing, which – while not mind-blowingly innovative – still manages to triumphantly refine on a proven formula by simply giving audiences more of what they love. To be blunt: Hyperballoid 2 offers more power-ups, more eye-opening special effects, more funky musical tracks, more support for causing havoc, and (go figure) more ways to cheerfully while away the hours on a boring, rainy day.