Brick Quest 2‘s innovation on the block-smashing format is to add stackable power-ups and a monster collection mechanic, with captured critters used to unlock new worlds. While a workmanlike and well-presented outing, it’s not nearly enough to raise any eyebrows, ultimately rendering the slightly above average amusement a monentarily-diverting novelty and not much else.

At the onset though, expect to be pleasantly surprised: The game actually sports its own theme song complete with ethereal lyrics. But despite titular references to some mysterious “Quest,” simply a vague excuse to explore 160 individual levels, there’s no actual storyline or plot twists offered to keep you glued to your monitor.

Keeping this in mind, you’ll simply face off against an increasingly tough range of single-screen brick-breaking challenges that revolve around batting bouncing balls into piles of colored rectangles. Per usual, doing so simply requires moving the mouse left and right to maneuver a spaceship, located at the bottom of the screen, which essentially substitutes for a ping-pong paddle.

While soundtrack tunes are solid and visuals lush, with a mix of forest, swamp and cave scenes calling to mind nothing so much as Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo, surprises are few and far between.

Certainly, there’s fun to be had dodging falling boulders, attempting to free little green Gwamos (friendly fluttering, alien-like critters) from cages and worrying about spinning wheels composed of indestructible bricks that can send balls ricocheting in unexpected directions.

Likewise, at odds with competitors, difficulty levels are advanced enough to challenge veteran players, with your limited supply of lives sure to have quickly dwindled just a few scenarios in. But power-ups (bombs, lasers, spaceship size increases, fireballs, etc.) are mostly routine; bonuses such as destructible star-bestowing chests and crates nondescript; and challenge mostly coming from hard-to-reach blocks carefully placed so as to vex even the most determined keyboard jock.

Much as we like the ability to chain powers, e.g. coating the spaceship in sticky goo to maximize the accuracy of ice attacks (which freeze over entire sections of bricks, making them easy to eliminate), it’s hardly riveting stuff. Nor does having to stun wandering monsters such as rats, spiders and bees that move according to predictable patterns with several direct hits, then capture them with a right-click, prove all that interesting.

Don’t get us wrong; little touches like these definitely add to in-game variety, and the overall experience. Still, we’d rather have seen more effort placed into aiding players sure to be peeved when they discover how easy it is to get stuck.  

That’s right… although it is possible to collect a dove power-up that instantly ends the stage if you take too long to remove a last straggler or two, all too often, a group of poorly-placed bricks can have you sitting there for lengthy stretches just gnashing your teeth. No lie: We once watched a ball bounce around for nearly a minute, striking nothing, until it finally escaped the tightly confined platforms that’d been holding it prisoner.

Unless you have deadeye aim, given the random nature of where balls can land, combined with frustrating level layouts and moving obstacles, one shudders to think about where such issues can lead. Mercifully, it’s possible to pick up where you left off when needed, with the ability to revisit a level that presented issues helping make such issues easier to stomach.

All told, we enjoyed the saga – it controls well, offers a couple novel features, sports solid production values and can easily be played one-handed. Nonetheless, we’ve also seen better, and less aggravating, rivals before, making Brick Quest 2 worth a peek only for those who have little experience with the genre, or dedicated collectors.