Breakout: Boost feels as outdated as the original, and that came out in 1976

Brick-breaking games have been around for years now, and there are plenty of them to choose from on the App Store. But if you want to follow the genre to its roots, you’ll have to go all the way back to Atari’s 1976 arcade game Breakout. That very same company is now revisiting the series 35 years later with Breakout: Boost. Sadly, though, not much has changed in 35 years.

For a game in a genre that’s constantly trying to find ways to re-invent itself, Breakout: Boost stays surprisingly close to its roots. Gameplay here centers around bouncing a ball off a paddle to destroy a series of colored bricks that reside in the gamefield above you – or as we like to call it, Breakout. Things get spiced up occasionally with simple power-ups like missiles and multiballs, but again, this is stuff we’ve seen in the brick-breaking genre for more than 20 years. Combine these with other elements, like bricks that can only be destroyed by certain kinds of balls, and you’ve got the complete package… that Taito released as Arkanoid in 1986.

Breakout: Boost is a freemium download, offering only 5 levels for free (or 15 if you’re willing to “like” them on Facebook). There are level packages available as in-app purchases, each offering up a huge number of stages to play through, as well as unique elements not found in the free ones. Still though, these elements, like exploding bricks and grenade balls, feel like grounds we’ve tread countless times before.

In terms of presentation, things couldn’t be blander. Visually, the game looks like something that should have shipped free with Windows ’95, and there’s no soundtrack to speak of – just the “bloop” sound of ball busting a brick, or the “tink” sound as it bounces off a wall. Ultimately, the whole thing ends up coming off like a 10th grader’s programming project.

The mechanics aren’t even without their flaws. Releasing the ball from the paddle at the start of a new life never really happens in the direction you’d expect, and the speed adjustment slider is fixed to the left hand side, which is something that would be fine if every gamer was right handed – but they’re not. As a left-handed gamer myself, I found it impossible to control the paddle and adjust speed comfortably, as I couldn’t just use my left thumb for speed as a right-handed gamer would. And since controlling speed is the only unique element in this game (speed determines your score multiplier), it was a doubly frustrating experience.

 Boost

After their sublime reinvention of Asteroids in Asteroids Gunner, Atari seemed primed to really hit one out of the park with a modernized Breakout. Instead, Breakout: Boost feels just about as old as its roots, and was ultimately more problematic. Countless competitors have done marvellous things with the Breakout formula, from the aforementioned Arkanoid to the recent Block Breaker 3 Unlimited. Even their own Super Breakout Ultra for the iPhone had more style.

If you’re a fan of brick-breaking games, there are countless better options out there than Breakout: Boost. Here’s to hoping this is just a single unpleasant blip in Atari’s future mobile plans.