Alchemy probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of possible themes to base a wrist-cramping arcade game on.

Nonetheless, in frantic brick-bashing outing Reaxxion, coming soon from MumboJumbo, it appears to be not only a natural fit, but a concept deserving of even deeper exploration.

Taking the standard block-smashing formula and transferring it to a world of molten metal and arcing electricity, chances are the title will shortly transform its clever design and innovative mechanics into solid gold for developer Hot Lava as well.

As always, you control a paddle located at the bottom of the screen. Moving it left and right by manipulating the mouse, one’s objective is simply to bounce balls into the curiously-shaped configurations of multicolored pieces occupying the area immediately above. (Amusingly constructed to look like neon-lit guitars, spray-spitting whales and DNA-style double helixes when grouped together…) Any blocks struck immediately disintegrate, or weaken so as to be destroyed with one or two subsequent hits.

The catch is that unlike in other titles, where you’re afforded just one ball at a time and penalized via lost lives for letting it past you, here, you’ll actually generate replacements on-command. Essentially, the paddle you’re using is constructed of liquid alloy and capable of being molded into as many balls as you’ve got steel for. Simply click the left mouse button to squirt out a new one, or hold it down to generate medium- or larger-sized balls that destroy two or three bricks on contact.

The trick being that each time you do so, your paddle shrinks. So although you can play with multi-ball features (note: the more balls in play, the better the active score multiplier too) from the beginning, there’s an instant trade-off in terms of challenge. Mind you, balls can always be reabsorbed to grow your paddle by holding the right mouse button, and catching falling metal drops adds girth too. But you’ll be enjoying mental as much as coordination-based challenges on every stage as well. The question, of course, being… do you play it safe by going slower and managing fewer balls, or attempt to juggle more balls and aim for faster returns and a higher score?

Either way, the game doesn’t necessarily end when you miss a single ball, as long as you can generate more. The presence of several awesome power-ups doesn’t hurt one’s odds either. For example:

  • Ice Ball – Upon collision with a block, covers it and all nearby bricks in a sheet of ice, quickly destroying them.
  • Lightning Ball – Volts of electricity zap outwards from it, randomly annihilating anything they come in contact with.
  • Spike Ball – A floating bomb, which – when activated with the left mouse button – sends brick-smashing spikes shooting in every direction.
  • Magneto Ball – Emits a magnetic charge, causing all nearby balls to follow it.
Other inventive twists are as follows:
  • Bosses – End-level guardians you’ll beat by playing head-to-head Pong-style challenges.
  • Bonus Tubes – Send balls soaring into them to collect power-ups.
  • The Reaxxion Chamber – Bat three balls into it to force them to morph into five huge, point-boosting gold balls and make plasma spheres appear on-screen.
  • Secret Challenge Levels – Unlocked by smashing 25 plasma spheres.
  • Overloads – Paddles can grow fat with metal, with larger ones growing ever-more unstable. If you don’t reduce their size by releasing balls manually, the paddle overloads and does it for you, popping out balls uncontrollably in a single chaotic fit of hyperactivity.
All told, there’s a surprising amount of depth and complexity on display here for what appears to be – at least at first – a simple and straightforward amusement. Despite our initial skepticism, based on hands-on impressions, it actually seems as if Hot Lava and MumboJumbo has managed to meaningfully refine a classic recipe by adding its own new and imaginative twists.

Look for more detailed coverage as the game’s official launch date grows closer. And rest easy knowing that we’ll be keeping an especially close eye on this one, given how well early versions have already been received.