Bricks of Atlantis Review

Plates, dates, furniture, even significant others’ hearts: We all get the urge to break things sometimes.

Happily, Bricks of Atlantis offers players of all ages a constructive outlet via which to channel destructive impulses into hours of harmless block-smashing fun.

Developed by Arcade Lab, creator of Superstar Chefs, the game is set deep beneath the waves in everyone’s favorite sunken city. There’s no story per se. You simply flit between ruins, laying waste to the legendary metropolis, one scenic locale at a time.

The action is blissfully simple and straightforward. You control a paddle, which can be moved across the bottom of the screen by sliding your mouse left or right. The goal: Keep a bouncing ball, which annihilates or ricochets off anything in its path, from getting past you.

Eliminate every adversary and destructible object (e.g. candy-colored columns, frescoes and mosaics) on any given stage, and you’ll proceed to the next level. Fail and you lose a life, of which only a limited supply is afforded.

But despite borrowing a page – OK, the entire instruction manual – from ’80s arcade classics BreakOut and Arkanoid, Bricks of Atlantis puts a clever spin on the age-old formula. Its chief innovations: A boatload of clever power-ups, nine fishy friends who act as handy computer-controlled helpers and, of course, those eye-catching aquatic backgrounds.

Split into eleven "level packs," or scenario groupings, highlighted environments run the gamut from undersea caverns to clam-choked ocean beds. While each successive sequence takes place upon a static background (as you progress, fresh layouts are simply substituted over the same snappy portrait), the outing never loses its sense of adventure.

Tropical fish which swim across the screen, air bubbles that trail your ball’s path, clouds of dust accompanying every collision. These are the little touches that lend a universal air of mystery to settings like the Coral Caves, Forgotten Reef and Dark Waters.

Special effects such as the smoke and heat which waft up when your ball becomes charged with lava only add further charm. Similarly, the shimmering musical score softly rises and falls like the evening tide. Sound bytes don’t disappoint either. Listening to the different echoes made as hurtling spheres crunch into rock, scrape away sand and ding off marble couldn’t be catchier.

Actual play is almost as heart-warming too. A habit-inducing diversion for sure (just… ugggh… one… more… round!), you’ll love the many exciting features on offer. Whirlpools that instantly teleport your ball and keystones which add or remove indestructible blocks from the screen when struck are just the beginning.

Collect the gems and bonuses which rain down following the collapse of certain blocks, and you can do almost anything. Think launching multiple balls; causing spectacular cave-ins; unleashing whirling tornados; growing your paddle to double its normal size; even shooting harpoons with a click of the mouse. Beware penalty tokens though, colored red rather than green – they’ll shrink your paddle, speed up the ball and cause you to lose lives!

Added help aside, difficulty’s still a concern: it takes extreme patience to progress here. Slowdown’s an issue when much is happening on-screen. Extra lives are in short supply. It’s hard spotting the ball amidst periodic showers of debris. What’s more, an errant instant message can also pull you right out of the game.

Easy to learn, tricky to master, the title doesn’t do enthusiasts any favors with its obscure save system either. Granted, you can quit anytime and resume where you left off voluntarily. But even though the program records your progress, run out of lives at any point during a level pack, and you must restart it from the beginning.

In an interesting twist, scaly pals do lend a hand, though. Pointy-nosed fish break blocks for you. Firetails drop exploding eggs. Moss eaters nibble away vegetation that obscures your view. All told, recruiting aquatic allies proves an interesting way of evening the odds.

The upshot: For a coffee-break diversion, Bricks of Atlantis isn’t bad. Long-term value is definitely dodgy – angling for a high score while shattering blocks and collecting coins only amuses so long. However, between forward-thinking features, a catchy theme and mesmerizing action, it’s easy to see why the game’s already making an, ahem, splash.

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