In the 1990s, probably the most popular game out there was Solitaire. Installed on almost every Windows machine, it became infamous for the fact that the poor people stuck at a computer all day would play it constantly. There were also the variants, such as Tut’s Tomb (my personal favorite).
Here we are in 2005, and it’s all about portability. Solitaire is so 1997. If you work in the corporate world, you probably have a Blackberry on your waist, and if it’s the same version as mine, you’re playing Brickbreaker.
What’s Brickbreaker? Well, it’s a very basic game. You’ve got a paddle at the bottom. You launch a ball up in the air to hit bricks. Some break in one hit, others need multiple hits. You keep the ball from falling past you by bouncing it back up to clear all the bricks. Some bricks cause power-ups to fall.
As the game goes on, the ball goes faster and faster unless you get a “Slow” power up. Eventually you miss, or clear the stage. You have 3 lives unless, of course, you get the “1-Up” power up (which will clear any other power ups you’re using at the time).
There are a variety of power ups. The Laser will let you shoot two small beams up. Each one does “half” damage to a brick, and gives you 5 points (versus the 10 points you get for a “full break”). If it’s a multiple-hit brick, the damage carries over. For example, if you shoot a brick that takes two hits with one shot, then hit it with the ball, it still has “1/2” of a hit left, so one more shot with the laser will kill it. Lasers have unlimited ammo. I try to spread out the hits over various unbroken bricks so as to maximize the number of points I can get for it.
There’s also Gun, which gives you three shots, but completely destroys any brick it hits, including the infamous unbreakable bricks from levels five and six. In fact, level five is almost impossible to finish without getting the Gun. You get 50 points for any brick you hit with the Gun, so it’s also worth it to use it on the “single” bricks that are left over, giving you 40 more points than you’d normally have.
Flip is the one “bad” power up – it gives you the standard fifty points for catching it, but reverses your paddle directions. That can be bad if you can’t keep the directions straight.
Catch allows you to “catch” the ball and reposition your paddle before releasing it.
Long makes your paddle approximately twice as long.
And finally, Multi turns one ball into four. This one is also good if it looks like you’re going to miss the ball – if you can catch it in time, the balls are immediately angled upwards.
There are seven levels in Brickbreaker. The first one is a diamond shape, and it’s only annoying for the fact that there’s a gold brick (4 hit) in the middle that can easily be missed if the ball gets off center.
The second board features a hollow center column.
The third one is a hollow rectangle surrounded by single-hit bricks that tend to drop power ups. Getting a Multi at the beginning of this level will often give a flurry of power ups.
The fourth level is a solid mass of bricks with a hollow diamond shape in the middle.
The fifth level is the first of the two most annoying levels, in my opinion. It features two sets of four unbreakable bricks with bricks in between them. If you don’t get the Gun – and even if you do, because the Gun can’t hit the far right column – it can be very, very difficult to get the internal bricks. In addition, it’s easy to get the ball caught in a loop that the game doesn’t seem able to recognize and break out of.
The sixth level is almost as annoying. Basically, it depends on what power ups you get and how the game randomly breaks a loop.
When the ball gets stuck going in a loop, the game will eventually shoot it off in a random direction. On level six, you typically launch from the far left, then bank the ball off the far left end of your paddle. It’ll bounce up the unbreakable “L” shape, hit a brick, and come back. After a couple of times of that it’ll get trapped in the L shape and keep bouncing around. Sometimes it’ll stay up there until all the bricks are cleared; sometimes it’ll come right back down and you’ve got to move fast to keep it in play.
The final level is simply a lot of bricks. The worst thing about that one is the lack of power ups, relatively, and the fact that the ball inevitably accelerates.
There are some bugs with the game. If you get e-mail while playing it, the game will slow down. Also, sometimes the game either doesn’t recognize when the ball is in a loop, or will take it out of an intentional loop too quickly. And, sometimes, the ball just goes through the paddle.
There’s no sound to it, and the graphics are very basic. Even then, you’ll occasionally get graphic glitches, mostly on the Gun ammo, and it can only show 3 lives, so if you’ve gotten extra, you don’t see them.
So why bother?
‘Cause it’s there!
It’s not the greatest game in the world, but it’s the best one on my Blackberry - and by that, I mean it’s the only one on my Blackberry. So it gets a lot of play time – while compiling code, while installing Windows software, while visiting the little boy’s room, while driving down the highway.
There are some newer versions out. My coworker got his Blackberry upgraded and claims to have over 50 levels and upgraded graphics; when I get that, I’ll have to see how it does. But for now, I spend even more time than I do in MMOs playing the same seven levels over and over and over again.