When Pong evolved, we got Breakout. When Breakout evolved, we got Arkanoid. Then, when Arkanoid evolved, we got ... Block Breaker Deluxe?
Not that we'd call Block Breaker Deluxe revolutionary in any way, even though it's fun to play. Take Breakout, slap on some tacky '80s visuals, then throw in '70s disco/porn music for good measure, and you pretty much know what to expect from Gameloft's WiiWare offering.
That's not to say Block Breaker Deluxe doesn't have anything positive to offer – it is a Breakout clone, after all. Yet, the game's ridiculous theme definitely warrants some mocking. Dance Dance Revolution is relatively close in style, to give you an idea of what to expect. At least DDR is a dancing game involving club and house music, so the motif makes sense. Block Breaker Deluxe doesn't have an excuse for its Miami-nightlife-infused setting, unless the developers just thought the idea was more hip than a pelvis. The fact that it was originally a cell phone game explains a lot, though.
Whatever the reason behind the odd design choices, this clone copies the Arkanoid and Breakout formula, and copies it well. If you're unfamiliar with the gameplay, just think of it as single-player Pong; you control a Pong-like paddle, and must break bricks by deflecting a ball into them. Some bricks will break when the ball hits them once, some take a while to crack, and some don't break at all unless you have a special ball. Along the way, you also collect power-ups. Such power-ups might include a laser that lets you shoot the bricks, a magnet that makes the ball stick to your paddle rather than bounce off, and much more. Block Breaker Deluxe also lets you combine power-ups. Thus, you can have a laser, three balls, a large paddle, and whatever else all at once. This makes the game both fun and chaotic.
You can level-up some of these power-ups by buying upgrades if you have enough cash on hand (think Geometry Wars). The shop also offers extra lives and other goodies to make getting through the stages easier. Since the game can get pretty difficult, these upgrades can come in handy.
Unfortunately this title doesn't include wireless play, but the local multiplayer is still a nice addition. One player controls a paddle at the bottom of the screen, while another controls a paddle at the top of the screen. Whichever player breaks more blocks earns more points, and thus wins. It sounds really simple, but it works. Not only does it lead to some feisty competitions, but everything gets really crazy when all the items come into play.
The last thing worth mentioning is the game's story -- yes, it has a story. While it's fine that the plot is there to blend in with the game's ambiance, it doesn't really add anything of worth to Block Breaker Deluxe. A "controversial" Block Breaker legend named Frankie Pong is having a Block Breaker Tournament. The winner of the tourney gets his 10-million-dollar yacht. Before you can get an invite to Frankie's exclusive match, though, you have to work you way up the Block Breaker circuit. Each of the eight places that you'll play at as you work toward getting the yacht has ten levels, followed by a boss.
Controls: Call us old-fashioned, but we definitely prefer controlling our paddles with a a potentiometer. The Wiimote's motion controls actually work well in this game to move the paddle back and forth, but those few times that you mess up because of a twitch or position shifting can get frustrating. One really nice thing about using the Wiimote, though, is that you can grab items as they're falling by pointing at them, instead of having to catch them with your paddle.
The game also offers D-pad support, but since you have to hold the Wiimote vertically (rather than horizontally), using this scheme isn't very comfortable.
Visuals: The trippy colors and effects are a nice touch, but ultimately the Miami-club theme lames up the visuals for Block Breaker Deluxe. To each his own, though -- some players might enjoy the over-the-top setting. If it wasn't for the realistic-looking character avatars, we think the visuals would have had a perfect dose of enjoyable hokeyness.
Sound: Unlike the visuals, the sound has just the right amount of cheesiness. The '70s music doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of the design choices, yet it all comes together somehow. The sound effects are also fun, as they add some flair to item grabbing. The enthusiastic, DDR-like voice encouragements from the characters can get a bit annoying, though.
Story: It's pretty funny that there's actually a story in this game to critique in the first place. In a nutshell, the plot is pretty terrible. But, since it's a Breakout clone, such trespasses can be forgiven.
Difficulty: Fear not, Arkanoid aficionados -- this game gets tough. Buying upgrades for your weapons help ease the difficulty a bit, but it still won't be a walk in the park. Unfortunately, the Wiimote controls can cause some tough spots at times, which isn't the kind of difficulty a game wants to boast about.
Final Score: 8.0/10 -- If you like Breakout or Arkanoid and don't mind the trashy hokey design choices, you'll probably love this game. Since Block Breaker Deluxe is only 800 Wii Points, you won't be breaking the bank to buy it, either. Fun power-ups, upgradable paddles, funky music and difficult gameplay all make this game worth a purchase for those who enjoy a good clone.