Starting life as a Nintendo 3DS retail title that flew under the radar in Europe back in June 2012, the game has been revitalised thanks to the eShop, allowing for a much needed US release. Whilst the Cocoto character from Neko Entertainment has been spread across all types of games in the past, from racing and platform antics through to fishing, this time round the little critter has been placed into a Breakout style affair in Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker.
Games like Breakout, Arkanoid, and even Kirby's Block Ball, are all great time wasters, drawing players in with the simple Pong-like paddle and ball setup, and not letting go until every brick/block has been smashed from the various areas. Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker takes that idea of bouncing a ball upwards, rapidly trying to manoeuvre the platform at the lower part of the screen into the correct position to catch the spherical object perfectly as it tumbles back down at different trajectories each time, and adds a slight twist.
Cocoto, a little devilish character, must travel across five planets - each with nine regular stages (containing special challenges), two bonus levels, and several encounters with the nefarious Xillian Emperor - in order to prevent an alien invasion that threatens to destroy the universe. To do this, Cocoto has a special shield that can deflect Xillian fire back at them in the form of small blue balls, abolishing their wicked ways once and for all by knocking them back from whence they came. The shield can be upgraded to adapt to new situations and aid in the fight for good; widening, becoming magnetised to weapon fire, allowing for constant shots, gluing balls to it so they can be fired off at will rather than merely bouncing away, and nine other inventive ways that keep the gameplay fresh throughout.
In a way, Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker almost feels like Space Invaders thanks to how the enemies come down from above in waves, sometimes floating around the screen instead of the normal Breakout row-after-row of static bricks to clear. Enemies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from regulars that require just one hit to those hiding behind cloaking shields that must be hit several times, and even some that need to be struck from above, leading to clever use of angles being necessary when returning fire, as well as good use of the jump feature to dodge holes in a planet's surface, return shots quicker, and dodge hazards on the later planets. Whereas lives are normally lost if a ball is missed in this sort of title, here the balls of fire slowly break the ground beneath Cocoto's feet, and the whole world is destroyed if the same spot is struck repeatedly. Powerful crystals are collected along the way that help place a protective force-field around a planet once all levels have been finished, with Cocoto moving onto the next planet once one has been saved.
When a separate section of a planet is cleared, Cocoto can run either left or right to the next round, collecting items and piecing together keys with locks for intriguing extras along the way, all against the clock so as to avoid the temptation to dilly-dally too much and break the flow of the action. It can take several hours to work through the Story's five worlds, and proves to be great fun, helped by the cute visuals and animated cut-scenes, surprisingly good use of depth when the 3D slider is on full, and the delightful other-worldly music. With an Arcade (endless) mode and Classic play (a bit more true to the Breakout source material, with lives lost rather than the planet's surface cracking and no jumping allowed) to be unlocked further into the game, for a mere $4.99 it is very hard to resist Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker. The only aspects that could have made it even more enticing would have been a two-player battle and perhaps online rankings for those eager to chase high scores. However, for the price, who can really complain?
The range of shield types to use in order to reflect alien fire is impressive, and the regular Breakout style gameplay shines as always, complemented by the enjoyable changes made to the formula.
Cute, clean visuals that show some great emotional reactions from the aliens, especially just before they get hit. Added animated cut-scenes are a fantastic bonus!
A highly upbeat, extremely enjoyable soundtrack filled with jaunty themes and plenty of other-worldly music.
Hours of fun to be had with the Story mode alone, but with Arcade and Classic to also unlock, it proves to be great value. Sadly there is no two-player battle or online ranking to make last even longer.
Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker was a delight when it first hit Europe last year, but thankfully now US gamers get the chance to enjoy this fantastic Breakout-style game for a mere $4.99. Hopefully the game will also get a discounted eShop release in Europe at some point so more people can enjoy the brick breaking fun!