The classic brick-breaking formula has been keeping gamers occupied for decades now, and Taito has been helping to keep this particular style of videogame puzzle alive with its regular updates of Arkanoid, most recently on the WiiWare download service with Arkanoid Plus. Now Mad Monkey Studio has helped Motion Twin translate its fresh approach to the age-old game to DSiWare. After adding in a space-age storyline to engage players in the original online format from 2007, helping to prevent the standard gameplay from growing tiresome, it is time for owners of the Nintendo DSi to have the chance to enjoy this wonderful title.
Taking on the role of a prisoner in the clutches of an evil intergalactic mining corporation, ESCorp, the aim is to exploit the initial plan of mining the galaxy's mineral resources and grasp your only chance of escape. To do this, you must work through the millions of levels on offer, blasting your way through the multitude of bricks in your way using your 'envelope' (a spaceship that looks like the standard flat paddle from previous block-breaking games) so that Earth may once again be your home. There are three prisoners to choose from at the start, each with their own slightly different storyline and difficulty setting (such as Owen, the 40-year-old who has been wrongly accused and feels aggrieved at his unfair punishment), encouraging those who complete the easiest mode to come back and give the harder options a whirl.
It is not only simple one-hit blocks that need to be drilled through, with plenty of other types that need to be cleared, such as bricks that require two hits and purple panels that reappear after a short while (there are more than forty types to be found during the adventure!). Whilst not essential for clearing a zone and making progress, they do impede your path to the key blocks, so must indeed be removed as quickly as possible. To help with progression, different types of equipment can be collected along the way, giving the player access to stronger armour, new weapons and special balls, all of which cannot be used at the same time. Therefore, a decision must be made in order to equip what you feel are the right options for the task at hand.
Once in a level, players use the on-screen paddle/envelope to drill through and clear every block found in space, using the stylus to move it from side-to-side on the lower part of the touch-screen in order to knock the ball (or balls, plural, when certain items are collected) back up to the top screen at varying angles, dependent on where on the paddle it/they connected. The gap between the DSi screens is not taken into consideration, so the game acts as if the two screens are merely one big screen, which works really well once you adjust your eyes to ignore the hinge. There is not too much you can really do with a few blocks and a ball bouncing around space, but Motion Twin has added in plenty of effects to make the action in AlphaBounce as lively and attractive as possible.
However, despite the action indeed getting amazingly hectic at times, with numerous items falling towards your paddle, a plentiful supply of balls flying, spinning and zooming all over the place, plus bricks exploding constantly, the action never slows down, meaning a close eye must be kept on the envelope at all times to ensure none of the balls slip by, resulting in a 'Try Again.' There are loading times to get into actual levels, but thankfully they are not too long and whilst waiting the game gives a little more story detail to read over, or background information on the sector of the galaxy you are currently in to help pass the time. As for the general mood of proceedings, the dark vibe offered by the soundtrack is extremely easy on the ears and sets the tone for the intergalactic setting perfectly, and sounds great through external speakers with the bass turned up.
Progression after a level ends comes in the form of grid-based movement through the vast expanse of the universe, with your envelope able to move one square at a time around the large grid. The player chooses the direction, though it's best to aim towards one of the random items or upgrades floating ahead in the dark emptiness. Variety is the name of the game with AlphaBounce, and whilst the story itself is not so deep that players will be instantly hooked by it, the inclusion is definitely a welcomed one, yet it is the upgrade/RPG aspect that certainly creates a strong bond between player and game. The amount of creativity that has gone into the level construction should be applauded as well, as things never become too stale, despite repeated play.
Create vortexes to suck up bricks, dodge laser beams by carefully aiming the ball in a particular direction, try to cope with items that reduce the size or speed of your envelope and even make it automatically move up and down in an erratic fashion, and make best use of the powerful Javelin shot you receive when only a few bricks are left dotted around the screen to avoid the frustration of spending hours trying to hit the last two or three on a level - simply move into the correct position under a brick and fire directly upwards. There is something to please everyone! Some items even split a large collection of bricks in half, down the middle, allowing easier access to the top section, thus allowing for more brick-breaking. The same idea goes for the halo item, which ghosts the ball so it can pass through all the bricks until it appears at the top section, resulting in more bouncing around up there, more bricks being broken and tonnes more items released for you to collect...and that is when all chaos can ensue. AlphaBounce is easily the most entertaining version of the classic formula and is an essential purchase for DSi owners. Since it is not the only web-based game Motion Twin has created, it will be interesting to see if this turns out to be successful enough for the company to warrant converting more of its catalogue to DSiWare.