ARKANOID in Review – The arcade classic on the iPhone

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Lately, I see a lot of classics appearing on the iPhone, and among them, 1986′s ARKANOID is a welcome addition. Now, TAITO (Space Invaders Infinity Gene) have added the Jesus Phone to the long list of systems to which this game has been ported. Finally, generation “i” too, can experience the classic.

Okay, I’m not sure if this is exactly required, but for those who fell off the moon, I’ll give a brief description of the gameplay. You control Vaus, a spacecraft deployed by it’s mothership Arkanoid to pursue a group of pesky aliens. You find yourself being pulled into another dimension where your ability to bounce a Sputnik-like satellite all across immediate space saves time in the pursuit of justice. In other words, your spacecraft acts like paddle, bouncing a ball which destroys the playing field at every contact.

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The game features the same gameplay as the original, and by saying “the same”, I really DO mean the SAME. If you take a look at the arcade version’s screenshots, you’ll be damned to find any differences apart from updated graphics. The levels are the same as they were 25 years ago, which, while teary in a nostalgic way, gets annoying. The bonuses are also the same — expand the Vaus, multiply the number of balls, equip a laser cannon, etc. — and as in the original do NOT combine with one another. This means that if you catch a multiply balls bonus, your long sought-after laser cannon disappears. Even the enemies are direct clones.

The only change to the gameplay is that the game is split into stages which are arranged in a tree shape, each containing 5 levels. At the same time, once you finish the stage you can only choose one of the connected two stages to advance to. On one hand, this leads to completing the game without having to play all of the stages, and for the tireless, a good batch of replayability as you can go back to beat every stage. The last stage finishes up with boss battles. In addition to this, once you complete the main campaign, additional levels are unlocked, featuring extra bonuses and some changes in the environment.

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A noteworthy feature is a one-phone two-player mode, where there are two paddles controlled from the opposite sides of the screen. This allows you to enjoy some one-on-one with your mates pong-style. At the same time the game is completely missing any online, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled multiplayer, which is really a shame.

The graphics, as noted earlier, are completely authentic though brushed up with special treatment in full multi-bit colour to look good on the iPhone. The problem is that while the graphics are not that spectacular, the game often suffers from serious performance lags, even on a freshly rebooted phone. This is extremely frustrating since it leads to losing. The interface is well laid out, with a separate area acting like a touchpad.  The games does save state on game exit but you’ll have to start at the beginning of the stage. But at least you don’t have to start at the beginning of the game.

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I really liked the retro feel of the game, but, unfortunately, this is the same reason I got tired with it relatively quickly. Arkanoid is a great casual pick-me up game, but the restart at the beginning of stage mechanic puts a dent in its 25 year-old armour. And sadly, despite a rather short game-tree, nothing new has been added for players.

All in all, this is a great rebirth of the Arkanoid franchise from the company that basically started it all. It is all of the best Arkanoid experiences, compressed into one. And while it has it’s cons, it will be a worthwhile addition to the iPhone games collection of anyone who grew up on the series. Anybody else, looking for something new, should probably pass on this classic.

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App Summary
Title:ARKANOID (v1.0.0)Developer:TAITO Corporation
Price:$4.99App Size:40.4 MB
  • The classic arcade Arkanoid experience
  • Nicely updated graphics
  • Lots and lots of levels
  • Single device multiplayer
  • Only classic bonuses that don’t stack
  • Performance issues
  • Nothing new in regards to gameplay
  • No wireless multiplayer

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