In the beginning there was Pong (or PONG, to be strictly accurate). Pong was pretty simplistic and samey, lacking the variety of modern games, until developers Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow sought to improve its paddly greatness.
And They said, 'Let there be one fewer paddle, and some bricks'. So there was one fewer paddle and some bricks. They saw that the paddle and bricks were good, and twisted the whole thing through 90 degrees so that the remaining paddle was on the bottom of the screen. And lo and behold, there was Breakout.
Arkanoid DX takes things a bit further than the original Arkanoid, with 99 levels and a variety of bosses rather than the original's single boss. You control the spaceship Vaus – it's your paddle – and the object of the game is to use it to deflect a ball into an array of bricks arranged at the top of the screen.
As well as destroying it, contact with a brick will may release a power-up. These power-ups are key to winning a level, which is achieved by the eradication of every destroyable brick. A particular favourite is Disruption, which splits your spherical weapon into eight identical balls, spreading in every direction and causing mayhem.
Other gems include the Laser upgrade, which enables the Vaus to fire beams of energy, and Break, which opens a portal to the right of the screen and allows you to skip a level entirely. However, you can only have a single power-up in play at any given moment, which adds a semblance of strategy as you decide which is worth grabbing.
Cunningly, some bricks require multiple hits to destroy, while others are completely indestructible. Thankfully, these bricks are a different colours – silver and gold respectively – so you'll know what you're up against when you face them. Additionally, there's a range of enemies who can hinder or aid your progress, including Forgots which split into three when destroyed, each split Forgot having the power to destroy any bricks they come into contact with.
Clever level design leads to a steady rise in difficulty, to the point where it becomes a combination of faith, luck and reactions in the later stages. Every 11th level sees you face off one of three types of boss, each with their own unique attack patterns. These boss stages are bereft of bricks, leaving you to focus on bouncing your ever-accelerating ball towards your foe. After sufficient hits the boss will explode, enabling progress to the next stage.
The sound is almost perfect. Chirpy music accompanies the title screen and heralds the start of a new stage and each rebound of ball against paddle or wall produces a high pitched 'boing', which seems strangely natural.
Visually, the graphics are colourful and sharp, with each brick clearly distinguished from its neighbour and the all-important ball constantly visible.
From the title screen you can choose to resume a paused game, start a new game or select the level you wish to start from. After you've seen a level once you can choose to start play from that point, enabling multiple attempts at the trickier stages. Combined with a high-score table, this provides great replay value as you strive to beat your personal best.
Overall Arkanoid DX is an excellent game, although it is guilty of a few minor flaws. Most apparent is an occasional tendency for the ball to become stuck in a set path between indestructible bricks. However, after some time has passed without the ball coming into contact with the paddle this will remedy itself by allowing the player to skip the level. This occurs in a similar manner to the Break power-up.
Another slight annoyance is the aforementioned reliance on luck in some later levels. We recall spending a good half hour on one particular stinker. However, that half-hour is testament to the sheer addictiveness of this title. It can be almost impossible to put your phone down without having just one more attempt at a tricky level.The other caveat is that this is hardly an original title – there are plenty of Breakout clones on mobile, some good, some bad. But taken on its own merits, Arkanoid DX is a good example of casual gaming at its very finest: simple, addictive and one hell of a lot of fun.