Every now and then it happens that a big name game you've been looking forward to turns out to be about as playable as a game of air hockey some little tyke has nicked one of the bats from.

Fortunately, to balance this out, it also happens from time to time that a little game you've never heard of turns up to blast your socks off. Something which Blocspin 360 very nearly manages. If it wasn't for a few problems, it would be one of the best Arkanoid spin-offs we've played.

It might be a glorified game of bat and ball, but Blocspin has a story behind why you're hitting that ball. The game, set across a series of galaxies, has you bashing into floating cells containing trapped 'creatures of the light'. Once freed, these creatures up your energy levels which, in a game that uses energy instead of lives, is pretty important.

There's a lot more to Blocspin, but we'll begin with the game's most obvious feature, which is that not every level is played in the traditional Arkanoid way - that is, by moving a paddle left and right along the bottom of the screen to nudge the ball upwards.

Levels also come in a circular variety where you control two paddles moving around its perimeter, rather like the recent Absolute Twin Blades. It's a brilliant variant that works on two levels - not only do you need quick reactions to stop your ball of energy from flying out of the level and into deep space, but you also need to coordinate the two paddles.

There's more, though. As Blocspin progresses, so do the types of cells and abnormal matter scattered through its levels.

Indestructible matter hinders your progress by presenting a bomb-proof barrier between you and the cells you're trying to reach, and it can also cause abnormalities, such as sending your energy ball off in an unexpected direction. Some of this matter even moves about or fires at your paddles when hit, lending even more depth to levels as you try to dodge energy-sapping fire while struggling not to lose your ball.

There are power-ups, too, since what Arkanoid style game would be complete without them? Catching falling items wins you bigger paddles, a slower ball and a shield that covers the entire perimeter of the level for a limited time, among other things.

It's a game packed with freshness and ideas - and that's without even taking into account the often stunning visuals, replete with explosions and particle effects. Cells erupt when you hit them and your ball trails sparks of light behind it. Things can get confusing at times, but only in a Geometry Wars way which forces you to concentrate.

The sounds too are suitably ambient, expansive and fitting to the on-screen action.

With so many positives going for it, it comes as a bit of a disappointment when you eventually realise Blocspin isn't quite as good a game as its opening levels would have you believe.

It becomes increasingly apparent that not enough skill is needed to get to the end. Its 16 levels are easily breezed through and not enough is made of the new matter types being introduced. 16 bonus levels are then unlocked, but they don't carry the same impact.

There are occasional frustrations, too - in levels that put your paddles unfairly close to the orbs you're trying to hit, or use so much dark matter you're waiting for ages for your ball to return from randomly bouncing about on it.

Even so, Blocspin still provides a refreshing few hours of eye candy-laden, retro-esque gaming. It doesn't quite live up to its potential, but - for a game we were expecting little from - it delivers a lot.