Grey Cubes is Breakout with real-time physics, a smattering of 3D, and a visual language designed by someone with a penchant for stark utilitarianism.

Your bat lurks at the foot of the screen, and you move it left or right by dragging a finger. The aim is to keep the ball in play and use it to blow up all of the blocks by smashing it into them.

The twist is that the blocks in Grey Cubes aren't stationary. Some scatter when smashed, while others are dragged back to their starting points as if attached to an invisible elastic band.

It's a neat effect - at least at first - and as you work your way through the game's 60 levels, Grey Cubes is keen to keep reinventing itself, keeping you on your toes.

An added dimension

In addition to blocks moving around the screen, in a manner akin to lazily drifting half-deflated balloons, you'll have to contend with a number of additional hazards.

Blocks are sometimes stacked 'upwards' and are occasionally explosive. Wall bumpers fling your ball back to you at speed, and some levels have floors and other contraptions like teleporters that attempt to interfere.

There's no intelligence in the devices, however - no soul. Even at its most animated, Grey Cubes isn't a game that feels alive.

Instead, it feels like you against a clockwork machine, facing off against a kind of polished blankness that suggests the kind of video game you might find on the computers within the universe of Gattaca.

The rigidness in structure is curious, given that the very nature of Grey Cubes demolishes the precision usually associated with a Breakout title.

With blocks frequently spinning or left at a jaunty angle on the playfield, you'll often find your ball spanging off at an unexpected angle, and will have to be quick to rescue it.

The disconnect is awkward and the effect is sometimes irritating, although it does force you to remain alert.

Doesn't really break out

However, even if you do lapse, the game's generous in terms of power-ups and extra lives, to the point you'll probably sail through at least half of it on your very first attempt.

Often it's sub-optimal gameplay mechanics that hit you hardest rather than the typical challenges of a bat-and-ball title.

3D components block your view in an unhelpful manner, large sideways-scrolling levels make the bat controls suddenly feel oddly sloppy, and add just enough lag to rob you of the odd life.

You'll momentarily curse at your eventual defeat, until you realise you can continue when all your lives are gone. Whether you'll want to is another matter.

Grey Cubes certainly isn't a bad game. It looks nice, in the same way an expensive kettle looks nice. It has truly excellent sound design — all moody and atmospheric, and it plays well enough.

There are also genuine moments of excitement, when the game reveals a gem of an idea, or a new way of tackling the genre.

Too often, though, Grey Cubes simply lacks excitement, leaving you mindlessly bouncing a ball around, trying to snag a solitary block, while the game does precisely nothing to help.

That there's an achievement for not hitting the last block for 30 seconds, rather than an Arkanoid-style speed increase to hasten your doom, is rather telling.