Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A Breakout clone that actually works, Briquolo was just what the doctor ordered after a bunch of non-working/frustrating games. It works fine out of the box, looks quite pretty, and offers at least one really interesting new idea.

The purpose of the game is to destroy all the destructible blocks on the level's field of play. This is done by bouncing a ball off of it. It plays like Pong, basically, only you have to destroy blocks, not just keep the ball in play. There are a number of power-ups, which do things like increase (or decrease) the surface of the reflective piece, or alter the speed or size of the ball. There are three types of destructible objects: those which take one hit to destroy, those which take two, and explosives (which damage the objects around them when destroyed).

Briquolo can be played in the classic 2D top-down style, but defaults to a 3D isometric view. Best/weirdest of all, one of the power-up icons turns the game into first-person for a short period of time. It's not a very helpful thing - if there's a lot of stuff still no the board, it's 'bloody awful hindering' - but it's thoroughly awesome nonetheless. The transitions are dizzying and it's a lot of fun when it takes you by surprise because you weren't paying attention.

The game is playable with the mouse or the keyboard; to my surprise I found the mouse to be much more accessible. Either way, the controls are precise and responsive. Mechanically speaking, the game is spot-on. Plays like a dream!

Aesthetically, Briquolo is also up to snuff. The art is soothing to the eye, and the on-screen action is easy to take in; in short, it's an attractive game. There's no music, but the sound effects are apt and adequate. When the screen shakes as a bomb goes off accompanied by an explosion, there's a perfect relationship between the graphics and sound. It's not the prettiest or best-sounding game you've ever played, but it does use your 3D-card a teensy bit, and for an open-source version of a 30 year old arcade game (rounding up), it's perfectly acceptable.

Complaints? No score. And no 1-ups. Implementing a score system that offered extra lives at regular intervals would make playing through the game more interesting, and also make coming back to it more appealing. That's why they do that in arcade games. As it is, the lack of extra lives is no handicap, as you can select the level you wish to start in when you begin the game. Even relatively unskilled players can sample each n' every level. But since there's no scoring system, there's no impetus to not just sample each level and call it a day.

There are two sets of levels; 'Original' levels and 'New' levels. There really ought to be more 'New' levels - they show off some additions that have been made to the original source-material, like pinball bumpers, and fun rotation effects, that make the levels much more impressive both from an aesthetic and mechanistic point of view. This is not really a complaint, mind you, but a request for more: essentially it's a compliment.

Briquolo is a pleasant way to while away some spare time, and a virtually flawless Breakout clone. If you loved the old game (if you're a 'gamer of a certain age', anyway, and even remember it at all) it's certainly worth checking out. It won't change your life, but few arcade games do...

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