Monday, March 31, 2008

GNOME Breakout

This appears to be a day for playing inferior versions of games I've already played. Pity, that. GNOME Breakout is, rather obviously, a Breakout clone. Unfortunately, while it's barebones-competent, it's a bit unplayable, and certainly not as good as Briquolo (review here).

The controls for the keyboard can't keep up with the speed-increases that occur pretty damn swiftly in the first level (which I couldn't beat), making mouse-control the only real option. Unfortunately, GNOME Breakout doesn't grab the mouse - when the game starts to get faster, you inevitably move the mouse out of the window. Catastrophic in Circus Linux! (review here), it's annoying and only occasionally game-breaking here because the game pauses automatically whenever this happens. Usually, you can react fast enough to wherever the ball was when it paused to save it. That doesn't erase the stop-and-go nature of the gameplay, though. I'm uncomfortably reminded of driving downtown in Richmond and being annoyed by the oddly out-of-sync traffic signals.

So with gameplay that reminds me of one of the more annoying aspects of the town I call home, we're already off to a rough start. We could fix the problem with the mouse by going fullscreen, but GNOME Breakout only operates in windowed fashion, and it's probably a good thing. Graphics that look amateurish in their tiny window would probably really suck blown up to full-size. While not as lo-fi as the Atari version, it's pretty bad. Early 90s shareware level, at least.

So, the controls suck and the graphics are crappy. Next? No sound. Probably would have had crappy sound that got annoying if they had included music, but some kind of impact sound-effect would have been nice.

Moving right along, there's the levels. While the game 'ships' with three level-packs, and has the capability to import more, there's no level selection. This means that, if you're like me and can't beat the first level, the only way to experience another level is to delete the level-pack that it defaults to starting you with. Yay, I can play a completely different level that I still can't beat! I did come closer, however. If you can play this game at all, the extra levels will extend the replayability. I was basically non-functional at the game, so extra levels for me to suck at weren't very appealing.

A quick refresher on Briquolo: functional keyboard controls, functional mouse controls, expandability, decent soundtrack, fully in 3D, great graphics, unique and interesting gamplay modes, and the ability to select levels and level-packs. The fact that GNME Breakout works at all is a testament to the developer's ability; he did a decent job creating a fully functional piece of software. Unfortunately, a little bit of tweaking would have made it actually fun to play (or, to my mind, playable), and he didn't go that extra mile.

I should note that, despite the fact that the game was last updated in 2001, this version is the next-to-most-recent available on the net. No idea what changes were made. I recommend Briquolo to anyone looking for a Breakout-style game for Ubuntu. There's no reason to bother with this GNOME Breakout.

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