Never before has there been a game name that so succinctly described everything you need to know about it. Break 'em All boils down to bouncing a ball around a one-screen room, busting blocks and trying to keep the ricocheting sphere from floating past your stylus-controlled paddle. As you rack up hits, you gain access to power-ups like a five-in-one multiball, a protective barrier that punts wayward balls back into the arena and, our favorite, a blistering-hot laser ball that melts through almost anything.
The main mode, called Tokoton, slings 50 specially designed levels your way. The further you get, the weirder the blocks become. Some bricks will break and bounce the ball back, while another may take two or three cracks to finally disappear. There are even magnetically charged bricks that shunt the ball away. As your score climbs, you slowly "evolve" into new life forms, beginning as an amoeba and ultimately turning into an invincible god. But no matter how you dress it up, you're still pinging a ball around for hours, with the stylus occasionally getting in the way.
The Quest mode offers 12 levels, consisting of four stages each. Instead of focusing on breaking everything, you're supposed to get the ball through an exit along the top of the arena. Some of the puzzles are laid out in such a way that when you finally bank-shot a ball through the gate, you're ready to throw yourself a parade. Level four's a boss battle involving some biomechanical monster with a glowing weak spot you need to hit. The boss' difficulty doesn't gel with their level, though - some of the later monsters are actually easier than the earlier ones. Oh, and a few of them repeat, so we hope you like fighting robot spiders.
The final mode, Survival, is good for a quick look and that's about it. You're piloting a sole brick through a ball-filled void, trying to bounce the incoming globes away from your precious bricky core. If you survive longer than the multiple computer-controlled opponents, you win. And then you yawn, and politely exit out back to the main game.
Like so many of these accessible, budget-friendly DS games, Break'em All enables gamers to play each other with just one copy. You're probably not going to get the same multiplayer mileage you would out of, say, Big Brain Academy, but the fundamental arcade gameplay is enough for a few matches. We're not harping on how simple the game is (in fact, this is great for casual players), but there's only so much brick-busting one can take before it's time to move on.