More than thirty years ago, Atari’s block-smashing game Breakout established a whole new kind of gameplay (there were only about three back then, so it wasn’t so tough, but still…). Now Nervous Brickdown comes along, re-re-re-reinvents the genre, and makes us care again. Instead of just giving you a paddle at the bottom of the screen, a wall of bricks at the top, a ball that bounces between the two, and near-instant ennui, it sweetens the pot by constantly switching up its look and gameplay.
It starts off innocently enough: you find yourself bouncing the ball and cracking blocks in the traditional way, pausing only to grab the occasional falling power-up to make your paddle bigger, your ball slower, and so on. Except for the fact that you’re moving the paddle with the stylus, it’s nothing new.
But things quickly get turned sideways. Neon-colored bumpers start appearing in strategic places, and some are curved and twisted to make the ball bounce in unusual directions. Then a mechanical snake shows up and starts scooting around the battlefield. Then you get to a boss battle, and find yourself trying to knock out another snake by bashing every one of its pieces multiple times – a process made more challenging by its tendency to send individual segments dive-bombing toward you like an alien bug from the old arcade shooter Galaga.