Size: 32 Blocks
First Released: 1989
Whacking a ball around with a paddle in hopes of breaking stuff is an age-old pursuit, and dusting off this Game Boy launch title reminds us of how much fun a decent block breaking game can be – even if it doesn’t quite rise to the occasion itself. Nintendo’s not-so-subtle Breakout clone exchanges the paddle for a spaceship ostensibly containing a pint-sized Mario, but the gist is exactly the same: you smash blocks by ping-ponging a ball upward. Repeat until you run out of lives or patience.
To its credit, Alleyway’s simplistic, no-frills block-breaking action is solid enough. Playing with the circle pad feels smooth, and being able to fine-tune the speed of your paddle movement by holding A or B almost makes up for the fact that the game hates you and wants you to fail. Every single time you get into the groove of a steady run, the game shrinks your paddle size, making it much harder to keep the ball in play. The original game was pretty tough, though the 3DS virtual consoles’ ability to create a save restore point anywhere in the game takes some of the sting out of losing.
Each playing field block design has several different stage variations before switching things up again. There’s the normal version where everything is static, a second version where the blocks scroll to the left and wrap across the screen, and a third variation where the blocks gradually descend toward your paddle. Every fourth level also throws in a Nintendo-themed bonus stage, featuring blocks formations of Mario, Koopas, squid, and other familiar characters. The variation is interesting, but it isn’t dazzling compared to the large number of cheaper, more robust block-breaking clones available for iOS and XBLA/PSN. Alleyway wasn’t so hot when it first came out, and it still pales when put it side-by-side to other similarly priced offerings. That said, you could do worse in a Breakout clone.
Jul 14, 2011