Nervous Brickdown Review
As the doctor walked in, I could tell by the look on his face that the news wasn’t good. He glanced down at his report, then looked up at me and, having noticed the concern in my eyes, quickly went back to his report.
“Mr. Bedigian, I have some news.”
“News? Just news? It isn’t bad?”
“Well,” the doctor paused. He had something important to tell me but couldn’t quite find the words. “You’re…”
“Yes? I’m what? Come on, tell me doc! I can’t contain the anticipation!”
“You’re having a Nervous Brickdown.”
I was stunned. I hadn’t been feeling well but had no idea it was this severe. “A Nervous Brickdown,” I muttered to myself. “Wait a minute, I’m having a nervous what!?”
“You’re having a Nervous Brickdown. It’s quite common this time of year. You’re busy, over-stressed, and find yourself playing a new puzzler from Eidos’s Secret Stash Games label.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. So I did what any sane person would do and grabbed my DS and ran for the door.
Nervous Brickdown is a rare gem. “Oh no, not the rare gem statement,” moans the hardcore gamer. “Like I haven’t heard that one before.” But it’s true. This looks like another Arkanoid clone for the Nintendo DS. Whether you love or loathe that game, the thought of another ball-bouncer might not seem too appealing.
But what if a developer was clever enough to use Arkanoid not for cloning, but as the groundwork to form an entirely new kind of puzzle-shooter-adventure? Would you think they were crazy or be deeply intrigued?
Symptom 1: Smiling
Nervous Brickdown is a game that dares to think outside the standard use of the Nintendo DS technology. Ten different modes are featured, with gameplay types as varied as golf, action/platformer, platform drawing, platform color changing, and space shooting. That last one is Arkanoid meets a top-down, upward-scrolling shooter (think Ikaruga with a ball and paddle). The spaceship players control is encased in a transparent sphere that allows the ball to bounce off from any angle. Spaceship controls are open-ended – you may drag the ship to any location in the stage. This makes it possible to strike the ball just before it falls through the danger zone (anywhere below the screen).
It’s fun from the start and looks pretty cool, but you won’t be smiling just yet – that comes after a power-up has been dropped. Once collected, the power-up triggers a brief stream of gunfire that destroys enemy ships. The game doesn’t get too crazy, but you will have dozens of circular blasts to evade, which is what makes the power-ups an integral part of your success. But it’s not the only part, as players still have to make certain that the ball never falls through the cracks. It essentially boils down to three different simultaneous objectives: keep the ball bouncing, keep your ship out of harm’s way, and destroy as many enemies as possible.
Another smile-inducing mode is Paper, a series of stages where you draw your own platform. The platform can be of any shape up to a certain size (it seems to be about 1/20 of one DS screen, but don’t quote me on it). That sounds like a cool idea, but it would’ve sucked if the platform were only unique in its visuals alone. Well guess what – the visuals aren’t the only thing influenced by your stylus artwork. The ball interacts with whatever shape you produce.
Draw a straight or angled line to knock the ball to one side. Make a half-circle to more accurately catch and throw the ball in a variety of directions. Create a crooked, open-top square for other interesting effects. Draw circles, rectangles, scribbles – anything your hand can muster.
As an added treat, fans of quirky Japanese games will enjoy Paper’s art style. Ink blobs appear in each stage and will fall after they have been destroyed. This is done by hitting the ball against the blobs, which are to be captured and, like a child’s coloring book, scribbled into existing animal shapes. In this way, Nervous Brickdown is happily distracting. There is never a time when only one objective is presented. You will always have other things to consider while that ball ricochets across the two screens.
Also, in stages where the platform can be moved in any direction, the ball’s speed is determined by how fast it is hit by the platform, leading us to the second symptom.
Symptom 2: Addiction
Water. So clear and refreshing, and so delicious when mixed with sugar, caramel color, and corn syrup. It also serves to inspire game developers. In this case, it led to an awesome mode where you must use your ball to free and catch the “Waterboys,” who are trapped on floating platforms. The platform under your command is a black submarine. While under water, the ball moves slower, giving you a little extra time to whack it back to the surface.
That time, no matter how small, is very necessary. Because once the ball hits a Waterboys' platform, it’ll start to tip and knock the boys into the water, where dangerous spikes threaten their lives. Only two Waterboys may be lost. After that you lose one ball. The same goes for if you fail to catch a ball. Hence, every second counts.
When a Waterboy hits the submarine, he bounces up once before hitting the sub a second time. If the boy hits it twice (as needed to be rescued), a bubble will form over his body. He’ll float to the surface where a helicopter, or some other vehicle, will take him to safety. If a boy falls through and hits the spikes, watch for an amusing death animation. The Waterboy, now heading off to Heaven, grows wings of an angel and flies up to his new home.
Then there’s Speed, a game where the ball is trailed by a solid color and comes flying at your platform like a deadly laser beam. In Switch players must change the color of their platform to match that of the ball, whose color is determined by the last block it hits before coming back down to the bottom screen. Curve is yet another new take on this style of gaming. You command a golf club and must strike a ball that is affected by gravity. No free-roaming bounce – this ball slams down every time.
Retro is the slowest mode, but it’s no less inspired. You play a simple Arkanoid-style game on the bottom screen while a young boy hops around the top screen. His reason for being does not become clear until he comes to an enemy, at which time the player must push the jump button to make him leap over the approaching threat. It gets intense, though not necessarily fast, pretty quickly.
The bottom screen is split into two halves, both of which have a separate playing field with their own balls, blocks and moving platforms. Both sides must be attended to – you lose a life every time one ball is lost. At the same time you have to push the jump button at key points to make guy on top avoid gaps and enemies. This is no doubt a reference to the platformers of the 80s. The developers weren’t very specific with which game they were trying to parody, so it’s likely that each player will come to his or her own conclusion.
Symptom 3: A Willingness to Give Praise
If you’re feeling the need to spread the news to others – to let the world know that there is a new, Arkanoid-inspired game that’s worth owning – you’re experiencing the third symptom of a Nervous Brickdown. Don’t fight it, and don’t waste time calling your doctor. There’s no known cure. Just give up and give into your addiction.
Review Scoring Details for Nervous Brickdown
An excellent and ridiculously diverse collection of brand-new games that were inspired by the brick-blasting, ball-bouncing games of the 80s (Arkanoid being the first and most well-known). Nervous Brickdown has trumped the pack and become the new king.
Simple but artistic, Nervous Brickdown effectively uses Flash-style visuals to create a great-looking DS game.
If you’re a fan of music that’s quirky and catchy, crank your DS speakers. Otherwise…no, there is no otherwise. Just crank ‘em.
Nervous Brickdown isn’t an overly difficult game, but you will be challenged from time to time.
Cleverly absorbs some of our industry’s most unique ideas and combines them for a game that’s unlike anything you’ve ever played.
Awesome! Not only does the game support single-card play, but its multiplayer feature is a clever co-op mode. Each player is assigned a different platform – hit it when the ball matches your platform’s color.
A must-own for fans of Arkanoid or any similar-style game. Nervous Brickdown is a great achievement not only for this genre but also for other types of puzzle games and space shooters. Make sure you’re near a power outlet when playing this game, ‘cause you’re going to need a constant stream of electricity to re-energize the DS battery life you’re destined to drain.
An excellent and ridiculously diverse collection of brand-new games that were inspired by the brick-blasting, ball-bouncing games of the 80s
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 07/16/2007