Review by SneakTheSnake
"It's Arkanoid. On the DS. With a really poor gameplay structure. Please look elsewhere."
Arkanoid DS is about as elementary as gaming gets, but that's not the true reason why I'm giving this game such a low score. I won't pander to you and tell you how to play Arkanoid; the gameplay remains nearly the same as the SNES game Doh It Again (I say that because of the pill-shaped power-ups); some may split hairs and say that this DS iteration has some subtle differences but, frankly, the only difference is the dual screens and the "invisible space" between the two. The reason I don't like this game is because of its stranglehold on gameplay content, its odd choice in music and lack of any refurbishing on the original.
There's a story here, but it's negligible. I come to Arkanoid DS for the gameplay, which this game does have in spades. The game controls well enough, although it baffles me that the paddle that came with the Japanese version of this game is a no-show in other territories. Likely because the game wasn't anticipated to sell well. The d-pad and stylus are the two realistic alternatives, and both work suitably although, like in many Arkanoid games, the ball ends up moving way too quickly for you to react in time. The game plays like any Arkanoid game you've played before; nothing's changed, and the gameplay is pristine.
What I mean by "stranglehold" is that there are two single-player game modes but a strange and restricting way to get to its many, many levels. LIke in Bust-a-Move, you start at node A on an upside-down triangle filled with nodes; completing the five levels in a given node allows you to move upward in the triangle, to either node B to your upper-left or C to your upper-right. You progress through seven nodes of your choosing. I really wish it weren't set up this way.
There's also a mission mode (er, uh, Quest Mode - how pompous!) in which you can take on mini-missions. These missions net you points, where you can buy ridiculously high-priced merchandise in the shop, like new paddles, backgrounds, music, block patterns and sound effects. It'd take well over an hour of good, solid play to unlock one item, and the changes are all purely aesthetic. Space Bust-a-Move (another game by Taito) also went with this structure - or at least one that closely emulated it - but I found its expanded single-player mode and shop to be much more varied and well-designed.
What really fries me is that you can only play missions for levels you've conquered previously in the arcade mode. Why? Why not have all the missions available from the get-go, so you can net points for nailing really difficult stages? It could even prepare you for when you take on the stages in arcade mode. This means that you must play through the arcade mode several times, in various arrangements and combinations of letters / nodes, to gain access to all 100+ missions. I really like the mission mode and, if the items weren't at such inflated prices, I would go for it. As it is, though, I don't want to have to keep resetting my arcade mode and play through levels I've already bested, just so I can get to a node I didn't choose the first time around. This is nonsense.
I would have liked less linearity. Or switching up game rules from time to time. Or nicer and more varied graphics. Or new power-ups - all of which are delivered in spades, mind you, in various free iOS games, as well as AlphaBounce and its variants. Heck, the DS even has Nervous Brickdown, an excellent Arkanoid clone in much finer clothes than this. That makes Arkanoid DS redundant right out of the gate.
The graphics are minimal, and the soundtrack is really bizarre. It's a collection of electronica, you know, with the strange sound clips in the middle of the songs admist synth-heavy tracks. The sound effects are negligible. Replay value exists in multiplayer and vs. CPU modes, and the rest comes from however much of the arcade mode you can stomach in order to get to the missions.
Arkanoid DS could have been so much better than it actually is. It asks way too much of you in order to get items at the store or even to access missions to anything but Node A, and its graphics and sound aren't much better than the SNES version. The only thing I can commend the game for is its interface, as it is sleek and nice-looking, and its faithful recreation of the original. However, if you're anything like me, you're likely expecting more from your arcade retreads, or at least enough to justify a price tag. Even the idea of paying for Arkanoid is a strange one, considering all the clones out there. Skip this one; Nervous Brickdown is the better (and, for me, the only decent) DS alternative for brick-breaking mayhem; at least the game has the decency to change up the gameplay and art style throughout play.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 12/20/12
Game Release: Arkanoid DS (US, 06/17/08)
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