Arkanoid - Doh It Again

System: SNES


Game Type: Ball and Paddle
This is a revamp of the classic Arkanoid, which is a revamp of the classic Breakout. Basically you maneuver a paddle to knock a ball into bricks at the top of the screen, destroying them one by one. Certain bricks contain powerup capsules which you can catch as they fall. Enemies float around the screen that must be avoided or destroyed. DIA adds a couple new powerup types like a field to catch the ball once if you miss and a ball powerup that lets it crush everything in its path. Old powerups have also been enhanced; Extend can now be caught twice and Disrupt now splits the ball into a whopping eight fragments.

Gameplay: 80/100
Purists who were looking for an exact translation of the arcade will be disappointed, as there have been many changes. Of course some of these are improvements. Old enemies will perform new feats - when you hit the cluster of balls it now shatters into three rebounding pieces that can destroy bricks, and the morphing cubes can leave extra bricks behind. The new powerups like the crusher ball and the enhanced Disrupt are very cool. And there are now a magnificent 99 stages to blast though.
But not all the changes are for the best. There are minor problems like not having enough time to line up a shot at the start of a round. But far more seriously, someone screwed around with the way the ball rebounds off bricks. If it hits a brick corner (as happens quite often) it may go off at some crazy angle, or it may just keep right on traveling. This will undo all your old strategies that rely on the ball travelling at a certain angle, because you just can't predict its behavior anymore.
DIA has mouse support, thankfully, but the dash button should let even those with digital control pads play reasonably well. There are three modes for two players - the traditional alternating play, two players simultaneously in the main game, or a fun split-screen game where players race to complete one of several special stages. It also has a stage editor, which might be cool if you could save your creations. As it is, your hard work is gone as soon as you want to create a new stage or hit the system power.
The NES version was horrendously difficult, but Taito may have overcompensated here. The ball never reaches the nailbitingly fast speeds it did in the arcade, and the powerups let you clear any stage with almost no effort. The bosses, however, are a different story. They force you to dodge lasers, etc. while keeping the ball in play, but all too often a bullet will block you from rescuing the ball and all you can do is watch it as it flies by. It can get quite frustrating, especially since you encounter the same three cheesy bosses repeatedly. I have cleared a dozen stages on one life only to have my game ended by a boss.
Overall, though, I can't say the game plays bad. My most serious gripe is the low ball speed; there's almost no way you can miss it and hence there's not much tension. It's fun to play through but I beat it on the highest difficulty in one sitting.

Graphics: 80/100
Graphically DIA may actually beat the arcade version. It's more colorful and yet it retains the solid, blocky look. Cool background scenes have been added, but sadly there are only 4 among the 100 stages. Repetition aside, though, the game looks excellent.

Sound: 40/100
The music for the bosses is simply awful, looping endlessly and blaring tunelessly. Good thing they saw fit not to add music during the main stages; the notes from the ball rebounding are music enough. All the sound effects lack oomph and a couple are downright annoying. The bothersome ones aren't used too often though. Overall the audio is tolerable but far from enjoyable.

Overall: 80/100
It pains me to have to give an Arkanoid game any rating lower than 90, but sadly I must. DIA isn't a bad game but it could have been so much more. It lacks the polish of the arcade, not in spite of but because of the "improvements" that have been added. And of course the most glaring fault is the insanely low difficulty. There isn't even a way to make it tougher that I can find (aside from using a control pad instead of a mouse).
Die hard Arkanerds should give it a rental. At $35 new, it could be you'll want it just for the semi-cool two player versus mode. At that price you can probably get the NES version with a working paddle, though, and that's a far safer bet for your entertainment dollar.


Copyright © 1997/1998 Jay McGavren. All Rights Reserved.