by Robert A. Jung
Atari Corp./Telegames, for the Atari Jaguar
While Atari Corp. is now -- for all intents and purposes -- dead with regards to Jaguar game development and support, all is not lost. Leading an underground effort to publish near-finished titles, Telegames has released Breakout 2000 for the console. As with other games in the Jaguar's "2000" series, this game is a '90s update to the original bounce-a-ball-and-break-the-walls game. Played from a three-quarters overhead view, the game features power-up icons, invading enemies, three-dimensional layouts, and two-player simultaneous play. Settings allow the game's difficulty to be tweaked, and for the retro-gamers in the audience, the original Breakout is also included.
Confession time here: I loved the original Breakout. I don't mean merely that I enjoyed it, I'm talking major-league addiction, the kind where you'd rather play the game than eat, sleep or (in my case) do schoolwork for. I finally shook the habit, but the fondness for Breakout's simplicity and speed never fades completely. Understandably, then, when I first heard about Breakout 2000, I had very high hopes in recreating the thrills of those early days of video gaming.
But if Breakout was a feast, then Breakout 2000 is merely an appetizer during the meal. It's not that it's a bad game; rather, it's a slower-paced version of the original. The various gimmicks don't add any major depths to the title, and some of the power-up capsules feel like gratuitous "mirror images" used to pad out the game. The action can get fairly hectic at times, but overall the cartridge's tone is fairly mellow, lulling the player into an easy rhythm. But while a relaxing game is good for some folks, players who are seeking slam-bang excitement won't find much of it here.
The most interesting aspect of Breakout 2000 is its head-to-head competitive mode, against either a second human or a computer-controlled drone. Here, in addition to breaking down his own wall, each player can also send his shot over to the opponent's court, and knock down his bricks for extra points. But while this proves fairly entertaining, it's still a bit dull in some spots, especially when an aggressive player sends his ball ricocheting around his opponent's side, only to twiddle his thumbs while waiting for a ball to return so he can hit it again. It's fun for a while, but not enough to launch the game into "classic" status.
Addressing other aspects of the game: The controls are passable, if a tad disappointing -- the joypad is a merely-adequate replacement for the original game's rotary dials, as it's a little hard to hit the ball precisely; the three-quarters view and constant paddle speed makes judging angles and returning shots somewhat difficult. Finally, the "Classic Breakout" mode is a workable substitute, but devoted fans of the original will be better off dusting off the Atari 2600 hiding in their closets.
The graphics and sound on Breakout 2000 are nice, if a tad uninspiring, and leave room for minor improvements. Visuals consist of brightly-colored bricks and objects, constrasting with a variety of darker "sci-fi" chambers. The few animated elements, such as flying spaceships and probe-dropping robots, are merely passible, with some slightly choppy animation.
The sounds are about the same. In-game music consists of a variety of soft rock/psuedo-techno backbeats. Though there isn't anything especially attentive here, they fit the game well, accompanying the action without intruding upon it. Sound effects are dull, however; aside from an occassional white-noise explosion or hiss, the majority of the game sounds are the primitive beeps and boops that play each time the ball hits a brick. As a whole, it's slightly disappointing.
For players who want seat-of-the-pants excitement and nonstop action, Breakout 2000 is not for them. Rather, this title is best suited for those who are looking for a game to relax with, an oasis of calm amid the seas of fighting, racing, and shooting titles. While graphics and sound are nothing to get excited over, they aren't bad, and the two-player mode will prove entertaining for a while, at least.