Arcade clones… as much as I love PlayStation Mobile (and the Minis range before it) and the freedom it gives to developers, it has lead to an influx of clones or reworkings of arcade classics. Whether they are offering new twists on old themes or modernised remakes, there have been plenty to choose from although the quality has been somewhat diverse. We’ve had games “inspired” by Sega arcade hits, official and unofficial updates of old favourites like Space Invaders, PacMan and Frogger and in VitaBounce! we have the latest twist on the old favourite Breakout…
On loading up VitaBounce! you’re immediately hit with the game’s overarching style – what can be best described as sheer anarchy and surrealism. The artistic style is… well… all hand drawn and while I am someone who has no artistic ability whatsoever I am reluctant to criticise others, the artwork is truly awful. The graphics are garish, poorly illustrated and have a cartoon style that really make you yearn for the days of Pong with it’s simplistic block visuals. I appreciate that the developer wanted the game to have this strange look but it really doesn’t help the game at all.
Then there’s the sound. The game opens with music which runs throughout the game. Well, a number of songs and they are all performed again by the programmer. The best way these can be described is aural versions of the graphics. Listening to them, I do wonder if the author was recovering from a severe hangover at the time or simply had no idea what was going on. Words really can’t describe what it is that you end up listening to. I’d really just describe the graphics and sound as an “experience” and one that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Okay, onto the game itself. There are two game modes – the standard game and a Challenge Mode. In the normal game you control your bat as you would expect in Breakout moving left and right with the left stick, but with the added twist of using the right stick to rotate the paddle. Instead of bricks, all manner of strange objects whizz past the screen in front of you – balls with faces, donkeys, women, grannies… and you score points by hitting as many of them as you can. Hindering your progress are brick walls that appear at random blocking your ball deflecting it back (and unlike Breakout these can’t be destroyed) and red crosses and collision with these mean instant death.
Fortunately these disappear after a short while and are only a danger when they are solid and when they do appear they phase in and out so it’s a case of timing to avoid them during play. As with all modern Breakout clones you also have a few power-ups to help you along. These drop from the top at random as what could be best described as rainbow-coloured eggs and provided you with one of three abilities. First is a faster bat, second is a double score bonus and the third is the voodoo power-up. The latter allows you to use the action buttons to steer the ball while it’s in motion. All three power-ups are time limted so you need to make the most of them while you have them. Overall you have three lives and you lose one each time the ball goes out of play but unlike every other Breakout clone I’ve played, the game runs continuously so when you lose a life the next starts immediately with no let up.
Now onto the Challenge Mode… there are 80 levels on offer here and on each screen you are faced with a range of obstacles and a Warp Point. Quite simply, you use the paddle to hit the ball towards the Warp Point to progress to the next level. While the early stages are relatively easy, things toughen up quite quickly with moving obstacles and red crosses to contend with.
I really don’t quite know what to make of VitaBounce! It’s tried incredibly hard to take Breakout and do something original but for me it fails on so many levels. The surreal nature of the game is either going to appeal to you or be downright irritating and the gameplay for the main game mode itself really is too random to be of any real merit. The rotating bat is a nice idea but with everything on screen moving all the time, it’s more random than anything else whether you actually hit anything or not so really all you have to try to concentrate on is stopping the ball from going out of play.
More frustratingly, the crosses that appear on screen that mean instant game over can turn up anywhere at any time and when they do there’s a good chance that you have no advance warning meaning that the game could end suddenly with you having no chance whatsoever of stopping it from happening. At least you have some chance if it appears on the opposite side of the screen to where your ball is so you can use the bat to steer the ball to safety but otherwise you have no real hope.
The Challenge Mode offers something a bit different but soon becomes tiresome as well and offers little variety… and still has the same graphics and sound that will soon have you reaching for the volume control. The only real positive that I found in both game modes were the inclusion of online leaderboards although there seemed to be a problem with the presentation of this. Not only wasn’t it possible to scroll through the list to see other names in the list above / below you, but part way down the list the names are cut off as you can see from the screenshots.
At the end of the day while this isn’t the worst game available for PlayStation Mobile, the bizzarre visual style, audio and frustrating gameplay makes it one that you’re likely to play once and forget about rather quickly and sadly despite it’s low price it’s not one worth considering.
At A Glance
- Title: VitaBounce!
- Publisher: Havishamone Games
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No (online leaderboards)
- Memory Card Space Needed: 32Mb