My love for the Brick Breaker genre was born from the original Arkanoid arcade cabinet. As a kid, the game would rapidly drain my quarter supply. I would need the perfect combination of mozzarella and Mountain Dew along with just the right amount of grease on the spinner wheel.
The concept of Brick Breakers is simply controlling a paddle to deflect a ball into bricks. I loved the simplicity, the challenge, and the feel of the spinner wheel compared to a joystick. My interest in Arkanoid was rekindled with the resurgence of arcade bars. Brick Breakers are intended to be played on free play, at arcades, or through consoles.
Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure was developed by Lillymo Games (Perils of Baking, Habroxia) and was written by the host of the Sacred Symbols Podcast: Colin Moriarty. It is available as a cross-buy on PS4 and Vita for $9.99. Naturally I was excited to hear the Sacred Symbols crew was involved with creating a Brick Breaker clone. My favorite gaming podcast combined with a favorite genre of mine? Sold.
Set in the distant future, Earth is reeling from decades of World Wars. The United States has chosen to isolate and evolve further into space. NASA’s ships keep disappearing and their only hope is two pilots from the Sacred Symbols crew. Colin and Chris get sucked into a wormhole and discover we are not alone in the universe.
In Twin Breakers you control two paddles (although you can manage up to four). With 40 levels to take on, it’s nice to have nuance within those levels. Twin Breakers mixes things up by having certain levels be of the classic top down variety, while others implement a horizontal style that is reminiscent of Pong.
I defaulted to controlling the left paddle with the D-pad and the right paddle with the right joystick. Controlling four paddles ramped up the difficulty. The paddles on the right felt a little awkward at first because it shares the same joystick.
Basically, you have two paddles for each joystick. Horizontal axis for left to right. Vertical for up and down. It took a little time to get used to, but once you’ve mastered it you’ll be paddling back and forth easily.
While the basic gameplay follows the Brick Breaker formula, the differences come with the power-ups and enemies. Twin Breaker displays a roman numeral (they never tried to teach us those in school) on each brick telling you how many times you need to hit it in order for it to break. A problem with Arkanoid, besides the difficulty, was how long it took to complete certain levels unless you got the laser power-up. Some bricks you need to hit over 5 times. Twin Breaker, thankfully, isn’t as stingy with useful power-ups.
The Heavy Ball, Fire Ball, and Guns pickups are the most powerful in the game. Unlike Arkanoid though, these special abilities have a time limit. In Arkanoid, you would retain the laser power-up which would behoove you to dodge other power-ups. The pickups in Twin Breaker are a mix of new ideas and nods to past. Enough to keep the game fun and interesting.
The most apparent game design flaw of Brick Breakers is when you get stuck trying to get those last few hard-to-reach bricks. With no more pickups available, you’re left to your geometry skills. Twin Breaker implements time limits for each level, so when the time is up, spaceships fly by to hopefully get the last few bricks. In each level you’re given a grade, and the faster you complete the level, the better your grade.
My favorite aspect of Twin Breaker is the boss fights. Each boss comes with the requisite life bar, and shoots projectiles that make the paddle turn red, shrink, and slow to a crawl. Most levels have Scarabs that appear instead of normal power-ups, and they show up in boss fights as well. The Scarabs are generally easily avoidable, but the boss projectiles are harder to avoid. There are only a few bosses and the battles are on the easy side, but they were still a fun way to break up the normal gameplay. Additionally, a cut scene always follows the boss fights giving updates on Collin and Chris’ space adventure.
Indie games can be hit or miss with audio. Twin Breakers weakest area is its music and sound effects. The intention, I assume, is to callback to those old 8-bit style soundtracks, but unfortunately the music is on loop (even through the story cut scenes) and is forgettable. I feel it didn’t capture the environments of space exploration. I found myself muting the audio upon the second playthrough.
To justify paying $9.99 for a Brick Breaker game, you really need to be fan of the genre. On PS4, the imperfections of Twin Breaker (like certain backgrounds) stick out on a big HD screen. Thankfully, with cross-buy you can switch over to the Vita. Handhelds are definitely the better platform to pick up and play a Brick Breaker game, so if you have a Vita, I highly recommend. If $9.99 is too steep and you want to wait, Colin mentioned that the game won’t go on sale for a year, so you’ll be waiting quite a while.
Twin Breaker ultimately is a short indie game. It’s intended for you to breeze through in a few hours while giving you the option to play further for the platinum trophy. If you’re looking for the next Bloodborne or Sekiro, this isn’t for you. I’m close to the platinum trophy on PS4 but may drop it in favor of the Vita platinum. If you’re a fan of Arkanoid or other Brick Breaker clones, Twin Breaker is a great addition to your library. Also, in these uncertain times with COVID-19, this is the time to support projects like Twin Breaker and Sacred Symbols: A Playstation Podcast.