Breakout-style games may not be as fashionable as they once were, but they still live on as retro titles, and the latest to hit Google Play is Retroid, which gives a modern look to a thoroughly classic game. Breakout, and its most popular clone Arkanoid, sees you control a paddle which bats a ball against a wall of blocks, the aim being to break all the blocks and advance to the next level. Arkanoid popularised the use of power-ups to make this task more interesting, and they’ve become a genre staple ever since.
Retroid sticks to this established theme with little deviation, however instead of feeling stale, it’s energetic, visually exciting, and has a spark which lesser titles can miss. Open the app and you’re presented with a basic menu screen with the option to start or quit. Select start and you can choose between five different chapters, each of which comes with at least 15 levels; however only the first chapter is available for free. The other four cost 99p each. Sadly, the developer hasn’t provided a discount option to buy all of the chapters together, so it’ll end up costing you the best part of £4 to unlock the whole game.
Still, there’re 15 free levels to try for free, and this should provide more than enough game time to convince you to pay up or leave it alone. In keeping with the menu page, there are almost no user-selectable options, aside from a ball speed controller at the base of the level selector. Unless you’ve got the reactions of a cat, you’ll want to stick with the lowest and mid setting, as the high is clearly not for humans.
The game is played in landscape orientation, and you control the paddle by moving your finger from left to right along the bottom of the screen, hitting the ball towards the blocks. Some disintegrate with one touch, others take a few hits, while others turn into a power-up. These range from those which speed up or slow down the ball, and which lengthen or shorten the paddle. Pretty standard stuff for a Breakout-style game. The level design can be cunning, with some areas cornered off by walls, and to access them you’ll need to get used to guiding the ball with the paddle. The paddle moves with the speed of your finger, but your reactions are key to reaching the ball if it switches direction unexpectedly.
Here’s where Retroid is harder than many of its peers – the landscape orientation. The ball just has very little room to travel, so when it’s sped up, you’ve got to be incredibly quick to reach it before losing a life. A portrait mode would have made things slightly less frustrating without sacrificing too much difficulty. Arkanoid on the iPad plays brilliantly in portrait, and is still a challenge as you move through the levels.
A keyboard option is touted in the Google Play description, which may solve the problems, but it wasn’t tested for this review, primarily because very few of us carry a Bluetooth keyboard around with our phones. Retroid also has various graphical flourishes, such as stars shooting across the screen, which burst when you do something special. These can easily be mistaken for the almost transparent ball, seeing you zip off in the wrong direction when things get busy.
These flourishes look brilliant though, and match the overall excellent look of the game, particularly on those levels you must pay to unlock, as in comparison, the free levels look positively plain. The music and audio effects are also great, and add to the excitement in this often frantic game. We tried it out on a Sony Xperia T and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, and the only problem encountered was an occasional stutter on the Xperia T. The tablet’s bigger screen didn’t make the gameplay any easier though, and we still missed a portrait mode.
Retroid is one of the best Breakout clones we’ve played in a while, and although we’d have liked a bundle price to unlock all the stages, it’s worth paying for them if you enjoy playing the free levels. Aside from a few little issues with the controls and screen orientation, we’d recommend you give Retroid a try.