There are plenty of ways you can make an old video game concept feel fresh again. You can gussy up the graphics, turn 2D into 3D, or maybe even slap some recognizable personalities on the box, be they fictional or otherwise. However, Nervous Brickdown goes its own route--or should we say routes? It offers a suite of unique variations on the classic brick-and-bat gameplay typified by such games as Breakout and Arkanoid. Some of the variants in Nervous Brickdown offer just a simple twist, while others virtually rewrite the formula, sometimes making the game feel more like a shooter or a dungeon crawler than a Breakout clone. The differences also go beyond just the mechanics, with each variant sporting a striking visual style and some fitting, often quite catchy, music. The results aren't always consistent, but Nervous Brickdown hits more often than it misses.
Who knew a Breakout clone could be so much fun in 2007?
The beauty of using such a familiar gameplay template is that Nervous Brickdown feels immediately familiar; before you even realize anything weird is going on, you can jump right into the game. Using the stylus, you drag a paddle back and forth across the bottom screen, bouncing a ball into a field of destructible bricks on the top screen. The game acknowledges its biggest influences in its first stage, a very sincere homage to both Breakout and Arkanoid. Power-ups will drift down the screen when you hit certain bricks, there's a glassy, vibrant visual style, and there's repetitive but undeniably catchy synthesizer music that could've been ripped straight from an '80s arcade game.
After you clear the first 10 levels and advance to the next stage, things start getting a little stranger. The game shifts style completely, looking like a notebook full of doodles accompanied by a blipping background track that makes interesting use of vocal samples. Instead of rectangular blocks, you'll be knocking the ball against ink blots with a paddle that you'll actually have to draw yourself. How you draw the paddle will determine how the ball will bounce off of it, implicitly encouraging some avant-garde paddle design. Furthermore, in this stage, as well as a few others, the paddle isn't restricted to horizontal movement, allowing you to move the paddle freely about the bottom screen and making it possible to put some real heat behind your hits.