The Game: There exists, somewhere on a tropical isle, a species of paddle-esque life forms (not unlike the inhabitants of Pong), and their idyllic existence is shattered by the arrival of evil dictator Batnix. Batnix kidnaps fair Daisy and the rest of your friends, sequestering them in perilous dungeons around the world. As Bouncer the Paddle, you must break out of your own prison by smashing through the walls with steel balls, and then travel to various locales to free all of your friends. As you release your comrades, you can also play as them in certain rounds to make use of their special abilities in your quest to free Daisy and defeat Batnix once and for all. As always, keep an eye on your balls, for they are your greatest weapons. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 2000)
Memories: This game is proof positive that I can milk any video ping-pong game for an endless array of lowbrow “balls” jokes. It’s also proof positive that updated versions really do work sometimes.
I was a bit skeptical about introducing any kind of storyline to Breakout – I mean, c’mon, this is one of the simplest, most-copied games of all time. Do we really need a motivational factor to justify blasting through walls, or advancing armies of knights and vaguely creepy chickens? And again, as I’ve mentioned in the past with such retro revivals as the otherwise excellent Pac-Man World and Q*Bert remakes, we’re handed a story that features kidnapping as the catalyst for the game’s action. And I still find it objectionable. If that’s the only story anyone can dream up to stick on a game, I’m ready to return to the days when games had no story and we were all trying not to miss balls for high score.
That aside, despite the lack of a paddle controller, Breakout is tremendous fun, and even includes some bizarre minigames, including one where you must bump marauding ducks (!?) off of a raft, begging comparison’s with Namco’s minor hit Motos. The graphics are excellent, and seldom succumb to the “zooming camera” syndrome. The new added bits enhance the game and make it more unpredictable – and they don’t need the hackneyed kidnapping plotline to sustain them.
Breakout was the last Atari title released by Hasbro Interactive before they sold the Atari name and properties off to Infogrames early in 2001.