In 1986, Taito brought Atari's classic Breakout to the next level with Arkanoid. They built upon the basic formula of destroying bricks with your paddle and ball by adding updated graphics, advanced levels, and a multitude of power up capsules that would fall at random from destroyed bricks.

Each power up capsule could provide you with advanced capabilities such as lasers, wider-paddle, multiple balls and more. Of course, if you get too distracted trying to catch the falling capsules, you could easily miss the ball and lose your turn.

The App Store has reintroduced this classic game to the iPhone in the form of six updated Breakout and Arkanoid clones. One trick in finding a good Arkanoid-style game is finding the right balance of difficulty level that both keeps the gamer interested and also avoids making the game too tedious. While Breakout was a milestone game when it was introduced in 1976, modern day gamers will quickly tire of the monotony of breaking each brick one by one.

The six current games include:

  • Ikanoid ($2.99) - fun, arcade feel, no high scores yet
  • Super Pong ($2.99) - good sound, gameplay a little slow
  • Break (Free) - framerate issues, slow gameplay, but free
  • Ultranium 4 ($3.99) - limited documentation, levels either too easy or too hard
  • Space Out ($4.99) - retro, simple gameplay
  • BreakTouch 3D ($2.99) - breakout only. no power ups, so can get tedious

A comprehensive gameplay video is embedded below.

Ikanoid (1.01)

Ikanoid [$2.99, App Store] provides the best game playing experience amongst the games I tried. With its excellent sound effects and responsiveness, it really provides a solid arcade feeling. The availability of power up capsules are abundant, but aren't so powerful that they necessarily detract from the basic gameplay. The biggest shortcoming of this title at present is the lack of any other menu options. The game's only menu option is to start a 'New Game'. There is currenly no high score. If you do start a new game, you start back on level one. (Paused games, of course, can be resumed)

This is a real shame because it currently limits the replay-ability of the game significantly without any way to track your progress.

However, we contacted Storybird about this deficiency and have been told that an impending update will address these issues and more. Specifically, a Hall of Fame and net rankings, 3 difficulty levels and a few more power-ups are planned for release as soon as Friday.

Super Pong (1.1) and Jirbo Break (1.0)

I'm going to discuss these games together since they share a remarkable resemblance. Both provide a more basic breakout game with some power up capabilities. Unlike Arkanoid's use of falling power capsules, however, they've embedded power-ups within specific bricks; when destroyed, the power-up is instantly enabled.

Of the two games, Super Pong [$2.99, App Store] is superior, but only by a small margin. Break [Free, App Store] feels less polished and has a few more gameplay issues. Sound effects are very soft and unsatisfying. There are occasional collision detection issues as well as framerate problems. Still, it's hard to argue with free, so the game may be worth a try.

Meanwhile, Super Pong feels like a slightly better version of Break, and offers better sound effects and three levels of difficulty.

The gameplay of both titles is more paced than Arkanoid. The use of in-brick power-ups slows game play down and removes a lot of the randomness of traditional Arkanoid play.

Ultranium 4 (1.0)

There's a disturbing trend amongst iPhone game developers who chose not to provide any gameplay documentation. Ultranium 4 [$3.99, App Store] is one of these offenders. For most Arkanoid games, this may not be a problem, but one aspect of Ultranium's gameplay left me scratching my head. At some points in the game, the ball curves off its normal linear pattern (see video). After a period of confusion, I decided that some bricks tend to attract the ball.

Ultranium tries to merge Akranoid with Galaga by replacing your paddle with a spaceship. The game introduces some non-traditional bricks that will explode on contact, as well as the "gravity" bricks I described above. In the end, I found gameplay to be uninteresting. Levels suffered from being too tedious (breaking each brick one by one) or too easy (with overpowered power-ups).

Space Out (1.0)

While we reviewed Binary Square's Space Out [$4.99, App Store] before, it seems appropriate to mention it again in this roundup. In context of this roundup, I found Space Out's gameplay to be somewhat lacking. While retro-gamers may find some interest in the nostalgic aspect of the game, the black and white graphics and hybrid gameplay were not particularly engaging to me.

BreakTouch 3D (0.9)

It may be unfair to include BreakTouch 3D [$2.99, App Store] into this roundup of primarily Arkanoid clones, as BreakTouch 3D is actually a beautiful Breakout clone. The gameplay offers no power up capsules, but does introduce the classic Breakout game on a rotating cylinder.

The 3D effects and graphics are impressive and do introduce an interesting twist to the traditional Breakout gameplay. However, gameplay itself tended to be quite tedious as bricks need to be removed one at a time. Perhaps some Breakout fans might enjoy this, but I think that most would grow tired of the game quickly.

Gameplay Videos

Gameplay demonstrations of all the games with the exception of Space Out are included in this video. Space Out gameplay can be seen in our previous review.

Conclusion

For Arkanoid and arcade fans, Ikanoid [App Store] provides the best overall gameplay, and knowing that high scores are a single update away makes it easy to recommend this title.

Meanwhile, gamers looking for a more paced rhythm to their Breakout games can look at Break [App Store] and Super Pong [App Store].

TouchArcade Rating

  • clark

    good concept but none of them have everything, they should have made a blasterball 3 like version if anybody has played that on windows xp(even though i have a windows i will always be an apple geek)!

  • tom.b

    Ultranium 4 looks the most interesting to me.

    Also, do these games allow you to leave your own music playing in the background or not? I would be much more likely to buy one that would.

    Thanks.

  • arn

    Ultranium looks the most ambitious, but the gameplay isn't very good.

    Just tested music playback:

    Space Out and Ultranium turn your music off when you launch them. The rest allow you to play music in the background.

    arn

  • Will

    This is a really great review roundup. But I miss more specific details on the gameplay controls: I have only Jirbo Break (and played the old Super Pong from the Installer “back then”) and I really love the alternative control scheme of using a virtual thumbstick rather than “dragging” the space ship around. It gives me much quicker and more accurate controls. Using the accelerometer sucks for Breakout games anyways (in my opinion), so if dragging was the only way to control the other games, this would be a real drawback for me and would make Jirbo Break the best of its kind, regardless of all it’s drawbacks.

  • arn

    Jirbo is the only one with that thumb-control, which I didn't really get used to. All of them allow direct manipulation with your finger as shown in the videos. A couple (Ultranium and Super Ping) offered accelerometer control, but it's not ideal.

    All the controls were adequate so I didn't get into it too much, but the gameplay issues were the biggest. In that Ikanoid was the "funnest" by a good margin.

    arn

  • anton

    BreakTouch 3D
    Powerups are coming! Very soon!
    Also more levels implemented!

  • anton
  • http://mattplays.com/ Matt Burris

    Great roundup arn! The video definitely shows Ikanoid to be more engaging and fun-looking. It was, at least, more fun to watch. I tried Super Pong and Jirbo's Break, and gave up after those two until better alternatives came along, and a clear winner stood out. I think I'll get Ikanoid myself now. I'm an old school gamer that grew up on Breakout and Arkanoid, so it's good to relive those days on my iPhone once in a while.

  • Podzoe

    What about Chimps Ahoy? It may be on it's side and have two paddles, but I'd still call it an Arkanoid/Breakout game...

  • johann

    I agree with Will 100% on this one. Jirbo's thumb control is the only way to go. It didn't take long for me to get used to and now I can play comfortably one handed. All other breakout type games should at least provide this as an option cause it's a dealbreaker without it for me too.

  • SamiHIan

    I for one love Space Out! It has great play control with finger or thumb and is very hard but fun! http://youtube.com/watch?v=xEhe0mfgWlg

  • SamiHIan

    I for one love Space Out! It has great play control with finger or thumb and is fun but challenging. http://youtube.com/watch?v=xEhe0mfgWlg

  • Jeff

    I very much enjoyed your Akranoid/Breakout comparison. I hope you will do similar ones in the future for other categories, for example the Simon-type memory games, driving/racing games, etc.

    THANKS!

  • http://jadegame.com julien

    best regards and great article !

    Julien

    PS: Ultranium *has* a doc and it is available ingame by going into the HELP menu! Screen capture here: http://jadegame.com/?os=iphone

  • arn

    @julien hey. I guess I meant explanation for the non-linear ball movements. Like I said, for most of arkanoid there isn't that much docs required, but I felt like I was missing something, or it was a bug.

    arn

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  • http://www.ballslamfantasy.com Anthony

    Touch Arcade, it's a real shame you didn't mention anything on Ball Slam Fantasy, it's a breath of fresh air on the Brick Breaker genre and really would have deserved to be in this game round up.

    • arn

      your game came out 9 months after this article was published.

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