The worst way for a studio to introduce a game may well be "it's like X, but with Y." It's like Temple Run, but with zombies. It's like Tiny Tower, but on a boat. It's good to be honest, but it's a hard sell. Why should you, savvy App Store customer, care about a game when you could just go play that other, more popular title? Lucky for all of us, when Elevate Entertainment says its game is a brick-breaker (read: Breakout or Arkanoid) with a twist, it's underselling the issue. Big time.
Draw Breaker's [$0.99 / $0.99 (HD)] twist is that you draw your paddle instead of controlling it. I'm not knocking that fact. The drawing element is fantastic, and lets you pull off some great trick shots. But if all you have to ride on is a single twist, you're in trouble.
You might find your whole idea has been done before by, say, an IP-infringing Flash game. Draw Breaker avoids this bleak fate by using the twist to great advantage. Each of its bricks is a square-headed monster, and each type of monster has its own strengths and weaknesses. To overcome those strengths, you need to take full advantage of some of the trickier shots that drawing the paddle allows you to make.
Brick is one of the first (and most appropriately-named) monsters you run into. He's big and blocky, looking a lot like Mario's buddy Thwomp. From this you might infer that he's going to be a pain, and you'd be right: he takes four hits to destroy. If you're making good use of your paddles, you might tuck one up right below him and burn through his four lives right quick.
You'll know Brick has four lives as you go, because Draw Breaker's visual cues are masterful. His rocky exterior is a giveaway, but so is his sad, sad face. Each time you hit him he grows sadder, and once the tears start flowing he's done for. That attention to detail is carried through most of the game's sixteen monster types. A block with three eyes splits into three pieces, each with one eye and one life. A critter with only a mouth spits your ball right back out. Thanks to the darling monster drawings, you'll have no trouble learning and remembering what each brick does.
From there it's a matter of learning to use your paddle effectively. You draw it with a swipe, and it can go anywhere, at any angle. Once you launch your ball for the first time, you have to scramble to make sure there's always a paddle where it falls. Precision follows out of necessity: when bricks need to be hit in rapid succession, or from a certain side, you'll learn to draw your lines carefully and quickly. Then it's all about triage—clear away the bricks before they cross a line near the bottom of the screen or you'll find yourself back at the start.
Drawing the paddle is great fun, but it doesn't hold up against more traditional brick-breakers every time. I've always loved the precision and speed you can get from bouncing a ball off the very edge of a paddle while moving. Here, the paddles draw in slowly enough that it's hard to hit a specific point, and moving, of course, isn't possible. It's also easier than ever to watch the ball leave your paddle in its dust. You may find yourself drawing one after another just moments too late. This can make powerups like multiball a frustrating exercise.
Mostly, though, I want more Draw Breaker than the game has to offer. Four sets of levels don't last all that long, even when you have to start them fresh each time you run out of lives. The elevator music that accompanies them doesn't add much of a feeling of variety, either. There's an endless mode in the works, and that will help soothe the brick-breaking itch a little longer.
Elevate Entertainment's twist on the classic brick-breaker is good. What makes it special, though, is the way the studio extends that creativity throughout the game. When you're playing with a well-established genre, one clever idea is good. But you know what? Two can be better, and we've got the evidence in Draw Breaker. If you have any love for smashing bricks, it's well worth a look.