Breakout-style games can be tough to create. On one hand, their relative simplicity and timelessness offer gameplay that can be considered universally accessible. On the other hand, this simplicity challenges developers to incorporate new gameplay elements to avoid being classified as stale or boring. This is the exact problem with Transformoid [$0.99], the latest in a long line of Breakout clones. While the steampunk-inspired game does offer a different take on some standard elements, in the end there’s simply not enough to overcome what is otherwise a somewhat boring take on the genre.
As far as core gameplay is concerned, Transformoid stays very close to its roots. The game places you and your paddle at the bottom of the screen versus the blocks up top; there are no barriers or enemies looking to destroy your paddle or any other twists in the formula. In this regard, Transformoid doesn’t offer anything unique or innovated, although it does offer plenty of levels to play in, along with elements that seek to separate itself from the competition, particularly when it comes to physics manipulation.
Even though it’s a typical Breakout clone in most respects, Transformoid does incorporate a few interesting ideas in an attempt to differentiate itself. For example, one of the power-ups you can collect transforms your paddle into various shapes, each changing the way your paddle interacts with the ball. Some shapes make it easier to aim where you want the ball to go, while others make it a bit more erratic. Regardless, I thought it was a good idea and actually brought some variety to the game, assuming the physics were working as desired. I also liked the Steampunk motif that Transformoid uses, although I will admit that it’s becoming increasingly prevalent in more games. Still, the visuals are done well, and little touches like the backdrop subtly moving as you tilt your device back and forth add to the experience.
Another differentiator for Transformoid is the concept of wind, which can come in all different directions and can subtly change the direction of the ball. Unfortunately, wind is one of those gameplay elements that sounds good in theory but ends up being mostly annoying in practice. This is especially true when you’re at the end of a level and the wind is making it difficult to get your ball to travel anywhere, much less to that one spot in the corner with the last brick. Even worse, wind contributes to the fact that Transformoid is simply a very slow game – the ball moves slow, the paddles move at a set speed (on the slow side), and even power-ups that speed it up don’t do much. It’s not slow enough to be unplayable, but enough to be annoying.
Transformoid is also filled with lots of strange miscues that give the game a very rough appearance. There are a few typos across the menus that really stand out, for instance. In addition, there’s no scoring system to speak of or even Game Center support, meaning that there’s no external influence or motivation affecting replayability. Even little things like always resetting the map selection to the very beginning every time you play the game and not letting you cycle from the first level to the last quickly give the game an overall amateurish impression. Of course, none of these issues are game breaking, but they are significant detractors to the overall experience and do little to convince casual players to check it out.
You’d have to be a diehard fan of Breakout-styled games in order to check out Transformoid. The lack of any sort of progression system or leaderboard support means that you’re simply playing the game for the love of the genre. If you happen to fit this description, then Transformoid, with its somewhat interesting visuals and power-up ideas may be worth checking out at its current price. However, for anyone else, the inherent slow pace of the gameplay and uneven overall presentation mean that you should probably look elsewhere.