You Should Play: Brickies puts a fresh spin on the brick-breaker

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

Brick-breaking games are my ultimate time-killing obsession. I still gleefully recall the many hours poured into Nintendo's Alleyway on Game Boy as a child, not to mention the lengthy sessions logged on some half-baked knockoff on my TI-83 graphing calculator during high school classes. I've paddled countless balls at digital bricks in loads of different games on numerous platforms.

However, as a result, the typical genre approach used by countless App Store renditions just doesn't hold much appeal anymore--it takes something truly unique and inspired to grab my interest and reignite my occasionally dormant love for the genre. Brickies is the first game I've played in a good few years to do exactly that.

At a glance, Brickies is no different from arcade classic Arkanoid and the many, many knockoffs that followed: You bat the ball to clear bricks and occasionally grab power-ups to help speed things along. But Noodlecake's game makes one very significant tweak above all: Each stage is timed, and you have to eliminate every brick before the clock ticks down. Rather than challenge you by only offering a couple of lives to work with, Brickies shifts gears and shakes up the tired design. 

Add in several other tweaks and alterations, and Brickies is the freshest-feeling brick-breaker I've played in years. And it has a reasonable free-to-play model, so you can dig in with no expense and minimal hassle. Still not convinced Here are three reasons why Brickies is the shot in the arm this storied genre needed.

Watch the clock: Trading the traditional lives model for a limited clock shakes up the usual way we play brick-breakers. Now, if you don't move your top or bottom paddle over in time to hit the ball back into the play field, you won't lose a life. Instead, the ball deactivates and continues bouncing around--but it won't smash any bricks or snag power-up icons in the meantime. It comes back to life when you hit it next, or after several bounces off of bricks, but the moments in between are spent agonizing over all the time you've just wasted.

Having each stage timed also means that you can't grind out a level, slowly taking out a brick or two after each hit: You must grab the power-ups and use them wisely. Whether it's triggering several additional balls, turning the ball into a bomb that takes out surrounding bricks with each hit, or equipping the ball with an automated laser gun, you'll need those beneficial boosts to get through the trickier stages within. And if you can chain two power-ups together at once, that's even better.

Plenty to enjoy: Brickies packs in a lot of content--I should know, I've been playing pretty obsessively over the past few weeks. The meat of the game comes with the 80 core stages, which play by the rules noted above and span a wide array of brick types--like big bricks that explode into many smaller ones--and stage layouts. You'll also find 20 puzzle stages that lose the power-ups and force you to be ultra-precise with your paddle to clear the tricky arrangements. 

And once those are clear, the game isn't over: An endless mode is also here, which adds a small bit of time to your clock with each cleared brick. As you take out the top and bottom areas, new ones appear, keeping the game going for as long as you can keep the destruction active. It's here that missing the ball really hurts, even for just a few seconds at a time, but the ability to play again and again to try and push further and further is really appealing. 

It's really free: Surprisingly, Brickies doesn't have any in-app purchases at all, nor does it have any restrictions on your play. It's a purely free game, but that means you'll see a short advertisement appear every so often. They're not hugely intrusive, and they can be skipped after a few seconds. And if you're having a really hard time with a stage, you can optionally watch a longer ad and get more time for the next attempt. That's a clever and reasonable trade-off for your time rather than money.

One note, however: Brickies launched with a bug that could eat up big chunks of cellular data even when you weren't watching an ad. It should be fixed by the time you read this (the publisher says the update is awaiting approval, as of this writing), but if you're concerned, you can disable cellular data for the game or simply play in airplane mode. The bug burned me bad, wasting more than 1GB of cellular data in very little time--but I love Brickies too much to hold a grudge. 

Developer:Noodlecake StudiosPlatform: iOS (Universal)Price: Free


Andrew Hayward

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