I've always been a sucker for brick, bat 'n' ball Breakout style games, from the earliest versions on the Atari 2600 through to later updates like the Arkanoid series. Wall Warrior is one such game for iPhone which involves you having to use a bat and a ball to break down all the bricks in a wall before you can move onto the next level. Power-ups can be collected to help (or sometimes hinder) your quest, whilst some levels also feature enemies which will kill if they touch you.
Unfortunately, for Wall Warrior, there are loads of similar games on the iOS platform, so a game needs something special to stand out from the crowd. Wall Warrior has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to try and distinguish it from the competition.
First of all, there is the position of your bat. With most Breakout games, it simply moves from left to right on a horizontal line across the bottom of the screen. Although the first few levels follow this pattern, things start to differ later on. Some levels feature a dotted line and this indicates the path your bat will take as you move it from left to right. Sometimes this might be a relatively straight line with a bump in it; sometimes it's a line that slopes diagonally downwards; other times it might be almost semi-circular. Whatever the shape, it will affect the way you play the game. On levels with a steep curve, for example, you need to allow yourself more time to get from one side of the screen to the other. However, you can also use it to your advantage, to alter the angle of the ball - something which could often be difficult in more traditional Arkanoid games.
The second tweak is even more interesting. Normally, if the ball slips past your bat, you lose a life. In Wall Warrior that's not necessarily the case. Some levels feature a line of bricks below your bat. These act as a kind of safety net - if the ball hits them, it will destroy the brick but ricochet the ball safely back up into the main screen. Of course, if you rely on it too much, this wall will slowly disappear, but it does remove one of the frustrations often associated with this type of game.
Level design always plays a crucial role in this sort of game and Wall Warrior shows a lot of imagination. As you might expect, things start off fairly straightforward with some nice easy levels, whilst later levels are trickier, introducing additional hazards like blocks that take multiple hits to destroy, or which can't be destroyed at all.
Some levels really mess with your head and really challenge your hand-eye co-ordination. In a couple, for example, there are two bats - one at the top and one at the bottom so you have to co-ordinate these to protect two vulnerable areas instead of the usual one. Other times, bats might be on the side of the screen which completely alters your perspective on the game and the way you play it. Initially, this is challenging, but it actually provides some crucial variety in a genre which can sometimes be slightly repetitive.
The game's in-game physics - so crucial to a game like this - are excellent. The ball behaves in exactly the way you would expect it to and the angles at which it bounces off things are all realistic and predictable. This means that you can try and work out the exact angle you need to create to reach any remaining bricks (although, of course, actually getting this right is a different matter!), and if you get caught out and lose a life, it's usually because you mis-judged the angle of the bounce or didn't react fast enough. Of course, there's always frustration when you have a single isolated brick left and have to spend ages trying to make precisely the right angle to hit it, Wall Warrior is no different from any other Breakout clone in this regard.
Some of the levels do bring frustration, as they can be incredibly difficult to complete. Sometimes this is due to the restrictions of the iPhone's small screen, which can see the ball flying past you before you've really had time to register the danger. Other times, it's down to very difficult level design (particularly on later stages) where the odds are stacked against you. I've almost completed the game but my progress is being blocked by one level that I just can't beat - and until I've beaten that I can't move on since you have to finish one level to unlock the next.
I also found the star rating system a little frustrating. At the end of each level, you receive a ranking of 1-3 stars, depending on how many coins you collected on that level. As far as I can see, the only way to receive 3 stars is to collect absolutely everything and have the perfect round. There were plenty of times when I collected all but one of the coins and still only got 2 stars. This is particularly frustrating when you factor in that on some levels, you can't even reach the areas where the coins are falling, so you don't stand a chance of collecting them all.
Controls are well implemented and straightforward. Essentially, you just have to swipe your finger left or right to move in that direction and tap the screen to launch the ball. They are simple, intuitive and very responsive. With a bit of practice, you will find that you can move your bat across screen very quickly and the responsive controls mean that you can often nip across in the nick of time to rescue a ball just before it disappears. The only real difficulty I had with the controls occurred when I picked up the laser power-up. This equips your bat with a gun which is fired by tapping the screen. I did find that tapping the screen whilst sliding your other hand to move the bat was a little tricky (a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time!)
As you might expect, graphics are relatively simplistic (there's only so much you can do with a bat, a ball and some bricks), but they are nice and colourful and look good on the iPhone's screen. Sound is excellent with a surprising variety of tunes accompanying different levels. This helps to give a real feeling of progression, with each level rewarding you with a new tune.
Apparently, this is the developer's first attempt at an iPhone game and it has to be said, it's an impressive debut effort. Sure, there's nothing particularly original about the concept and, one or two gameplay innovations aside, it's a pretty straightforward Arkanoid clone. Still, it's a lot of fun to play (if occasionally frustrating) and really captures the spirit of the original Arkanoid arcade game.
© Copyright SWSt 2012