Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker
3DS Download | Neko Entertainment / Bigben Interactive | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $4.99
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8th March 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
As a means of setting itself up as a self-directed formula, Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker makes clear decisions with regards to its mechanics and overall organization, doing so in a number of ways. The underlying blessing translated through its vision is that its mechanics are kid-friendly and are presented with personality that goes beyond simply destroying inanimate objects with an ordinary paddle. Cocoto, as the defender of the galaxy, must defeat the Xillians, an alien force bent on invading planets solely for destructive purposes. How they go about doing so is easy to guess in relation to the game's model: they launch balls that you must prevent from hitting the ground. Less predictable, though, is how you take control of the field.
Without question, the idea to transform the paddle into a moving, shield-equipped character (who, by the way, can also jump) is one of note, in the way that it applies a more social touch to attract younger players and have them zone into what's taking place over the bright and eventful scenes. Related to this point, 3D works well here as a balanced visual boost, while the overall landscape features a healthy amount of special effects and quirks, though not plentiful in usage. The cheeky music also plays a positive role in making the universe enticing to observe, so really in all these ways the game does perform well and allows players to be more engaged than detached.
Each level is presented as a planet, divided into eight sections displayed on the Touch Screen as pie pieces. These constitute where enemies will appear next, while also serving as a damage indicator in cases where hits have been sustained. Openings in the floor are created after balls repeatedly hit the same piece of land, and if the core is exposed to too many of these, the next attack you fail to redirect will mean the collapse of the planet. There is a time limit attached to getting to and from each of these sections that's only visible once waves have been cleared, but the process is never demanding, nor do phases occur across multiple sections at the same time. The process goes as follows: Deal with one section, then move on to the next and the one after, until all the Crystals have been recovered.
Left behind after cleared waves, Crystals eventually create a protective barrier to deflect further infiltration, thus signifying the completion of a level. However, there are some catches. The first is that en route to some sections, you may have to confront a surprise army with an attack force that doesn't differ from how things normally transpire. The second is that some enemies will drop chests in one part of the level that can be unlocked only after retrieving a key in another area, and it's often the case that you'll be given the opportunity to return to these just before retrieving the only remaining Crystal. It's important to not overlook this handy provision, even while it may be tedious to seek out.
In terms of other aspects of the mechanics, it should be noted that balls don't stay in play eternally until they hit the ground. Unless you have a certain power-up in play, you can ordinarily only get two bounces out of them before they disappear. Before an attack is executed, you're given warnings as to which enemy will attack next, and if it so happens that a ball will launch from the opposite end of the playing field, a reasonable window of time is given to get over there. So it's your own fault for missing it should you linger in lieu of keeping an existing ball in play. Conversely, the ball will fall faster when the attacking enemy is directly above or near you. Other than the movement of individual units, the only pattern variation is a flaming ball is launched, producing a second just as the first collides with your shield.
I must say the game does a good job of easing players of all ages into its gameplay. In the early part of the experience, a guideline is displayed to give you a reliable idea of a ball's trajectory as it meets with Cocoto's shield. But it's not long before it figures you need this display no longer, instead becoming a power-up in some levels. Keeping pace with the kid-friendly setup, your fairy friend will provide some assistance when the game realizes you're having trouble eliminating one last group of perpetrators.
Continuing on the subject of helpful tools, a nice array of shield and ball boosts are made available as new planets are explored. Many are variations on standard tactics, but there are some unique ones, some tucked inside locked chests. So even in this area, Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker is not overly formulaic, instead going to ends -- as small as they seem -- that are equal parts direct influence and originality.
Returning once more to the game's core ideas, the concern of repetition is a valid one. It's often the case that either there's a commitment to treating this through circumvention, or there's an outright acceptance where it's said, in effect, "We realize it's an inherent flaw, but we won't do anything to try and fix it." That attitude can be given a pass in certain situations since there's an expectation that comes with this particular style. But in other cases, the repetition becomes so excruciating that it more than deters from the gameplay. Here, though, it's refreshing to see that while the game's performance in this department may cause some to shrink back over the long-term, the repetition doesn't cause the experience to topple and will likely be easier to stomach than in games past. This says much about the enhancements for not causing the repetition to overshadow the good. I should also point out that there are bonus levels and boss battles to vary gameplay, but they quickly become unappealing.
Demonstrating just how effective the game's personalized changes have proven to be, a lot will be missed should you decide to explore Classic Mode, starting from the jump ability and moving into the comparatively more dull pace. Focusing your efforts into the game's Story Mode will bring you to about three or four hours of playtime, with more to be entertained by aiming for high-scores and medals, although I don't see this as an entertaining prospect.
Willing to do its own thing and come out as a successful endeavour to match its target appeal, Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker is not to be underestimated in its field. It's a great entry-level title for kids that's never unreasonable, while still not proving pitifully easy. What is more, the fun factor isn't lastingly disrupted by common pitfalls, and that's definitely something to be praised. Cases of repetition aside, Cocoto Alien Brick Breaker is less of a templated affair than you may first assume, and its flavourful portions have resulted in a properly-strengthened focus that younger audiences will have an enjoyable time exploring.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Varied selection of ball and shield power-ups, interesting pace and organization, control method helps guard against common pitfalls
Presentation 8/10 - Engaging aesthetics and atmosphere, inviting visual touches, cheeky music, transformation sequences and other special effects
Enjoyment 3/5 - Functions admirably as an entry-level title for kids, repetition may cause some to recoil, chests and side-diversions create tedium
Extra Content 4/5 - Classic Mode removes certain abilities and contrasts Story and Arcade Mode in being less fun, healthy bunch of levels, great value
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System