Retro Game Review: Breakthru! for SNES
Playing this game long enough to the get the information to write this review was an ordeal. So we can go ahead and let that sentence set the tone for the rest of the article. This game is slow, blocky, frustrating, and largely seems to be a matter of luck. Some levels I would be stuck on until the timer ran out, and some I would fly through in less than a minute. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the difficulty.
One would be led to believe, based on the box art, that this game was designed by Pajitnov, the designer of the still popular hit Tetris. However, that is not the case. It's a misleading advertisement: in reality it's said that he “endorses” the game. His picture is literally on the box and the title screen. A pixel artist sat down, and decided to recreate that portrait, pixel by pixel, in an attempt to convince people that this terrible “puzzle” game had something in common with the great gameplay mechanics in Tetris.
The gameplay in this is so ridiculous. There's no tutorial or any of that, so I'm still not sure what some of the powerups do. I was presented with a screen full of colored squares. Clicking on squares with the B button will blow up squares of the same color that are directly touching the one you clicked on. This is simple enough. But there are powerups scattered around the screen that are a mystery to me, and presumably to anyone else that played this game. The TNT sticks seem to blow up surrounding blocks, but they don't always work. Sometimes I would click on them and they would explode. Sometimes absolutely nothing would happen. The paint bucket (at least I think it's a paint bucket) seem to do absolutely nothing. You can click on them until you get arthritis and they won't do anything. They won't even blow up, meaning that they're still counted as blocks. Since you can't win with any blocks remaining, you can have a single paint can and nothing else and STILL LOSE.
This game came out in 1994. That's the same year that Wario's Woods came out! In Wario's Woods there's not a tutorial level; there are a SERIES of tutorial levels. Are you telling me that this game couldn't have a section on the menu that taught you what these power-ups did? If your puzzle game is going to be so unintuitive that you need an instruction manual to play it; you've failed as a developer.
But say that you can somehow find out what these do. I couldn't. I Googled it and couldn't find a list of these power-ups and what they did. The game's wikipedia page doesn't mention them at all. But even overlooking that, on gameplay alone, this game STILL doesn't measure up to it's peers. If you run out of block pairs, you have to sit there and wait for the blocks to fall from the sky. There's no way to get them to drop any faster than their pre-programmed rate. You can sit there and push every button on the controller; you can chuck that controller at the wall or use your jedi mind powers, and those blocks still aren't going to fall any faster. And the levels are timed. So you, the player, wind up sitting around, waiting on blocks to fall, at a painfully slow pace, for most of the game. You can either clear the board quickly, almost instantly, or you get to play the waiting game.
This game also doesn't take advantage of ANY of the SNES's upgrades; it could easily have been played on the NES without any real loss of quality. The background may be on a second layer, but they aren't indicated as being in the background. This is extra annoying because they picked the worst possible background image for the first level, Berlin. For some reason, the Berlin wall is considered a great background for a children's puzzle game, but that's not even what bothers me. What bothers me is that there's a blockade across the bridge. This blockade made me think that it was a dividing line, and that my goal was not to get rid of all the blocks, but to get them under the dividing line. This is a common tactic in puzzle games, but it turned out to just be a part of the background. So that was annoying.
Where to Buy
All in all, I wouldn't advise this game. It was a complete waste of time. And you could literally feel the time slipping by. As you waited. And waited. And waited. For those blocks to fall. And something even more horrifying is that this was simultaneously released for the Game Boy. Gameboys, at the time, did not display color! So you don't even get colored blocks, you get these different designs that are difficult to tell apart. So basically they took a game that was already bad, and made a port with no regard to how terrible it would be, and then tried to trick people into thinking that it was designed by Pajitnov, because no one would play this game without a celebrity endorsement. And once you get it home, and you actually play it, you can just feel the anger building up within you. You would know, even as a child, that you were lied to, that you were scammed.
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