Title: Breakout: Recharged
Release Date: February 10, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Atari’s Breakout is as primordial as gaming can get; the 1976 arcade game evolved from the basic concept introduced in Pong. If the latter was based on tennis, then the former was likely based on squash, except it involved breaking down a wall for progress and points.
The game itself has been cloned numerous times, but whether it’s the original game or a clone, it is undoubtedly something you have played, even if by accident. And yet, after several decades, the Atari classic returns as a new and improved Recharged release.
What started with Missile Command now ends with Breakout, and the Recharged series, for the most part, has succeeded in giving these ancient gaming relics a modern twist. Like the previous releases, Breakout Recharged features a modern presentation with neon wireframe graphics, techno music, and plenty of new power-ups and challenges to add variety to the gameplay.
Still, trying to add gameplay variety to something as basic as Breakout was never going to be easy, but for the most part, the new bells and whistles change things up enough, even when they’re not sufficient to make the basic experience feel different from what it was in 1976.
So in this game, you take control of a paddle and move it left and right to hit a ball, and… that’s pretty much all there is to it. Now to be fair, it is a little more nuanced as the ball itself has physics, and sometimes it comes to the precise angle and momentum with which you connect with the ball. The idea is to direct the ball to break various bricks.
It’s about anticipating the direction of the shot as it will come back to you from varying angles and at unpredictable speeds. It’s a core gameplay system that is so inherently basic, yet high score chasers will tell you there is a real science behind it. Just ask any of the world record holders of the original arcade game from the ’70s.
Compared to the original, the physics in the Recharged version aren’t nearly as nimble. However, the pace of the action is usually quite steady, and the addition of power-ups can make things interesting. It’s not just about power-ups, though, as some of these bricks even fire projectiles back at you.
There are variations of the arcade game here, as players can even choose to play the original untainted variation without all the fancy power-ups and gimmicks. There’s a challenge mode too, but unlike the other Recharged releases we’ve seen in the last couple of years, this game struggles to come up with interesting challenges given the inherent limitations of the core gameplay design. It’s also kind of challenging to best your times when you really can’t control when the ball returns to you.
Looking back on the Recharged lineup of games, the Black Widow release was probably the best one out of them all, and so this revamped Breakout isn’t a classic you need to go out of your way to experience. Atari purists will probably want to add this one to their collection anyway; some may even want to play on the overpriced VCS console, which launched in 2021.
That being said, while the core fundamentals of some of these classic games remain sound, not every arcade hit from yesteryear will feel compelling in this era. However, this title feels like it lacks the modes and staying power to be interesting in a modern setting. It’s been seen repeatedly, and Atari does little to make it stand out in the sea of other titles like it. It should be respected as the original, but sadly, others have done it better.
Breakout Recharged might be the least interesting of all the games Atari has chosen to revamp. This is as basic as a video game can possibly get, as even the new bells and whistles added in this modern remake don’t do a whole lot to make the core gameplay feel any more interesting than what it was back in 1976. Unless you’re a retro enthusiast, you’re better off accidentally stumbling upon one of many Breakout clones out there for free.
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