“A passion fuelled effort to rebirth the retro era break-out genre. Next to Arkanoid, Beautiful Bricks is easily the most impressive game of this genre I’ve come across. The amount of content and play styles on offer make it a worthwhile addition to ones collection.” –  Indie Game Buzz Editor

Paddle jumping, 4 player co-op, physics-based ball behaviour and intense boss battles are just a few of the innovative features in Beautiful Bricks. I designed Beautiful Bricks to be the ultimate brick breaker. I say ‘ultimate’ because I doubt if anyone else would put this much effort into a brick breaker. Brick breaker games, despite a few titles, are often an unloved genre developed as a programmer’s learning tool rather than a game to be enjoyed by others. Beautiful Bricks has been my attempt to address this and ‘re-invent’ the genre.

A full list of Beautiful Bricks features includes:

  • 1 – 4 simultaneous players
  • 230 levels and 15 challenging boss battles
  • 40+ power-ups
  • unique physic-based ball movement and ability to have the paddle jump
  • play with keyboard, mouse or gamepad
  • co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes
  • special game modes: Endless, Boss Rush, Invader and Marathon
  • 8-bit style graphics and sound
  • tracker .MOD “chiptune” style music
  • locally saveable high scores and achievements
  • unlockable secrets and hidden content

Beautiful Bricks is a ‘retro-like’; it takes inspiration from the past and uses that as a basis to create something new, exciting and innovative. The things I have taken from the classic arcade and home 8 and 16 bit gaming include: true arcade challenge, the use of a credit based system, three letter high-scores, the little pop up messages unique to an amiga game and, of course, the chunky pixel graphics and chiptune soundtrack. Modern advances are obvious in the ball behaviour, paddle movement, the ‘sector based’ level sequencing, some of the unique power-ups, the multi-player aspect and the vast options and game modes to support the gameplay.

Now that you know the point of my game, you should be able to decide if it is right for you or not. Recently I released it on Steam and Itch.io so please check it out. Steam page.

But if you are interested in some of the nuances of the game and its design. I’ll focus on three things: the ball physics and paddle movement, how multiplayer change the experience and the slight ‘rougelike’ quality of the main game.

I thought it would be neat if this game had a ball that had gravity so that you could really aim and take control of it. I had purchased a pinball machine about the same time as I started developing the game and so Inspiration for the unique ball physics came from real life pinball. Early testing of this idea felt great but the ball movement is a paradox. It’s meant to appear more natural by having ‘gravity’ yet, if the ball rested on top of bricks, it could easily get stuck. That meant there had to be a lot of tweaking to make it feel ‘right’.  It’s not like life, but it’s okay; this is an arcade game! The ball movement changes the gameplay. The pace of the game quickens. Lobbing that perfect shot is easier and feels more rewarding. There is a more fluid flow between the paddle and the ball and this, of course, makes the game truly unique among other games in its genre.

The idea of having more paddle control came because of my frustration with of the lack of ball control in most Brick Breaker games. Beautiful Bricks allows players to control the angle of the ball as well as how far the ball goes. The options of soft hit, normal hit or hard hit allows the player to have full control of the ball. An experienced player can get the ball anywhere on the playfield in a single hit. The paddle also has two advanced moves: dash and jump. The dash mechanic can be used to quickly dodge a hazard or to quickly hit a ball. The paddle jump is used to avoid falling bricks or to reach for balls or power-ups. The jumping addition immediately makes a point of difference and is a loved feature of the game.

Beautiful Bricks can be an exciting couch co-op party game or a single player strategic challenge. Those who are game developers or interested in game design will know that scaling the difficulty between one to four of players can be challenging. Beautiful Bricks plays quite differently depending on its player intake. A single player game is about skill and strategy, knowing which power-up to collect, which brick to target and knowing how to survive the various hazards in the game. Two players (my personal favourite) is the prefect bonding session with a friend; you really must work together to win. Three or four player games are a casual party game affair. In these games, the pace of the game can get really dynamic, one moment the screen fills with balls and a series of levels are cleared in minutes. Next moment the ball count dries up and all players fight over a single ball. This dynamic makes playing quite addictive and can lead to hilariously crazy moments.

Interestingly it is in the single player or two player games that a metagame emerges. Shuffling levels, vast amount of power ups, chances for random encounters from warps and other unpredictable factors make the game feel almost roguelike and often surprising. It was my intention to make the game feel different every time you play, so you experience something new and take way a different ‘story’ each time. This random quality is subtle. At first. you don’t realise that the power-up that you missed was extremely rare or that the level you are now on might not appear again for another 20 or so playthroughs. But an observant player will start to notice that this seemly simple brick breaker is much more than meets the eye. The game requires you to be observant and curious in order to succeed. Beautiful Bricks is really a mix of skill, luck and assumption. To me, that’s the lure and It makes the game truly addictive.

Beautiful Bricks has been a true labour of love and was written for that gamer who enjoys simple gameplay with a challenge or that group of friends who want to play something together and have a few laughs. I hope that my game can buck the trend and inspire a new generation of brick breakers.