Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure Review – A Short, Yet Sacred Sensation
PS4, PS Vita
The Brick-Breaker genre is intrinsically linked with the origins of video games. Pong had released four years earlier, and served as an enormous inspiration for a fledgling project known as Breakout. With the eventual launch of Breakout, a classic genre was born. Personal computers were not yet prevalent, really only appearing in businesses and universities, so those who wished to play Breakout would do so in the arcade, which, to no surprise at all, generated the arcade scene a lot of money/interest. Despite numerous takes on the Breakout formula emerging in the subsequent years (including Super Breakout), it wasn’t until Arkanoid released in 1986 that the genre saw some added growth. The implementation of power-ups and added visual depth was what the genre needed for it to take the next leap. From the release of Arkanoid onward however, the Brick-Breaker genre has always been looked upon favourably despite it not receiving a lot of love – until 2020. Lillymo games has partnered up with IGN and Kinda Funny-alum, and Colin’s Last Stand founder, Colin Moriarty to attempt to reawaken the long-dormant genre… but did they succeed?
The love that all parties have for Arkanoid is apparent, but there’s something that this partnership brings to the genre that’s not been properly seen over the decades, a narrative. The games two protagonists, conveniently enough the CLS Sacred Symbols hosts, Colin and Chris “Ray Gun” Maldenado are living in a 2300’s United States who has opted out of war, while the world around them is engulfed in it, and chased goals in the stars. When many “Generation Ships”, which have been distributed to all corners of space, begin to go missing, however, NASA takes action, and Colin and Chris are on the front line. The pair, on behalf of NASA, enter a nearby wormhole, thought by some to be a key part of the mystery of the missing Generation ships. What this kicks off however is a 40 level Breakout/Arkanoid inspired space romp that boasts as many narrative layers as it does gameplay ones. The writing of Moriarty is on show here with an intriguing tale filled with interesting twins and turns before coming to a satisfying, although expected conclusion.
Maybe a plot isn’t what some are looking for in their brick-breaker, and it’s all about the action, and in that case, Twin Breaker has you covered. Merging the traditional Arkanoid systems with twin-stick controls and two (sometimes four) simultaneously controlled vessels is a challenge worthy of the genre, and getting your thumbs in sync to deflect the bouncer in the requisite direction can become a challenge towards the end of the game as these systems, along with the increased difficulty of the levels combine to create pulsating scenarios. Though a very simple inclusion, the introduction of “Greetings” and “Salutations” along with their duplicates really change the way you play games of the genre. It could be argued however that for as quickly as these fantastic new elements are thrown at you, your time ends with them equally as fast. Twin Breaker isn’t a long game, likely taking you 2-3 hours to complete the game’s initial 40 level campaign. There is, of course, more to enjoy with New Game + as well as various other modes, but the core experience ends a little too quickly, and you could again argue that there was more that could have been done with these systems to throw the player into an even further spin.
There are a handful of handy power-ups that can be obtained as you play, though there never seemed to be a particular rhyme nor reason behind which would emerge, nor what you had done to prompt their arrival. The game isn’t excessively generous with them either, nor are they too overpowered, but will gift you extra points (which can be used to buy an extra life if necessary), targets to hit which if struck blow up several adjacent bricks, and even barriers for your vulnerable areas or a heavy-duty bouncer which smashes through bricks, no matter their density.
As far as the audio/visual department is concerned, there’s nothing extraordinary to write home about here, though the homage to the past is immediately apparent; the same applies to the visuals. In both respects, however, the simplicity is appreciated and doesn’t distract you from the task at hand, because getting caught up in the scenery when you’re amidst a heated rally can be lethal to your chances of success. One portion that does stand-out as being particularly weak is in the cutscenes. Colin’s, and especially Chris’s on-screen representations look a little undercooked when compared to everything else you seem on screen.
With Twin Breaker, the team at Lillymo, along with Moriarty and Maldenado, have constructed a wonderful take on a time-honoured genre that has been woefully underserved in recent years. Combining a fun, simple, yet engaging plot, with superb systems powering it under the bonnet, makes the game an instantly appealing option for anyone who has that itch for a simpler time, where gameplay was always king.