Atari 5200 Review: SUPER BREAKOUT

by Atari

Super Breakout Pic 1
For most of the 5200's life, Super Breakout was the game cartridge included with the purchase of the system. I always thought this was a somewhat curious choice since it hardly represented the type of capabilities that the SuperSystem possessed. A game that used the higher resolution of the 5200 to better advantage might have prevented Atari's next-generation machine from stumbling out of the blocks. Oh well; now on to the game itself...

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Super Breakout is the sequel to the legendary coin-op and 2600 ball-and-paddle contest, and is an enhancement over its 2600 counterpart. It consists of four game variations, including the original. In regular Breakout, the screen consists of eight rows of 14 bricks each. Your objective is to clear the screen of all the bricks by blasting them with a ball. Although aiming your shot is paramount in succeeding in this game, it's equally as important just to stay alive and keep the ball from getting by you (in which case you lose a life.) In Progressive Breakout the playfield consists of four rows of bricks at the top of the screen, followed by four blank rows, and then four more rows of bricks. The point value is defined by color -- you get 1 point for gold, 3 points for red, 5 for blue and 7 for for the green bricks. Once game play begins, the brick walls slowly move down or "scroll" toward the bottom of the screen. As bricks are knocked out and the walls progress toward your paddle, new bricks enter the screen from the top at a progressively faster rate (hence the name of this game mode.) As the walls progress downward, their colors change and they are worth fewer points. In Double Breakout, the screen is set-up the same as the original Breakout except there are two paddles and two balls served each time. When both balls are in play, each brick is worth twice its normal value, but it's tough to keep both balls in play. However, the second paddle gives you a second chance with either one or two balls, and most players will be able to achieve a higher rating than in regular Breakout. On Cavity Breakout, the playfield contains two six-brick cavities, each of which contains a ball. When the game begins, the balls bounce inside each cavity but are held captive. There are two paddles as in Double Breakout. The game is played normally until enough bricks are broken to release a captive ball, and then, as in Double Breakout, bricks are worth twice their point value while both balls are in play.

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The first question you'll probably ask is how the game controls on the 5200 with its analog joystick instead of the usual potentiometer-based paddle controller from the arcade and the 2600. Well, it takes some getting used to. It's very difficult to quickly snap your paddle (the cursor on the bottom of the screen) to its desired location since control is loose and you also have to manually center the joystick to prevent it from veering off in one direction. You'll also get a major inferiority complex by playing 5200 Super Breakout. It's not that the game is any more difficult than other versions, because it's not. But the scoring system is bound to frustrate even the most seasoned player. Scores under 100 get you an "Oops" rating, while scores between 200 and 300 is considered "Average" and 200-300 are "Good", and so on. It took me more than 20 plays to get a "Good" rating, and that was only because of what I feel was divine intervention of some sort. I found it curious that Atari did not include the children's version found on the 2600 cartridge (no ball speedup and paddle does not go to half size after the ball hits the top of the screen.)

The bottom line is that the 5200 edition of the classic ball-breaking contenst doesn't quite measure up to versions found in the arcade and 2600. There's really no substitute for the paddle control, and even non-purists will find it too much of a frustrating experience to give the game more than a few plays.

Title Super Breakout
Publisher Atari
System Atari 5200 SuperSystem
Graphics 3
Sound 2
Gameplay 4
Overall 4
Reviewer Keita Iida

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