The simple control scheme for Breakout lends itself well to smartphones so it’s no surprise that clones of the game have popped up across iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7. IonBall for the Windows Phone 7 was originally released late last year and stood out from the pack though. IronSun Studios is back again with an Xbox LIVE enabled version of the game,IonBall EX, that is an honestly cool take on the genre.
The basics of the Breakout controls remain the same. Players slide a paddle back and forth across the screen to knock the bouncing ball back at bricks to break them up; miss a ball and lose a life. The difference with IonBall EX is the Steampunk graphic style, an experience based leveling system, unique power-ups and bosses.
There are a number of changes from IonBall EX over the original game that was released late in 2010. For starters, it is an Xbox LIVE enabled game which means Achievements and a leaderboard. Unfortunately, the leaderboard is only for friends so that’s not much use unless your friends have bought the title. Other differences include all new levels with the exception of the boss battles and new obstacles that will affect how the ball travels such as a Teleporter, Blades, Spinner, and Blower.
Another significant change is that the checkpoint system has been changed to save all the upgrades you’ve unlocked even after you’ve used up all your lives. While you’ll pick up at the same level you died on, you’ll suffer a huge subtraction in the points you’ve earned so the incentive is definitely there to do your best to stay alive.
IonBall EX has three different control styles – Slide, Touch and Tilt. The tilt controls let you move your paddle across the screen by, obviously, titling the screen side-to-side. The more you tilt, the faster the paddle moves. However, it’s the least responsive of the controls and moving the screen affected my ability to accurately judge hitting the ball. The touch control method lets you tap where you want the paddle to go on screen but, while it felt better than the tilt method, it didn’t feel all the responsive either. That leaves the slide method where you move your finger back and forth across the screen. The downside of the slide method is that the paddle is so close to the bottom of the screen that my finger constantly covered it up making it slightly more difficult than needed. That’s just the nature of IonBall EX being developed for holding the screen horizontally instead of vertically but the slide method felt the most responsive and accurate by far.
IonBall EX provides a good compulsive, slightly addictive experience with its leveling system that lets players purchase upgrades that range from extending the size your platform, to blowing up multiple bricks when one is destroyed. Those that already own the original IonBall may not feel particularly compelled to pay $2.99 for IonBall EX but it is more than worth the look for those seeking an enjoyable modern update to the Breakout genre.
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