Breakout (Arkanoid) is such a simple idea. Smash the bricks with your ball. Novi Cube takes that principle and removes the speed element of it and focuses on precision and tactics. Its a turn based roguelike of Breakout where blocks continue to descend from the top of the screen after each set of projectiles you aim and fire to clear them. It’s one of the most satisfying games I’ve played in 2022.
First things first though, you need to get used to the Vaseline smeared graphic style. It’s fuzzy in a slightly odd fashion but you quickly look beyond that once you are into the game. Each turn you have will let you aim from wherever the previous projectiles landed. You aim your shot to clear the blocks and the number of each block is its health. Projectiles start off knocking 1 point off per hit and they’ll bounce around until they bounce out of the playing area. Then everything shuffles forward. Arkanoid: Turn Based Tetris Edition. Novi Cube is full on roguelike though, and after your first few shots the levelling up will begin.
The beauty of Novi Cube is just how many options are available and viable. You’ll be given three to choose from at random from a huge collection. Some add more projectiles, some grow or shrink the size of the projectiles. Some increase their damage whilst others add explosive or laser variants so they cause chain reactions and satisfyingly clear an area. You can also affect the bricks themselves. Want to add more bonus blocks? Pick it when it appears. There are explosive blocks and unbreakable blocks too. Then there are changes to your character such as allowing you to move slightly before your next shot or giving you an extra life. Some wildcards give you a ridiculous power up but then change the baseline game difficulty too as its tied to a multiplier. You can choose the upgrade that gives you loads of damage per hit but now the game will double the bricks health to increase the challenge. After several hours, I was still discovering new upgrades and that was a delightful thing to behold.
Every 25 waves is a boss to battle which are largely fun to tackle. I found it were the waves between them that were the difficult bits though. A single wrong move can totally undo your run so very quickly. The player is never more than 2 steps away from defeat and it keeps the tension up whilst you play at your own pace. Once you game over, and you’ll do it often, depending on how well you’ve done you’ll earn tokens to spend to upgrade some of the base stats for each character. The different characters have slight slants on their starting stats such as larger projectiles or less damage but I found that through the upgrade system, characters could merge back together again over time, making them a little less distinctive.
These are tiny niggles though because Novi Cube is a great twist on a classic formula. Fans of Holedown will love Novi Cube and I think brick breaker players who want to try something new will lap it up too. Playing arcade games at your own pace with variants and challenges? Sign me up. One recommendation though, turn the sound effects down. Like a can of Pringles, when the blocks pop, those sound effects don’t stop!
Review copy provided by publisher.
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