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Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Alleyway (3DS Virtual Console)

Because the 3DS can play DSiWare games, it’s possible to download and play a little game called Alpha Bounce. It’s a Breakout clone, but with a huge range of RPG-style items to unlock, a massive number of levels to play, and a cool visual style.

Thanks to the launch of the 3DS Virtual Console and Alleyway, it’s also possible to download and play a Breakout clone with a tiny range of levels, boring gameplay and very little replay value.

The Mario themed bonus levels is this game's saving grace

While Super Mario Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and even Tennis have a timeless quality that means the games are still good fun despite being primitive, Alleyway is simply too outdated. The on-screen ball moves too slowly, meaning for the most part you’re sitting around watching things happen. Hitting the last couple of bricks is a real pain – where a game like Alpha Bounce features a laser that helps remove the last few blocks, in Alleyway you have to keep bouncing the ball until it finally hits the spot.

Incidentally, that’s quite challenging, given the ball always deflects off on an angle with Alleyway. It’s impossible to line up a straight shot, and furthermore, the number of available angles to hit the ball at is quite small.

Despite that, this is not a difficult game. It’s hardly a challenge to keep the generously-sized paddle underneath the ball’s trajectory, and even at the fastest pace, you’ve got plenty of time to prepare. Being successful is merely a question of perseverance.

Of course, there’s not much to expect in terms of the visual style of Alleyway, but it is functional, with different colour blocks being worth different points. The sound, on the other hand, is truly grating. Aside from the bonus stages (which have an incredibly irritating soundtrack), the only time you’ll hear anything is when the ball hits something. Walls and blocks make different noises depending on their colour, and the game soon becomes a cacophony of horrible, cheap grating noise.

At least the box art was cool. Not that we get that with the eShop download

This is the kind of game that comes free on cheap mobile phones now. I can see a small number of people preferring this to Alpha Bounce, because it’s a simple and uncomplicated game. But those people probably don’t have 3DS consoles, let alone use the eShop. For the rest of us it’s better to stick with the more involving and interesting game.

- Matt S

Review: Alleyway (3DS Virtual Console)
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