it had been a long time since i’d played a breakout style game, so i recently played through kirby’s block ball for the original game boy. (in terms of the timeline, the game was released in mid-1996, after kirby’s dream land 2 and before kirby super star on SNES.) i’d played alleyway, also for game boy, quite a few years ago, and at that time i’d mentioned that according to wikipedia: “Years later, the game’s designer Gunpei Yokoi would reuse much of Alleyway’s source code (such as paddle behavior and adapted physics engine) for the Game Boy game Kirby’s Block Ball while working with Shigeru Miyamoto’s team.” the game has a completely different feel, though, and the games don’t share much in common beyond them both being successors to ye olde breakout.
kirby’s block ball adds several key mechanics included, no doubt, to try to distinguish itself from other breakout successors such as arkanoid. like arkanoid, block ball adds powers, although not to the paddle itself but to the ball, activated by pressing the B button. the powers are inspired by the kirby games and are required for destroying certain blocks, although there are only four and they don’t feel particularly necessary. one of the bigger differences is that in some stages instead of controlling one paddle that moves across the bottom of the screen as in the other games you control as many as four paddles, one on each side of the screen. another big difference is that some bricks can only be broken when kirby does a “power bounce”, achieved by pressing the A button right as kirby hits the paddle. the power bounce also grants kirby extra speed, and invulnerability if he hits the spikes that border the stage. having to control more than one paddle and constantly press the A button to do the power bounce makes the game’s controls much fussier than other breakout-type games. others may enjoy the extra engagement, but i found the power bounces to be repetitive and tedious.
the game features ten stages each comprised of three normal stages, a sub-boss battle, and a boss battle. boss battles are exactly what you’d expect without much in the way of surprises, and each level has a high score target (called a “borderline”). in order to see the final stage and the actual ending you have to achieve the high score on every level, a feat that i quickly gave up on. the main reason for that is in order to get the high score you pretty much have to execute the bonus rounds in the levels perfectly. these are triggered by hitting a certain item and then clearing the rest of the level within a short amount of time, which proved to be overly difficult. of course a more-motivated player would actually try to improve her/his control over the ball, but even after playing through all the levels i didn’t feel particularly adept at making the ball go where i wanted it to. the game also features four mini-game type bonus levels that were more enjoyable, but don’t appear very frequently. so all in all, despite the always-cute kirby trappings, this wasn’t a particularly fun or memorable take on breakout. hopefully some of the other kirby spin-offs will impress me more.
bounce around these kirby’s block ball links:
- review of 3DS VC release at nintendolife.com
- page for the 3DS VC release at nintendo.com
- entry at kirbysrainbowresort.net, which includes scans of the instruction manual
- entry at kirby.wikia.com
- screenshots of the ending, at vgmuseum.com