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rcguy 07-16-2010 11:29 PM

Brick Breaker Bric a Brac (or Some of Us Play This Way Too Much)
 
Hi, thought I would record my thoughts and observations on this sneakily addictive pass time. I freely acknowledge I spend way too much time on this game, and will continue to do so. I have a goal of eventually getting listed near the top of the scores list, even if it is just temporary. My best effort to date was 4.85 million points when my BlackBerry was stolen. That required me to start over. I have since had 2 games near 2 million that just disappeared on me (this is with the BB 8830 model, the game does play a bit differently on it from my previous BB). Anyway, the quest continues.

So a bit of an overview--most of you will already know this but for the few newbies who may stumble onto this--some basic information.

The game consists of a ball and a paddle. You move the paddle to control the bounce of the ball and direct it into bricks, breaking them. Depending on the brick, this requires 1 to 4 hits with the ball. Basic scoring is 10 points per hit on the bricks. This is for “clay” (brown) bricks--there are also “metal” (silver) bricks that are unaffected by the ball and give you no points for hitting them. The object is to complete a round of 34 levels, each level having a different configuration of bricks for you to clear. You advance to the next level when all the clay bricks are gone.

The paddle is controlled by the side wheel or the trac ball (depending on your BB model). The control will move the paddle between the walls. The paddle normally stops when it hits the wall, and moving the control in the same direction provides no additional paddle action (however, see Wrap bonus below). Depending on the part of the paddle the ball hits, the ball bounces off at a different angle. The closer to the end of the paddle the ball hits, the sharper the angle of the bounce. Changing the bounce angle is very useful in certain levels of the game.

There are also bonuses. Some levels have designated bricks that, when hit, release a bonus bubble. If the bubble is intercepted with the paddle, you get 50 bonus points, plus a change in game play (either an additional ability or some other effect). Some levels have many bonuses, others may allow you to get only one or two. Despite the number of bonuses a level may have, at any given time there can be only 3 bonus bubbles on the screen. You therefore want to avoid hitting bonus bricks when there are 3 bubbles in play, to avoid losing the opportunity for those bubbles and the attendant bonus points. Most bonus effects end with the interception of a new bonus bubble; some end after a set amount of time; and some will last the duration of the level, if you don’t lose a life (loss of a life resets the paddle to a no bonus effect condition). A nice feature is when you hit a bonus brick to generate a bonus bubble, you learn what the bonus is. This can be very useful during play. There are several different possible bonus bubbles that I put in the following categories: survival, scoring, finesse, and useless.

Survival bonuses: these are Catch, Long, and Life.

Catch causes your paddle to sang the ball and hold it. It allows you to aim it in a particular direction. You release the ball by pressing Space or waiting until it releases automatically. Any contact with the paddle will snag the ball. Using the spacebar to immediately release the ball is an action you may want to take in order to snag another bonus bubble that is falling down the screen. This is perhaps the ultimate survival bonus, as it makes almost any level easier to clear. It clears any pre-existing bonus.

Long extends the length of the paddle, making it easier to intercept the ball, as well as change the bounce angle from acute to nearly perpendicular. It clears any pre-existing bonus.

Life gives you an extra life, very useful in extending the game. These are indispensible to getting past the first 2 rounds (you need about 15-20 lives in the first round of 34 levels to have a decent chance of getting past round 2). It clears any pre-existing bonus.

Scoring bonuses: these are Laser, Gun, and Bomb.

Laser gives twin laser ports one brick width apart. The laser shoots when the spacebar is pressed. It takes two beam hits to break a brick--if you have the laser correctly lined up with the brick (for the 8830 BB), both beam hits will be at the same time (one from each of the twin laser ports). What is nice is you get 20 points per brick broken by laser fire. This can really help your score. It clears any pre-existing bonus.

Gun gives you 3 gun shots, fired one at a time by the spacebar. Each gun hit adds 50 points to your score. Your bonus scoring is the difference between the brick value and 50 points (i.e., a 4 hit brick hit by a gun shot means your bonus is 10 points, since you would get 40 points anyway). A super feature is gun shots can destroy metal bricks, and you get 50 points for it as well. It clears any pre-existing bonus.

Bomb turns your ball into a contact bomb that explodes when it contacts the first clay brick (no effect from metal bricks). The explosion will destroy completely whatever clay brick it hits, and degrade touching bricks the equivalent of one hit. The bad part is the explosion gives you only 20 points, so unless you hit a 1 hit brick, you may actually decrease your potential score for any given level. It clears any pre-existing bonus.

Finesse bonuses are Wrap, Slow, and Multi. Finesse bonuses are those that depend on paddle control to use properly.

Wrap allows the paddle to slide through one wall on one side and appear on the other side. You can partially enter the wall as well, allowing potential bounce control of the ball not available when the paddle is “solid”. The down side: you have to remember this is in play and not depend on the wall to stop the paddle when you are chasing down a ball. Note: Wrap adds to any pre-existing bonus feature--a Long paddle remains long but now can also pass through the side wall. Wrap also remains in play for any other bonus bubble except Catch.

Slow reduces the speed of the ball and delays the downward descent of the bricks (after a set amount of time, the bricks descend down the screen, the total descent a different amount depending on the level). This gives you an opportunity to more carefully bounce the ball off the paddle, and gives you more time to get the paddle under the ball. The down side: it runs out, and the ball goes into hyper speed for a brief period after it runs out. Note: Slow does not clear a pre-existing bonus except for Flip.

Multi changes your single ball into 4 balls, all in play at once. As long as you can hit them with a paddle they will remain in play. Multi also does not clear any pre-existing bonus except Flip.

Useless: Flip.
Flip reverses the paddle control, thereby screwing up your learned reflexes and requiring you to think carefully about how to intercept the ball with the paddle. It could be properly called a Finesse bonus since it is a paddle control item, but as in my opinion it is a negative effect, it gets its own category. The only benefit it provides is the 50 points for catching the bonus bubble. Note: the only bonus bubble that does not clear Flip is Wrap, so when a Flip bubble has another non Wrap bubble right above it, go ahead and intercept both, since Flip will be cancelled right away.

General play.

You start at Level One with 3 lives. Level One is basic and fairly easy, contains 2 bonus bricks, and allows you to explore how to control the paddle and observe how the ball bounces.

Each additional level, up to Level 34, is either more difficult or requires some learned techniques to complete without loss of a life. One level has one brick, others have dozens. Level play begins with release of the ball, and continues until either all clay bricks on the level are cleared or all lives are gone. After a set amount of time on a given level, the bricks begin to descend, until they reach a lower limit. There is also an occasional increase in the speed of the ball, however, this is temporary and the ball speed will go back to normal after sufficient time passes.

All the above applies to Round 1. On Round 2 the levels repeat themselves (this is true for all subsequent rounds, there are only 34 different levels), except in Round 2 the bricks start descending at the first paddle hit and the ball goes into fast mode immediately. So it becomes incumbent to be ready to move the paddle quickly.

However, after Round 2, the game becomes decidedly easier. The ball moves slowly, only occasionally changing to fast mode (if it is in play long enough), and while bricks start descending on the first hit, the slowness of the ball offsets this. In fact, once you get past Round 2 (and assuming you have at least a few lives left), you should be able to play the game as long as you want, as lives will begin to build up unless you play really recklessly. So far, the only reason I have lost post-Round 2 games are: battery failure, stolen BB, and unknown (the game had disappeared when I tried to go back to it).

Ball Antics (applies to BB 8830 model, may be similar for others)

Just to make it more interesting, the ball occasionally takes on a character of its own. So far I have experienced the Phantom, Ghost, Non-linear, and most annoying, the Jumper ball.
Phantom ball--the ball passes through a clay brick without breaking it. I have actually had a ball pass though a layer of bricks, break a brick between layers, and then pass back out, leaving a void in a mass of bricks. Not really an issue, just different.

Ghost ball--the ball passes through metal bricks, especially at wall junctions. This can lead to loss of a life unless your paddle is close to it and you can react in time.

Non-linear ball--the ball does not bounce true, usually it reverses on itself at the top of a bounce. Again, usually not an issue or concern.

Jumper ball--I named this one for the movie “Jumper”. In the movie the main character could teleport, and that’s what the ball does. It instantly shifts location, usually about a half-paddle width, either left, right, or back (rarely forward). In addition, when the jump happens, it also affects bonus bubbles, laser fire, and gun shots that are in play. I have had a bonus bubble jump through a paddle, losing it as a result. I have had laser fire jump bricks, not damaging them (however, when jumping is occurring [it seems to come in spurts] and I have a laser, I have also been able to fire through metal bricks, the laser shots breaking clay bricks on the other side). Similar effect for gun shots, they pass through bricks without destroying the brick. Nothing you can do about this, except try to intercept the ball with the middle of the paddle when jump effects are happening--otherwise, the jump will likely cause the ball to miss the paddle.

Hints and Kinks

Again, for those of you who have played a lot, this section is probably not very interesting, but may be helpful for newbies.

Starting a level: you can change the direction the ball will launch, using the paddle control. Take advantage of this feature, it can help you get through the various levels. It’s a good idea to move the launch line and bring it back to your desired direction--it subtly adjusts the trajectory. Try it, you will see what I mean.

Paddle: move the paddle before the screen blacks out--depending on the level you are playing, a black out may automatically lose a life (the ball seems to turn into a Ghost Ball and immediately goes out the bottom). Moving the paddle during brick or wall bounces also sometimes seems to affect the ball path--it puts a little “English” on the ball, and causes a little different bounce. But other times it seems to have no effect--so YMMV. The closer to the edge of the paddle, the smaller the bounce angle--but the sloping edge of the paddle will not bounce the ball--the ball passes though it. The Long bonus really increases your ability to control the ball bounce--the paddle ends are much more effective.

Bonuses: first, you do NOT have to intercept a bonus bubble, and sometimes there is good reason not to. Until you are really proficient, or have enough lives it doesn’t matter, don’t accept a Flip bonus. As previously noted, it can really screw up your reflex response--you have to think about paddle movement instead of reacting to a ball bounce. Another bonus bubble you may want to accept with care is Wrap--those of you who play a bang-bang game between the side walls will find yourself discombobulated with Wrap in play. You expect the wall to stop the paddle but it goes through it instead, and you lose the ball you were racing to save. Second, any hit on a bonus brick will release the bubble. This can be from a Bomb, a ball, a gun shot, or a laser shot. If a bonus brick is next to a brick hit by a bomb, the bonus bubble is released (or if there are 3 bubbles already on the screen, is lost). In some levels a bomb hit will release 3 bonus bubbles at the same time. For lasers, a useful item to remember is one laser beam hit (2 hits break the brick) will release the bonus bubble--so you can release a bonus without actually destroying the brick (and maybe clearing the level before you can collect the bonus).

Lives: these are crucial in early play, and you want to get as many as you can in the first round. You will need about 20 lives to get through Round 2, unless you are a Brick Breaker Wizard. Lives are worth a lot early on--but after you get 50 lives (seems to be a psychological break point for me, at least), lives are worth 50 points--what you get for intercepting a bonus bubble that you know will cause you to lose a life when you do so, but you don’t care, because now all you want to do is build up your score as fast as you can.

Gun bonus: really great for getting rid of those metal bricks. However, don’t be afraid to use gun shots for other bricks. You lose any unfired shots (and the bonus points that go with them) so in levels with lots of bonus bubbles, go ahead and use them unless you know you can save them without affecting point accumulation. Note also once fired, the gun “missile” remains even if another bubble is intercepted before it hits, and you still get the points from the hit.

Lasers: the king of point accumulation bonuses, unless in one of the levels where metal brick layers completely shied the clay bricks (can you say Level 16). Doubling your brick point total makes Laser the preferred bonus whenever there are lots of clay bricks. Depending on when you get it, you can pick up several hundred extra points on Level 11 alone. However, as mentioned, there are several levels where it is useless (Level 16 again the prime example, where there is one bonus brick and the lowest brick layer is all metal). But you still get the 50 points for the bonus bubble. Laser fire also remains on the screen after another bubble is intercepted, until it hits a brick. And if a Bomb bubble is intercepted while laser fire is in play, any laser fire hitting a clay brick will explode the bomb ball.

Multi: this can be fun. However, to make the most of a Multi bubble, you have to stop watching bricks break and instead concentrate on getting the paddle under the lowest ball. The goal is keep the balls in play, the bricks will take care of themselves. You also have to be prepared to go after one ball at all times (the alpha ball, if you will). There will be numerous occasions where you can’t get more than one--trying will cause you to lose all in play. Remember, you have to keep at least one in play or it’s a lost life.

Catch: use the pointer adjustment to your advantage. Also, when the Catch bubble is intercepted when there are multiple balls in play, it will be the ball farthest away from the paddle that stays when the others disappear.

Bomb: will make extra balls disappear if multiples are in play. However, if a Multi bubble is intercepted after a Bomb bubble (and before the bomb ball contacts a brick), then you have multiple bombs in play until contact.

For a really detailed explanation of the various levels and their structure, this is one of the best sites I have found: The Ultimate Blackberry BrickBreaker Guide: Levels 1 to 3 « TechBays

I don’t agree with all his start directions for the initial ball launch, especially for the 8830 BB, but the recommendation for each level is a good place to start.

Post Round 2 Play

As previously noted, once you are past Round 2 with a reserve of lives, the game becomes very repetitious. So to maintain interest, you need some new goals. I offer the following as something to try for.

Single life round: complete a round without losing a life. Over the many games I have played, I have managed to do so exactly once. Interim goals are to see just how few lives it takes to get through a round of 34 levels--I have done it on 1, 2, and 3 lives, after that it’s just “many”. However, my zero lost life round happened on my older BlackBerry--I have yet to accomplish this on the 8830 model. The reason--Jumper balls. They have consistently screwed up my attempts, causing me to lose a life without an ability to avoid it. I didn’t have Jumper balls on the older BB model.

20,000 point round: Again, I have done this just once. Most rounds tend to be a little over 18,000 points for me. However, to have any chance for a 20,000 point round, you have to be selective with bonus bubbles, and you need some luck--lots of Lasers and Guns. I keep Lasers when bricks are plentiful, try to maximize Gun shots (metal bricks first, 1 hit bricks next), and only give up a Laser when the bonus bubble is worth more than the brick hits that are left. See the Level/Round Summary at the end for an idea of what to expect for the various levels from a point standpoint.

Level challenges: you can set a personal challenge for each level, and work to achieve it. For example, for Level 33, a non-bonus brick round, my goal is to never have a paddle bounce that does not result in a broken brick. Not too easy to do, but satisfying when it happens. Another example: Aim the ball launch and move the paddle to allow Level 13 to be cleared out without having to use the paddle for a ball bounce--I manage to do this about 1 time out of 25. Anyway, you get the idea--set mini-challenges for yourself to help keep your interest (assuming you want to do so).

Scoring

For a bit, I kept a record of level scoring. This is what I recorded over a period of 41 rounds.

Level Min Score Max Score Average Note

1 120 340 237 2 bonus bricks
2 390 740 516 4 bonus bricks
3 410 720 506 3 bonus bricks

4 630 1080 828 3 bonus bricks
5 770 1210 982 3 bonus bricks
6 580 920 708 3 bonus bricks

7 500 830 635 5 bonus bricks
8 510 510 510 Non bonus level
9 700 1120 897 7 bonus bricks

10 590 590 590 Non bonus level
11 910 1540 1234 4 bonus bricks
12 1010 1630 1293 5 bonus bricks

13 320 320 320 Non bonus level
14 460 810 596 3 bonus bricks
15 170 380 251 2 bonus bricks

16 490 690 547 One bonus brick
17 120 120 120 Non bonus level
18 760 1160 953 8 bonus bricks

19 100 310 160 2 bonus bricks
20 20 220 85 One bonus
brick you can get
21 660 1120 797 7 bonus bricks

22 240 240 240 Non bonus level
23 370 690 474 2 bonus bricks
24 680 1380 971 14 bonus bricks

25 480 960 720 5 bonus bricks
26 750 1100 868 3 bonus bricks
27 10 10 10 Non bonus level

28 510 1210 804 14 bonus bricks
29 260 470 340 4 bonus bricks
30 30 280 89 2 bonus bricks

31 20 20 20 Non bonus level
32 60 560 277 5 bonus bricks
33 230 230 230 Non bonus level
34 80 230 95 One bonus brick

Caledan 07-17-2010 06:33 AM

Before I read this post I thought I played a bit too much, I still haven't 6 figure. It seemed like every time I went to the Head or had to kill a few minutes I would play. I do play it, as long as it doesn't get much faster though since this type are about the only games I can play beside Solitaire on my Mac. Other game Systems may cause these symptoms depending on the game & the speed of the graphics, my wife plays & I even have issues spot watching her: Dizzy, light headedness, sweats, nausea. Now my daughter is turning 2 so she makes sure I she has my undivided attention.

pbastien 07-23-2010 04:42 PM

Good Summary
 
Hi rcguy, that is a good summary. I've spent way too much time on BrickBreaker myself and went so far as to post a complete guide to BrickBreaker over at BrickBreakerGuide.com (I can't hyperlink it as I am new to these forums, but check it out). The site you linked to has a very good overview. My guide goes into lots of detail and has actual screenshots of each level with the capsule locations marked. You won't need this level of detail since you've already gone past all 34 levels twice, but I hope it's useful to those who want to post 6- or 7-figure high scores. Thanks


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