StarBurst iPhone review
Arkanoid is one of those weird games that everybody has played yet no one seems to own. The NES port was likely overshadowed by bigger-name first-party games, and by the time the game hit the DS, there were too many modern-day distractions for anyone to care.
And yet we should all be thankful for Arkanoid (and its unofficial predecessor, Breakout), because without it, we wouldn't have the many great games it helped inspire. Case in point: StarBurst, an iPhone game (also available on the iPad) where the player controls a rectangular, Pong-like platform that moves across the bottom of the screen. Rather than using the platform to bounce a ball around, the developers put a twist on the formula, allowing players to collect colored puzzle pieces instead. Those pieces - only five of which may be held at one time - may be shot up to the top of the screen. Once you start, the goal seems pretty obvious: connect three or more puzzle pieces of the same color (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally) to make them disappear.
If this premise sounds simple, that's intentional - the developers weren't trying to make an eye-popping, groundbreaking iPhone release. Their goal, it seems, was to make a game that combined an enjoyable puzzle format (like the one used in Columns) with a gameplay style that hadn't been seen too many times before. The result is just as it appears, plus one surprise you won't expect: StarBurst gives new meaning to iPhone addiction.
Like most puzzle games, StarBurst doesn't mind if you want to skip a few levels. In the beginning, players can choose to start at the first, sixth, or eleventh stage; the latter stages, of course, are more challenging than the introductory selection. The game doesn't begin too harshly, but you might die a few times while learning the controls. They're easy to use, but like most iPhone games (the good ones, anyway), you have to be very specific in how you touch the screen. The platform can be slid from side to side just by dragging it in either direction, but the game allows you to jump around faster by touching one of five areas of the screen.
Those areas are designated by the five points at which puzzle pieces are loaded onto your platform. Visually, it's reminiscent of the way notes are dispersed in the Guitar Hero series. Unlike most puzzle games, the pieces are not collected automatically; the player must quickly move around and collect each piece before it falls off the conveyer belt. If five pieces fall, it's game over.
As the game progresses, this becomes one of the most challenging parts of the game. Though it's possible to die by filling the 5x5 playing field (the area where puzzle pieces are shot up at), players are more likely to die because they couldn't keep up with the collection process.
While this might sound like a frustrating aspect, it doesn't feel like that all; instead, StarBurst becomes one of those die-all-the-time games where you constantly find yourself saying, "One more game. If I die next, I'll quit." Then your next death comes and you keep playing.
In addition to the primary mechanics, players can also execute chains (two or more consecutive eliminations) and combos (two or more simultaneous eliminations). You can also throw unwanted pieces back onto the conveyer belt, but be warned: doing so will only buy you a few seconds before that same piece - and many new ones - come rushing back to the front.
All of these elements come together for a simple game that is deeply addictive. StarBurst is hectic, fast-paced, and highly enjoyable. If you're into puzzle games, add this one to your list of must-download apps.