Let's face it, there's only so much you can do with Breakout. You can tart it up in all manner of ways, but in the end, you've got a bat, a ball and some bricks to smash. Still, over time, many have tried to give it an appealing facelift. Some have been successful; others, less so.
Back in the 80s, Taito bunged out Arkanoid, a fresh and entertaining take on Breakout. It did alright in the arcades, was ported to almost every home system ever made and still lives on today, such is its popularity.
I had Arkanoid on the Commodore 64, and loved it. It almost looked and sounded like the arcade version, and played about as well as a Breakout game can play without a paddle. But Arkanoid wasn't the only game of its kind on the Commodore 64... there were plenty of others. TRAZ was a fantastic version, and I owned that, too. There was Batty, a perfectly serviceable budget version (also on compilation tapes - I don't remember it ever having a full-priced release).
And then there was Krakout.
Krakout never interested me. I was an avid reader of ZZAP! 64 in those days (who wasn't?), and they didn't rate it very highly. It didn't look anywhere near as nice as Arkanoid, either, although I'm sure the black and white screenshot didn't help. So I didn't bother with it. And yet, there are many that have always rated it more highly than Arkanoid. If you were to look on any C64-dedicated website, you'd probably find the vast majority raving about it. That being the case, I thought it must be worth a try, at long last.
Having played it, I honestly don't see where they're coming from.
Dull, boring and drab. But that's enough about me... look how dreary the game is!
There's no need to explain the game - it's Breakout. So what makes it different? Well, there's the viewpoint for a start. You can choose to start with the bat either on the right or the left. No, not the bottom. It certainly feels different, playing a Breakout game horizontally. It doesn't take long to get used to, but it doesn't raise it above Arkanoid.
Other than that, things are mostly the same. Irritating enemies wobble about the playfield, deflecting the ball at different angles. There are bonuses to help or hinder. The difference here is that, instead of having to collect them with your bat as they fall, you're given them if you hit them with the ball. That sounds great, but in truth it takes away a large part of the risk/reward element that makes Arkanoid such a tense battle.
Harking back to that screenshot... having played it on colour, it still doesn't look very nice. It's nowhere near as clean or sharp looking as Arkanoid. I'm not a big fan of the look at all. Then there's the sound. On the title screen, you can turn off the music and sound effects. That's probably because neither are very good, with washed out sound effects and an irritating tune.
So, having played it at last after all this time, where do I stand, if you can't already tell? Well, I'm with the ZZAP! gang. Sorry, Krakout fans, but in truth, this is the worst C64 Breakout game of the four I've mentioned here. It remains very popular, but for the life of me, I can't see why.