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Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you mashed together some classic games and tried to make something new? That’s what developer Toxijuice and Nami Tentou has done by taking Super Breakout, Pong and Space Invaders, throwing them in a high powered blender along with some new paint and sounds, resulting in the mutant baby, I mean Wii U eShop title, PSIBO. Rather surprisingly, this turned out better than expected. Being billed as a mashup of these classic games that’s painfully difficult with a lot of customisation options, it’s certainly not lying.

At it’s core PSIBO is all about destroying the coloured hexagons that appear in the stage. Quite simple when you think about it. Just like in Super Breakout, you fire a ball from your paddle and keep deflecting it back towards your targets without letting it go past you into the dark beyond. Where this differs from Super Breakout is that you get to fire off up to 20 balls at once, any time you like. The difficult part is where PONG comes into play. Whilst you try to destroy the hexagons above, the enemy orange paddle is there to ruin your day, constantly blocking and rejecting your attempts at clearing the stage. It’s damn well good at it too.

When your ball is hit back by the opposing paddle and you aren’t quite quick enough to return it, don’t worry too much, as you get that ball back to fire off again. Oh wait, I was wrong. Although you do get to reuse the ball you should certainly start to worry. Any time you miss a ball and it goes off screen an enemy appears, moving in the fashion of left, down, right, down in a repeating manner all the while shooting projectiles at you à la Space Invaders.

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The main game mode is an endless style of play, where the hexagons regenerate and you try to get the highest score possible before you take too many hits from the enemy. There are five preset difficulty levels, ranging from Easy to Impossible, each with a higher multiplier the harder it gets. If stock standard isn’t your thing, you also have the ability to fine tune a whole host of options to create a custom difficulty and multiplier. Including tweaks such as enemy paddle speed, number of enemy spawners, number of hits you can take, how many balls you get and more, it brings in a few different strategies you can use to actually get a respectable score.

On the easier difficulties, it can be as simple as firing just one ball a decent distance away from the opposing paddle, not giving it enough time to reach it for a return on your serve. On a harder difficulty you might need to start with a decoy ball on one side to lure the faster paddle away so you can sneak a second or third ball past it. Then again, that makes it all the more possible to miss returning the first ball. On an easy mode if you miss a ball and an enemy spawns you can take your time and aim for a direct hit, destroying that which is trying to destroy you, making your job easier once more. Naturally, the harder the difficulty, the harder it is for a direct hit, meaning you enter a fine ballet of dodging enemy fire whilst trying to return balls. It requires a keen recognition of your skills and determining how many balls you can keep going at once, with or without an onslaught of fire from the sky.

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Aside from the endless play mode, there are also thirty-one original levels, entitled so because the game started it’s life on mobile, and these are the levels from that game. The objective is to clear these original levels of all the hexagons. Things are a little different to the straight up endless play mode. To start the stages are skinny, like a phone screen as opposed to widescreen. The hexagons also appear in different arrangements of shapes and patterns and there are also indestructible world pieces to help or hinder your ball-bouncing abilities. Levels don’t necessarily contain all elements either. You might come across a stage with no spawners or lacking the orange paddle trying to stop you.

The best part about the original levels is that you don’t have to beat the previous one to advance to the next. That’s a good thing too, because I can’t beat Level 1! There is a large variety in level design and it usually comes down to working out the appropriate strategy to complete that specific stage. One noticeable flaw in this is that when you come across a level without spawning enemies you can just move from left to right spamming the A button lo launch an onslaught of balls, without consequence for when you miss one. Thankfully this only occurs a few times.

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When it comes to the controls it doesn’t get much simpler than left, right and A. You can use either the analog stick or the D-Pad, each with a slightly different method required for precise movement. Being analog, the stick causes the paddle to move at different speeds depending how far you push it. To me, this made movement feel a little spongy and a little slower to react when changing directions. The D-pad goes at the faster speed when you hold a direction and if you need a slower, shorter movement a few taps is all it takes. It really comes down to personal preference, but if you don’t like one, do try the other.

As for the presentation, the graphics are a neon futuristic vision of the classic games it combines, that can be played on either a flat, static screen or with a swiveling 3D camera view. Those after a more traditional experience, or playing on just the Gamepad may prefer the 2D camera as there’s no additional movement to distract you and more importantly, it fills up the entire Gamepad screen.

The soundtrack is pretty basic, comprised of one single repetitive tune that sounds like it was created in some looping software that lets you drag and drop drum fills, beats and effects to create your own ‘masterpiece’. But hey, it’s not that terrible! It’s punchy, electronic and upbeat. It also doesn’t stop. Ever. It will continuously play without interruption through menus and seamlessly into gameplay. Although a bit of variety in music wouldn’t detract from the game, I’m not frustrated when the tune gets stuck in my head. Another decent feature is the implemented Miiverse. Simply hit L+R to post right away. Something that more games should have included for the Wii U!

 

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Overall, PSIBO is a great little title that successfully melds together a few different arcade games to bring something that feels new and fresh, with a graphic style that helps this further. Aside from a few easy stages and some that are extremely difficult, it's never hard for the sake of being hard.

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Wayne Giovanazzi

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