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Anodia: Breakout For The Love Of The Game

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There is a point where game design and aesthetics combine to create enjoyment: a game of Arimaa, the last step in a game of Monster in the Marsh, practically any moment in The Last of Us.

In Anodia, dozens of great physics tricks are present, and hundreds of familiar symbols and themes merge in 120+ levels, generating a constantly unpredictable and entertaining game.

I'm an iPhone 4S holdout, but I'm inclined toward an iPhone 5 as apps become more complex and use less relative screen space for buttons.  Stingy screen controls aren't the case though for Anodia, which is one of the most polished apps and definitely the most refined Breakout game on the App Store.

With other clones, unimaginative mechanics, lousy power-ups, repetitive ball traps and lifeless controls turn me off. But to sum Anodia in a sentence: it solves these age-old aches.

Gameplay demonstrates an ideal balance between a pantheon of power-ups and power-downs. Power-ups include fireballs, steel balls, extra balls, ball slowdown, and multi-balls. My favorite is an add-on of two mini satellite balls, stackable to 4 satellites per ball, for constant extra hits; most blocks in Anodia are far from being one-hit wonders.  Paddle power-ups include 3 kinds of guns (shotgun, machine gun, bazooka), larger paddles, ball catching, a screen-wide safety barrier, and phantom paddles.

Of special mention is the gravity well, which is not a power-up but a brilliant game mechanic. This pain reliever recharges every few seconds, allowing the player to focus on difficult bricks by tapping any area of the screen. Instead of wasting time on dozens of ricochets, a player can wrap up a level fast, keep a falling ball away from a power-down, or destroy low-hanging, in-your-face obstacles.

Power-downs include shaky balls, tiny balls, and ball speed-up. Other devious distractions include stunning lightning, slowing glue, catch loss, cloud banks, and paddle shrinks.  Lesser games send out catch loss power-downs when a player doesn't have catch, but Anodia's classy enough to avoid this.

With a solid power-up system in place, it would seem enough to make 100 generic screens worth playing. I'll never know, because Clueless Little Muffin Games has knocked it out of the park with 111 gimmicky and themed levels plus 15 pixel art levels in the Miniblocks pack.

Each level pack has its own themed sets, including Light, Geometry, Classic, Neon, Colors, Nature, Micro, Move, Black and White, Games, Surprise, Ages, Minimalism, Circles, Blocks, and Dynamic. 

The Light theme features lightable and lit targets, like light bulbs and lanterns.   In its last level, only one color of block at a time can be destroyed by matching a switch light to one of two colors.  Neon offers a few twists on lightable targets, including a dark level where small geometric shapes only show when hit. 

Many sets are visually based, containing 1-2 exceptional levels.  Classic offers a mostly true-to-form retro tribute.  Geometry, Circles and Blocks feature an eye-pleasing series of shapes to break into nothingness, sometimes including pseudo-3D for Circles. 

Mind-Melting Creativity

Nature still feels a lot like Geometry and is probably one I passed through fastest.  Micro is a tribute to microorganisms, pixels, and atoms, while Ages is a collection of ice, stone, feudal, industrial and high-tech levels.  "Games" levels are based on classic sport, board and card games.

Geometry Pack

Black and White belies its overall drabness with one of the most dazzling effects I've seen in an iOS game.  Minimalism is also deceptively titled, with some pretty major effects. One level, an array of jewels, is awash in radiating shimmers that go full-screen before vanishing. 

A few themes melt the boundaries of brick-breakers.  "Move" features variations of block movement.  Surprise is just that, including a level that comes in its own box and one with brick rows that alternately move along with and counter to your paddle.  Dynamic is a celebration of fun programming, and is my favorite.

Genre? What genre?

Played back to back with a limited traditional continue system, all these levels might never be accessed, but they have been strung together with a brilliant alternative which will let you retry the level if you reset it and lose 20,000 points from your score.  The game will end if you try to continue with a score under 20K.  For those with shorter attention spans, there's Quick Play, which lets you play unlocked levels, and it's even possible to jump around fast with the Other Levels button.

Your Move!

On top of all this are options to purchase equipment, not just for looks, but to enhance gameplay, including powered-down equipment for expert players.  Coins are earned at a rate of 1 per star in the game's 3-star scoring system, so it will take a while to buy game-changing equipment for 250.  There are lots of problem solvers tailored to style, including big paddles, 5-ball multiballs, cloud-busting sunny days, and gun boosts.  CLM has thought of practically everything a dedicated bricker wants or needs.

I haven't found an iOS game that makes such use of aesthetics, physics and clever design since Angry Birds and 868-HACK. If you've been looking for an elegant, constantly surprising game, Anodia has my vote.

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