Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure (PS4, PSV) – A Review


co20e3If you had asked me within the past decade, “Do you think the ‘Brick Breaker’ genre could make a comeback?”  I would have dismissively said, “No.” That being said, I definitely made an err in judgement. “Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbol Adventure” by Lillymo Games is simultaneously a wonderful throwback to an era in video games long lost to the annals of time as well as clever modernization of the genre for a new era.

First let us rewind the clock a bit— Brick Breakers are at their core a sub-genre of the 1972, arcade (and early home consoles’) classic, “Pong.”  Four-years later, Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, would refine the bat-and-ball premise with “Breakout,” which besides having a ball and paddle incorporated bricks to destroy in order to rack-up a high score.  Many years later a game aptly named, “Brick Breaker,” would truly cement the sub-class’s moniker, however, even with its eponymous name it is still deemed a ‘Breakout Clone.’

“Twin Breaker” takes the history and nostalgia of “Breakout” (and others—like 1986’s Arkanoid) and pays loving homage, while also adding in a lacquer of polish to an otherwise archaic mold.  “Twin Breaker” captures the chirpy, chiptunes that always accompanied older games, the (nearly) everlasting pixel art aesthetic, and the arcadey action of “Breakout.” It does so with ease, but if it were to merely clone an arcade title that has been duplicated so many times before, “Twin Breaker” would have been left wanting.  Instead, it brings the genre into a new decade by adding in modern sensibilities.  

Not only does “Twin Breaker” take a tried-and-true genre and bring it to 2020, but it does so with smashing success.

Colin Moriarty, (one of the developers of “Twin Breaker,” owner/founder of Colin’s Last Stand, and co-host to a plethora of podcasts including “Sacred Symbols”) wrote a fantastic, science-fiction narrative to pair with an already solid title.  It is exploratory in its palaver with the audience as it provides humor with more-serious underpinnings and motifs. Conveyed via splash screens and dialogue bubbles between Colin and Chris (the two protagonists of the game), it dissects a very real possibility of Earth’s place in the universe and how humanity’s interactions with one another could aid or hinder the celestial hierarchy without any of us truly knowing.  

Pretty weighty stuff, eh?  Don’t be too alarmed by the story.  It isn’t unnecessarily filled with jargon or high end philosophical stances; it merely expresses these issues as a framework, while the more tongue-in-cheek humor in the dialogue fleshes out the rest of the story.  That being said, if you wanted to dive headlong into the lore of this universe, there are codexes to unlock that further the player’s understanding of the world that they are experiencing. Playing a Brick Breaker that includes a narrative is rare and perhaps unheard of— The story and dialogue do not feel needlessly tacked onto an already decent ”Breakout” clone.  The story uplifts and fits snugly within the gameplay and vice-a-versa.

In addition to the inclusion of a narrative, “Twin Breaker” also works in innovative gameplay mechanics that keeps the pacing and moment-to-moment action thrilling and incredibly viable.  Every ten levels (in the 40 level campaign) features a unique boss battle, which work masterfully in the game’s pacing of difficulty. Halfway through “Twin Breaker,” two pairs of paddles are introduced, resulting in my favorite line of the game delivered by Colin’s “Sacred Symbol’s” podcast co-host, Chris, “This should make things a little easier.” (F.Y.I. It doesn’t).  However, this gameplay addition provides more difficulty and increases tension, which ultimately applies a nice little twist to the level designs that implement this feature. 

4-Paddles

In addition to the narrative, bosses, and refreshing nature of the game mechanics, this $9.99 digital package also includes several different gameplay modes which include: Marathon, Pong, Random, Shooter, Catcher, and Boss Rush modes.  You can check out how all of these modes function by watching our ASInquisitor Twitch stream VOD, which has been edited and uploaded to YouTube by clicking the link here: Let’s Play – Twin Breakers: A Sacred Symbols Adventure

“Twin Breaker” is a steal at $9.99 on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita (after all “Sacred Symbols” is in reference to Sony’s famous iconography emblazoned across their controllers), but that ten-dollar purchase will net you both copies because it is a cross-buy transaction.  Now onto the trophies: There are technically two separate trophy lists depending on which copy of the game you play, so even though each individual trophy is identical to its counterpart, you have the opportunity to achieve two platinum trophies. As a PS4 and Vita owner, I found this to be particularly enticing.  Personally, I find the trophy list to be fair, but still challenging. It will take you approximately three-hours to complete the campaign and perhaps 7-to-9 hours in total to achieve that coveted platinum trophy.

I highly recommend “Twin Breaker,” especially if you grew-up with arcades and classic home consoles.  It scratches a particular itch that not a lot of other games can reach. In our first ever review score for ASInquisitor, my lovely “Rage Quit” podcast co-host, Ariel, and I give it 4.5 ‘Polar Bear Paws’ out of 5. 

“Twin Breaker” gleefully harkens back to a golden era of arcades and Ataris with just the right amount of modernity.

Bloodborne – Old Yharnam


I am have not been interested in Dark Souls.  As much as I have tried…the series has never gotten its “hooks” into like it has for so many others.  The medieval mythology and the more-defensive nature of the series never really piqued my interest, which is unusual because the setting and game mechanics seem as-if they would be right up my alley.

To note, I also (in the next room) have the collector’s edition of Demon’s Souls, which is an incredibly similar experience but somehow still cuts its own path and is not quite the same as its successor.  There is a “something” there that differentiates Demon Souls from the Dark Souls trilogy, that I have not quite been able to put my finger on and may warrant further discussion on social media, or perhaps a posting of its own?

I digress.  I may not enjoy what Dark Souls offers, but I do greatly enjoying the fast-paced, frenetic combat of both Bloodborne and its sister companion, Nioh.  I have regularly played both of those titles since they released and always find myself returning to them.  Blatantly, pointing out the difference in the combat mechanics and speed at which they are delivered normally would answer my above inquiry, but–even if it does in part–I still cannot wholly explain why I prefer Bloodborne and Nioh over the Dark Souls trilogy.  Under normal circumstances I would absolutely love a medieval set game and most-likely shy away from a Japanese-inspired setting akin to Nioh.

Like I mentioned, maybe this is a good place to stop and collect myself, and reconvene at a later date to better dissect the differences between these games and seriously get into the root cause.

Without further ado, I give you the ASInquisitor premiere of my ongoing Bloodborne series, while will be featured in rotation on Twitch and YouTube in what will be a long running series only releasing and streamed on the weekends!

 

A Rough Draft of the Introduction of “At the Top”


“At the Top” is an idea that I originally had centering around the concept of a serial killer pyramid scheme.  I wanted to write a story about a hierarchy of serial killers, however, I ran into a speed bump almost immediately.  Pyramid schemes only exist and work because the lower layer always give something to the layer above them, some sort of commodity like currency.  What commodity do serial killers possess to be able to provide that would make an interesting and believable story?

Nothing.

Coincidentally enough, the next day I ran into my writing partner Josh Bartylla at work and I posed him my conundrum.  After  several minutes of conversation we came up with a solution.  What if instead of a serial killer pyramid scheme it was an assassin’s pyramid scheme?  That way the incentive would exist, and we could nuance it.  From there we started adding layers to it, and now the project (which has been named “At the Top”) includes a poignant look at our memories, aging, and the importance of friendship all framed out by Frank Sinatra’s album, “September of  my Years.”

Check out these opening pages to “At the Top,” which will one day soon be a complete manuscript that Josh and I plan on adapting into a screenplay to submit to Amazon Studios.  Cheers.

“At the Top”

Prologue

The plantation was settled deep within the confines of a Cajun bog in one of the most remote regions of the Louisiana wetland.  At one point the white pillared beacon of the old world aristocracy had sat dead center in one of the largest production lands of the South, but as the decades had waned, the land had turned against the ones who had spent generations taming it.  The family had perished or fled once the house had practically burned to the ground in the latter part of the 19th century.  The rest of the outlying buildings slowly rotted from the outside in as the once profitable lands began to slowly turn to mush and the swampland turned against the rich soils.

The first half of the next century was just as unkind to the manor as it was the surrounding area.  At the conclusion of the Civil War economic turmoil after economic turmoil plagued the region, and thus the Lebeau family plot was never purchased or truly lost to the family.  However, it wasn’t till 1970 that the sole heir of the decrepit mansion returned, and returned to rebuild it.  By the time the long, lost scion came into possession of the house that was no longer a home, it was near collapse, but that didn’t dissuade Remi from buying the land and the manor in an effort to refurbish it to its former glory.

Now, almost thirty-years later, Remi sat contemplating in his office overlooking the same marshlands that had encroached upon the Lebeau lands a century prior.  He sat alone.  He cradled a Brandy in his palm knocking the ice cubes back in forth in a repeated riposte and parry.  In his other hand he held, masked by shadows save for the ember tip, a rare cigar to match his drink and mood.  He was in a large overstuffed chair with his feet upon his Oak desk.

Thinking.  Always thinking.

Papers and books laid askew, and the steeping bookshelves on either side of the room were just as disheveled.  He blew a single waft of smoke up into the air and let it catch the moonlight from the recessed, latticed windows.  Below, his glass ensconced pool reflected and refracted the softly lapping waters’ light, resulting in a dance of shimmering waves across the ceiling of his study.  Between the smoke, the moonlight, and the mirrors Remi was overcome with introspection.  This meditation allowed him to remember.  It allowed him to recall, but more-importantly, it allowed him providence.

Memories

Memories are fiendish.  They have far-reaching, burnished talons that can stab into the cerebrum with fervency and lust.  They are malignant because all memories are apocryphal.

For those individuals with poor memories their ignorance is as the saying goes, ‘blissful.’  The beast still lurks within, but instead it has evolved.  These memories exist in the wretched.  The lonely thugs who play with children and drive nails into coffins.  They are brutish to say the least, but on the whole they are as weak and fleshy as is anything without a spine.  However, these ingrates are protected by their own lies.  The falsities that have secretly roosted into their thoughts.  These birds of prey live and breath in the shadows.  They blend when searched for and are always finding there way into the folds and tears of the remaining gray matter, entrenching itself like a solider in the darkest days of the Great War, except with memories there is no neutral zone, there are no shared Christmases, just fear and nerve gas.

Those with eidetic memories can recall the past immediately, however, it is always in sepia.  No matter how much the Polaroid is flicked back-and-forth it never achieves focus.  It’s blurred, hazy.  It exists.  It can be put in box, lost under the bed, pulled out to reminisce, and shoved back under to be forgotten by the unfaithful.  The photo is a lie though.  It was always a lie.  It exists in a separate, fabricated reality, guarded by the ego, but by most it is irrevocably regarded as the truth.  It is never quite right, nor will it ever be right.  These individuals are dangerous, and here is why: with upmost conviction they believe that they remember the truth.  They believe so wholeheartedly that their past is grounded and accurate that it borders on religious faith.  They rely on it, they believe it, and they adhere to it.  It is always right, and therefore no questions are ever asked.  It is has divine as the Lord, and just as intangible.

Faith is a powerful beast, and it has a way with ambitious men.  It forces them to do things with unwavering judgement and persecution.  Nothing is off limits, and no one will ever present an argument that will dissuade them from their path.  It forces men like Remi to contemplate their past…to remember the stings and the horrors, first kisses and Sinatra songs.

Lloyd

His cheek stung and he could taste the blood dripping from his left nostril into his swollen lips.  It was salty.  Tangy.

“Fuck you,” he spat.

He took another smack.  This time he fell back upon the stained carpet and his left wrist twisted awkwardly.  He screamed and received another backhand for the noise.  He laid whimpering, holding his arm upon his back.  The fucker stood over him like he owned him, and unbeknownst to the boy there was some truth to that.

Lloyd was a brute.  In and out.  He always wore the same wife-beater, a dusted cowboy hat, and a pair of carpenter jeans.  Remi surmised that those were the only clothes that Lloyd owned, but the one time he had cracked that joke within Lloyd’s earshot his other arm had been broken.  A long time ago, Lloyd had worked for Tony Slates crackin’ skulls for pennies, but one drunken night, Lloyd broke the nose of Tony’s nephew; Slate cut him and then cut him loose.  Lloyd still sported the deep scar across his left cheek like a badge of honor.  Once a Scout always a Scout.

He stood over the eight-year, reeking of moonshine and piss.  He scowled, sauntered off, and collapsed into the most prominent lawn chair of the living room.  His pants around his ankles, loudly snoring off whatever booze and drugs Lloyd had consumed before striking Remi.  Quickly violent, and quickly asleep.  The women loved Lloyd.

Still nursing his arm, Remi scuttled out on his back, trying to make sure he held his cries.  As-soon-as he hit the backdoor of the sprawling ranch-styled house, Remi ran for it.  He hit the alley hard and kept running.  He didn’t make a sound, but tears were streaming down his face.

Remi ran almost two miles straight before he made it to Miss Rose’s farmhouse.  As always, she was sitting upon her porch softly rocking and reading on of her famous novels with her big Basset Hound, George, at her side.  She was young in a way that her beauty was true and her years were low, but she was old in the same way Remi was.  She understood him, and during all the years that Remi was with Lloyd Miss Rose was there as well.  She never ratted on him, and she never caused him trouble.  She only helped him.  Rose was the first and last person to ever do that for Remi.  The rest of his life was hard, but Rose never was.  As Remi aged he thought about Rose more often and that small farm town.  Winston, MI was a hard place for Remi to forget, but in his age he realized that, that is how it would always remain and that there was nothing wrong with that.

As he ran holding his ruined forearm, he let the wheat part and the burrs catch in his dirtied hair.  He didn’t care or notice.  He just ran.  He ran with a heavy heart and a purpose.  Miss Rose would help him.  She was his savior.  She would make everything better.

Rose saw Remi break the field, she was up in a shot and came running down the creaky steps to meet Remi before he even made it halfway to the porch.  She held him as he cried.  They didn’t exchange words, nor did they need to.  On that hot afternoon, she clutched the son that was never hers as he sobbed into her shoulder.  She cried to a God that didn’t seem to care.

This was Remi’s first memory.

The only sepia that remained from this particular memory was the part that existed between the breaking of Remi’ arm and the removal of Lloyd’s jeans.  If prison had taught Lloyd anything it was that he liked boys, and like a gift from God he had been given one from the man in the cocked Bowler.

 

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