Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steel Ball Da-Da-Da! Breakout!

The meme probably already ran its course quite a few years ago, but I like to think that most people reading this know about Japan Break Industries. For those that don't know about it, they are a Japanese demolition company, also known Nihon Break Kogyo, that took the internet by storm in 2004 with the release of what is definitely the most catchy demolition-themed song ever. This flash video done with ASCII art and set to the eurobeat version of the theme, which would fit perfectly in an episode of  Initial D or something, was really popular. More importantly for this site, there was a promotional Flash game as well.

I don't normally write about Flash games, but this is a game that I have fond memories of. The name Steel Ball Da-Da-Da! Breakout! is a reference to lyrics from the song, and the game does a great job of being as ridiculous as the song. The goal of the game is to destroy a target building using a steel ball, which doesn't seem all that interesting, but the way the steel ball is used is kind of unique. Japan Break Industries doesn't need any fancy machinery to destroy buildings, just one guy and a wrecking ball. Basically, a dude waits at the end of a street, a giant wrecking ball rolls towards him at high speeds, he catches it, and then he throws it back at the structure.

The way this works is pretty simple. It is a basic matter of timing for catching the ball and mashing buttons to throw it. The strength of the throw is determined by how close to the right moment the spacebar is first pressed to catch it, the angle of the throw is determined by how long the spacebar is held, and the strength of the throw is based upon how fast the N and B keys can be alternatively mashed. It doesn't sound all that tough, but the specific timing and level of mashing required takes a bit to get used to. It's not particularly deep, but it is wacky enough to be fun for a little bit.

There are a few intricacies to the game that make it interesting. Each structure that must be destroyed can take a certain amount of damage before it collapses, so a throw has to be good enough to do enough damage to topple to the structure. There are other factors that affect the throw other than the player's timing and mashing abilities. There are three different wrecking balls that can be selected, a lighter one that is easier to throw but does less damage, a heavier one that is harder to throw but does more damage, and a middle of the road one.

Sadly, there are only three stages to the game. The first one can take 2000 damage and is 200 meters away and the successive stages take more damage and are further away. If the first throw does not destroy the structure immediately, then the ball will come rolling back and will need to be caught and thrown again. Worse yet, if the ball doesn't even reach the structure, the character will be tired and the player will need to mash the N and B keys in order to recover before it is possible to catch returning ball.

My favorite parts of the game are the result of opposite actions. The way things go into slow motion and the screen fades away when the player fails to catch the ball and is crushed by it is pretty much always funny, if a bit heartbreaking. Conversely, getting the perfect throw and smashing a structure in one throw makes the player feel extremely accomplished, especially when the game plays a voice clip and splashes BREAK OUT! on screen. Steel Ball Da-Da-Da! Breakout! is not a great game, but it is weirdly entertaining and a solid time-waster.

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