Unusualsoft has sure lived up to its studio name with Anoix 3D (Out Now, $0.99), a brand new spin on the Arkanoid/Breakout formula. Arkanoid has been done with 3D-rendered blocks and from various perspectives of course, but Anoix is the first game I’ve played that takes full advantage of the third dimension: the paddle zooms full circle around an open 360⁰ arena, and highly stacked bricks have to be busted down from the air!
Other than the ball-and-paddle concept, the one thing Anoix truly borrows from Arkanoid is the player’s objective: destroy all blocks. One of Arkanoid’s defining elements is the player’s reliance on the arena itself to contain the ball, and things get really interesting when that aspect is relaxed as it is here. Anoix has the ball slicing clean through breakable blocks; unless it’s deflected by an unbreakable object or scooped up in a cul de sac and spat right back at the player, he or she needs to get a move on and kick that paddle to the opposite end of the arena lest the ball slip right out. This makes for a much more frantic formula than you’d find in a more typical brick-breaker.
Pop-up ramps send the ball sky high and the paddle jumps up so the player can catch it, which allows an aerial approach to suit cases where breakable blocks are stacked up or seated on unbreakable objects. Competing with the need to catch the ball are the expected gamut of wildcard bonuses that occasionally spurt out of broken blocks. The field is often loaded with boxes of TNT that further enhance the ball’s swath of destruction. Anoix contains 56 stages that span both the conceivable and the inconceivable as far as level design goes, so the game throws plenty of weight behind the punch of its creativity.
There’s a design challenge inherent in the player’s race to catch both bonuses and the ball in such a wide playing field: the player must be fast, and the player must be accurate. At first I thought there might be a severe problem here, with Anoix sacrificing the player’s ability to make small adjustments for the sake of speed. That’s because I adopted a habit of using the bottom touchscreen corners for paddle movement so I could keep my field of view as clear as possible — a tendency many players are sure to enter with. By sheer chance I found out how the game’s controls actually work. Turns out that how far off-center you press the screen determines the paddle’s velocity: press near the paddle and it will slowly adjust, but press toward screen’s edge and it will fly left or right in a wide arc. Most of the time, pressing just past the paddle’s edge is the Goldilocks speed the player needs, and you can slide your thumb along the bottom of the touchscreen for appropriate speed adjustments. You can’t blame the player for not realizing this because the game has the barest imaginable static tutorial — it pretty much shows you how to hold an iDevice and ends there! A quick live tutorial, or at least an improvement to the static tutorial that explains the degree-of-movement control, should be the developer’s first order of business in updates.
Another downside is that Anoix doesn’t escape the fundamental flaw of the Arkanoid/Breakout formula: once you’re down to a few blocks and your capricious ball reflection angle, the current level can theoretically draw on just about forever. Anoix manages that problem with a shrewd price-to-content ratio and the player’s ability to jump between level sets for some quick variety. At $0.99 and this degree of creativity, the only fault I can find in Anoix other than a poor tutorial is an equally poor soundtrack. A game with clean neon-hued visuals deserves psychedelic music to match, but the single, swift-looping track on offer right now wears out its welcome in all of five seconds. Prepare to switch the music right off and summon your own playlist, because Anoix is friendly to external music at least.
iFanzine Verdict: Anoix 3D is the freshest take on the Arkanoid/Breakout formula you’ll find on iOS thanks to its full use of three dimensions. On the downside, be prepared to dive in sans tutorial and with your own music playlist! Highly recommended to diehard fans of brick-breaking games and also to casual players who are looking for something well out of the ordinary.