Blitz Breaker

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Boncho Games for PC, Mac, Linux, and iOS, originally released in 2016.
Blitz Breaker stars a tiny robot named Blitz who is attempting to escape the factory in which he was built, but his moveset is unlike that of most other platforming heroes. Blitz is unable to move freely to the left or right, and while he does have the ability to jump, it’s a technique that is rarely required. Instead, he can dash in a straight line in one of four directions and he is unable to alter his course until he reaches a solid object. This minimal moveset is called upon in varied and increasingly difficult ways across his 101-level adventure.

In each level, the robot is spawned into play and the player must use his dash maneuver to fly quickly around the screen, bashing into walls, floors, and ceilings on his way to the exit, all the while dodging hazards such as spikes and spinning sawblades. Early levels feature 1- and 2-screen environments, with larger multi-room environments appearing later in the game, although each is meant to be completed in under 30 seconds.

Each level has a countdown timer, and Blitz is killed if the timer reaches zero. However, running out of time is the least likely way to perish, as the twitch gameplay encourages fast movement and often results in quick deaths as a result of hasty decisions and environmental hazards. Instead, the timer is used to measure the player's performance against the par time for the course, rewarding the player with a star if he can reach the exit by the specified time.

While many precision platformers offer rewards for quick completion, there is an additional twist here in the form of coins. Coins have been a platforming staple since Super Mario Bros., offering levels peppered with collectibles. In many early games, collecting coins offered a gameplay reward, such as a 1UP for every 100 coins, but so many imitators have created games where collectibles are entirely meaningless.

Logic would seem to indicate that players should not waste time collecting out-of-the-way coins when speed is the primary focus; however, logic would be wrong. In this game, grabbing a coin adds a few seconds to the clock, and coins often appear in groups, allowing the player to grab several in a single dash. Coins add a significant amount of time to the clock, and achieving the par time is generally impossible without collecting most of them.

With this design, the player is encouraged to take additional risks and take some indirect routes in order to reach caches of coins. Additional optional pickups appear in the form of purple squares representing warps to bonus levels. By collecting these warp squares and reaching the exit, the player may access a set of warp levels (there are three in each area) which offer an additional set of challenges to put the player’s skills to the test. Completing these levels – and performing well in the standard levels – also unlocks new heads for the robot, altering Blitz’s appearance.

Since the player cannot cancel his movement mid-dash, there are certain places he cannot reach with his dash maneuver, and these places are usually lined with spikes. Instead, players must learn to slam into the walls to bounce away and allow gravity to pull them down under platform edges.

Understanding the distance of the bounce is paramount, as many walls are lined with spikes, so the player must leave enough clearance to bounce back and fall down without hitting them. Coins are often strategically placed one bounce-length away from a wall, offering some hint as to the proper path.

Early on, there is a relatively wide margin for error when making these bounces, but later levels require the player to dash through narrow openings. In these cases, the player must take into account that he will bounce upward a small amount when hitting the wall, and sometimes he must dash through a tight spike-lined dead end and immediately reverse direction upon reaching the far wall.

The player occasionally encounters conveyor belts, and these represent some of the few instances where the JUMP button must be used. Here, the player moves along in one direction and may need to execute a short hop over spikes, projectiles, or lasers. Some of these levels also offer blue keys which change the direction of the conveyors and allow the player to navigate the area.

Yellow keys appear throughout many environments, and these are used to open keyhole barriers. These barriers are generally a single straight line blocking off a new path or screen transition, but sometimes these appear in long rows that disappear one piece at a time like a burning fuse. In these instances, the player must grab the key and then quickly escape the area, bouncing off the keyhole barriers before they disappear… and sometimes the player must continue evading dangerous hazards while he waits for the fuse to burn away a barrier that is blocking the exit door.

Green barriers represent blockades that can be broken by smashing into them, usually requiring that the player hit them with a dash, and then quickly perform another dash in the same direction in order to pass safely through. But later levels flip this notion by offering barriers that are needed to bounce, but open up to a wall of spikes, forcing the player to immediately dash in a new direction in order to avoid death. There are also some platforms that dissolve beneath your feet as you stand on them.

In the first world, the player deals with a number of common obstacles that make additional appearances throughout the experience, including lots of spikes, large spinning sawblades, and cannon fire. When killed, the player is greeted with a short quip, usually referencing the object of his destruction, such as “spikes to meet you”, “saw and order”, and “boom and gloom”. There are even some pop culture references and references to other video games in the level names, such as “Must Go Faster”, referencing Jeff Goldblum’s line from Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and “Not Quite 1001 Spikes”, referencing 1001 Spikes.

World 2 introduces magnetic platforms that cause Blitz to stick to them. Many of these move back and forth, requiring the player to get the proper timing before dashing in their direction, although the player is sometimes required to jump to disconnect from them rather than dashing. This world also introduces water, which changes up the basic mechanics quite a bit, including slower movement (and a return to full speed when you emerge from the water, per gaming conventions) and the fact that you need to repeatedly fling yourself into walls to gain elevation rather than dashing upward. Sometimes, multiple wall bounces are required between rows of spikes, leaving little room for error.

World 3 introduces turrets that spin and fire in your direction, as well as momentum-preserving teleporters that warp you around, allowing for some more complex level layouts. And the fourth and final world introduces a few different laser types, before sending the player into a difficult gauntlet of challenging levels that push all of his skills to the limit.

Each world consists of two sets of nine levels each (plus bonus warp levels), followed by a boss encounter. The first boss is pretty standard fare for what you might expect with a character whose primary ability is dashing quickly; namely, you need to outrun a giant death machine by dashing through a series of obstacles.

However, the game’s other bosses are more traditional encounters. Of note is Boctopus, the boss at the end of World 2. This blue octopus creature sits at the bottom of the screen spitting spike balls out of his mouth, which land on a conveyor belt heading back toward him. You need to dodge this projectile, let it stun the boss, and then move over to the boss’ head and dash into it. Moving around the environment involves dashing between spike-lined walls with magnetic platforms and a sawblade on the ceiling, leaving little room to maneuver.

After attacking him, the boss will shoot out a pair of spikes, one straight up and one to the left, potentially killing you if you aren’t ready. Later, he will start slamming his head into the wall, knocking you away from the magnetic platforms. Then, a portion of the conveyor belt reverses, requiring that you go down and grab a key to get the spike ball headed back toward the boss. Unfortunately, the player has no way of predicting these attacks outside of experiencing them, so he will ultimately need to commit this pattern to memory, but it does make for an interesting use of the player’s abilities that is not otherwise experienced in the standard levels.

Completing each section of the game sends the player to a summary screen showing the total time spent in the area, the number of stars collected, and the total number of deaths. Unfortunately, restarting a level upon death is not as fast as is traditional for precision platformers.

Generally, games offering short levels with quick deaths allow for instant restarts. In this game, on the other hand, the player is required to press a button to clear the death screen and press another button to clear the starting screen, rather than simply hopping back into the action. It’s still a short span, but it becomes more noticeable when you have to repeat a level 20 times before you get it right.

The game also offers an Arcade Mode with the 76 levels from the main game. In this mode, the player’s total time is tracked, but there is no countdown clock. Instead, the player has a limited number of lives (three to start) and must grab 1UPs along the way.

Blitz Breaker takes place in a narrow vertically-oriented window, as is traditional for mobile games, but it also features a few pieces of optional “cabinet art” on either side of the playfield, taking up the remainder of a widescreen display. Among the artwork available is an illustration featuring the second and third bosses.

Blitz Breaker was developed by Reece Kelly under his Boncho Games label, which is based in Vancouver. He previously created a mobile game entitled Invasion Premium and a browser-based game called Super Doomgeon Dive. Music for the game was composed by Fat Bard, who is also the composer behind CrashLands and Adventure Lamp.