Combining Pong with The Great Escape, Atari find themselves with yet another breakout arcade hit, Breakout.

Source // Wikipedia

Once again, with such a widespread game concept it's hard to pinpoint where I was when I first encountered Breakout, and in what form it was that I first laid eyes on it. I'd bet against having played it on an arcade cabinet, but that just takes away one of many, many machines that were a home to this bit of gaming code.

Fun Times

Breakout is like a version of Pong for people who want to destroy things, or equally for those who want to clean things away. It's usually a single player pursuit to a personal best score - something to wind down the clock when you've nothing to do.

Move paddle, bat ball, listen to blips, watch numbers increase, repeat.

Alright, it's not strictly speaking a version of Breakout, but it's inspired by it and I've fond memories of it - Bouncer 2, made on the Net Yaroze, found it's way onto a PlayStation demo disc in my youth.
Source // Giant Bomb

Fond Memories

In some versions though, it can vary from the norm quite a bit. Replace the ball with some tiny blokes, the paddle with a set of spring things and you've got yourself the weird Net Yaroze game Bouncer 2. It's basically Breakout. It's not. But it plays like it. Sort of.

Generally, you don't see wacky Breakout clones, but clones that live up to the definition of 'clone'. They're everywhere, you've probably played them, you may even have a favourite version, to which every other version feels wrong.


That's the thing with Breakout. The concept is the same, the specifics not so much. If you've got a favourite version of Breakout, then you've got that versions paddle and ball physics in your head. You know how far to move the paddle because you knew how fast the ball was moving.

Move from a modern version with a mouse or finger swipe input to a decades old D-pad controlled version, and you're moaning at the lack of precision, the ball seemingly moving through the edge of the paddle rather than hitting it, and so on.

That old version has failed you, in a sense, but if you stick with it just a few minutes more, suddenly the physics click, you fall into the zone and you're aiming for the high score.

Google's 'Image Breakout' uses images of Breakout as blocks for a game of Breakout.

Final Word

Breakout is a classic for a reason. It's so simple to pick up that anyone can play it, and now that includes computers.

Not content with offering an in browser version to show off the future of web standards and coding, Google bought UK based AI company DeepMind who have taught machines to teach themselves how to play utterly dominate Breakout.

Expect YouTube to be flooded by Let's Plays with no human involvement in the coming years...

Oh, and to spend a while getting the last bloody block.

Fun Facts

Steve 'Woz' Wozniak, egged on by Steve Jobs, created Breakout in less than a week. It was such a compact and complicated circuit board that Atari had difficulty manufacturing it, having to remake it from scratch.

Breakout, developed by Atari, Inc., first released in 1976.
Versions played: Atari 2600, 1978, via emulation.
Image Breakout, 2013, via Google Image Search (HTML5)