Hazumi Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop) Developer/Publisher: EyeCancer/Gamelion Studios Price: $3.99 Forget everything you know about brick breaking games!...Except for the brick breaking part…That’s still very much a part of this. There seems to be a tendency for eShop releases to be filled with shovelware and extraneous puzzle titles that don’t make much of a dent. That’s not to say that many titles aren’t worthwhile or solidify their significance on the market, but with more and more puzzle games seeing releases, it’s easy to get fatigued by the oversaturation. So when a unique, worthwhile puzzle game is pushed through the fodder and is actually a rewarding experience, it’s time for celebration. And that’s exactly the case with Hazumi. When it comes to the story of Hazumi, I mean this is a puzzle game, so you’re really not getting much of one here, so to speak. What you do get though is a robust, challenging action-puzzler that’s a pretty smart, fresh spin on an already fun genre. Block/brick breakers and titles like Arkanoid have always been my favorite sub-genre of puzzle games and Hazumi does some creative things with the old concept. Rather than having a paddle or character to bounce or direct your ball, here there’s nothing to assist you other than the terrain of the level itself. Your ball will navigate through intricate designs and complex layouts as you seek to eliminate every block in sight. With the re-done controls come some re-done obstacles too, with targets like bombs, winds, and spikes lurking around every corner. 100 Levels of Brick Breaking Goodness So how well do those bricks break? Obviously there’s not much to the controls here, but the minimal details are crucial. You are able to steer and direct the trajectory of your ball—left and right--with the circle pad, and able to use wall for reflected trajectory. It’s not the simplest control scheme, and there is a bit of a minimal learning curve to it. Part of the charm of games like this is a casual love-hate relationship with the out-of-your-control mechanics, and this falls into that area, rather than being egregiously problematic and buggy. A brick breaking game that might break your brain first The levels themselves are already pretty challenging as you try to figure out the right way to work your way through the levels in order to make hitting every block possible, but for those completionists that are eager for a perfect rating, you're going to be pulling your hair out. These consist of a number of intensive guidelines for each level, like matching the ball's color to the blocks that you're breaking, or working your way through the proper sequence of teleports. Yeah, there are teleports as just one of the many unconventional wrenches thrown into your block breaking gameplay. You’re truly getting an original experience here. Jeez, more like gear breaker, am I right? If there’s any downfall to the game, it’s the difficulty, to be honest. A game with this sort of rudderless control design is already challenging from the jump, but each level has a star rating difficulty of three. The number of levels you have access to (of which there are 100) is dependent on how many stars you have. However, each rung of levels often requires you needing to get a three-star rating across the board. The hardest part is not a suggested challenge here, but often the mandatory expectation. Then again, if the biggest penalty here is not getting access to more levels, you’re probably not getting too frustrated here. And most of the time, the experience leaves you craving and wanting more, rather than abandoning it. Break those bricks with a song in your heart and nostalgia in your ears When it comes to the graphics here, Hazumi keeps it simple and there’s really nothing wrong with that. A flashy design could distract or get in the way, and the basic design they use works just fine. That being said, more of a 3D implementation, even in minimal ways, could have gone far, but again, this title is only $3.99. The audio is a pleasant surprise though, with classic, former-gen sound effects littering the game that are nostalgically soothing, and the soundtrack being warmly addictive and bouncy. I certainly found myself playing Hazumi with the sound on, more than off, which isn’t usually the case with puzzle games. Supposedly some levels have subliminal messages in them… So is this a one-night brick break, or a long-term relationship of puzzling? Again, there’s 100 levels here, that should keep most people busy, as well as the challenge in itself of getting to all of them. Very generously the title also includes a Stage Creator, which allows you as much freedom as you see in the game itself. Essentially you can re-create everything here, getting full access to the tool; it’s just going to take some time getting adept with them. You’re allowed to save up to 12 designs, which seems like enough. I mean, why not? That being said, there’s no online presence here, whether it’s an online leaderboard for your scores, or the ability to share your custom-made levels. It’s certainly not a necessity in what already feels like a full game, but it’d add a nice little bit of longevity for those that have mastered (or been frustrated by) the rest of the game. Pros: +Innovative take on a tired sub-genre for a great price +Challenging gameplay for die-hard puzzle fans +100 levels plus complete Stage Creator mode +Pleasantly addictive chiptune soundtrack Cons: -High difficulty results in tough expectations and goals for the average gamer -No online presence Hazumi warrants a score of ”BUY IT” due to its fresh, creative rejuvenation of the brick breaker game. Complete with new obstacles and complex controls, puzzle addicts will see themselves going through 100 interesting levels. Throw in varying challenge levels and a full Stage Creator, and you’re left with a very fulfilling puzzle game, whose only real fault is its difficulty which might be too much for the average puzzler. Disclosure: A review copy was used to evaluate this game.