Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure is a new cross-buy brick-breaking adventure for PS4 and PlayStation Vita developed by Lillymo Games, and written by Sacred Symbols podcast creator Colin Moriarty. The adventure takes place in a futuristic world where humanity has colonized planets throughout the Milky Way and a third world-war rages on Earth’s surface. Following repeated failed attempts by Earth’s economic powerhouse and neutral nation, the United States, to send ships full of people to far-away solar systems, the original ship called the Generation Ship – 1 appears and broadcasts encrypted information before quickly vanishing. Decrypting that information leads to the discovery of a wormhole with the capability of allowing high-speed travel across space, prompting NASA to launch Greetings and Salutations, two small ships into space to solve this galactic mystery.
The names Greetings and Salutations are references to the opening seconds of the Sacred Symbol’s podcast, where Moriarty routinely greets viewers with the phrase. The two ships are manned by Colin and his podcast co-host Chris, respectively. Their complex futuristic space vessels are armed with deadly “bouncers” which you ricochet against formations of space molecules in each of Twin Breaker‘s 40 levels.
These levels do their best to differentiate themselves from the typical brick-breaker by forcing the player to control two different paddles at once, and eventually four paddles at once; players control one paddle with the x and y-axis of each stick. This dynamic works well but is hard to master, giving Twin Breaker a decent level of challenge, specifically on the four paddle levels and throughout the game’s more challenging new game plus mode.
Controlling the twin-breaker paddles can be challenging, so power-ups randomly will drop from destroyed bricks providing extra lives, a more powerful bouncer, or guns on your paddles. Another tool at your disposal is your bumpers which allow you to launch paddles toward the bouncer and change its trajectory mid-flight. While breaking through these galactic bricks, you will build up points that determine your ranking at the end of the level. Be careful though, as losing lives, or getting hit by any of the dangerous scarabs that fly at your paddles, will cause you to lose points. While point totals are likely irrelevant for casual players looking to roll credits, completionists will be looking to S-rank 20 levels, and earn an A-rank in all 40 to collect all written collectibles. This gameplay is generally very enjoyable and engaging but can become very monotonous when only a few tricky bricks remain, particularly when trying to earn a more difficult S-rank.
The 40 levels go by quickly; I breezed through my first playthrough of Twin Breaker in about two hours, only getting stuck on a few levels. I especially enjoyed the conversations between Colin and Chris which happen every five levels, and could have benefitted greatly from voice-acting. However, I did notice some strange difficulty spikes; notably, the final 10 levels start by revisiting the two-paddle gameplay that made-up the first 20 levels of the game.
I understand what Lillymo was trying to do by forcing players to revisit each level type leading up to the game’s final showdown. But, ultimately this just leads to a strange difficulty spike as some of the game’s easiest stages come after the game’s hardest stages, and in the lead-up to the final battle. Introducing this new level of challenge for such a brief period of time really confused me, but I found there were other places to find this challenge; the difficulty is much improved throughout new game plus, which provides a more consistent challenge and extra replayability.
Twin Breaker actively promotes replayability through its wonderful Trophies list, multiple arcade-like minigame modes, and its previously mentioned written collectibles. The collectibles are interesting readings which flesh out the game’s futuristic world, while also including some fun homages to Colin’s background; memorably, one reading shouted-out his alma mater Northeastern University.
Unfortunately, it’s while replaying the game that I started to develop more gripes with it. The bouncer appeared to shoot off my paddles in very random directions if they didn’t have any momentum. This led to some levels becoming incredibly boring, as I would have one or two bricks left sheltered by unbreakable obstructions that I would spend many frustrating minutes trying to hit. Additionally, after clearing multiple levels in good time without losing lives, I noticed that A and S-ranking some levels is completely dependent on RNG. Regardless of how perfectly I played the level, it wasn’t until I got multiple strong drops like the heavy ball, double score multiplier, or multiple scarabs to kill earning me 100 points each, that achieving these high ranks was possible.
Meanwhile, the game’s other modes–pong mode, catcher mode, boss-rush mode, and more–are fun for short periods of time, but will mostly be played by Trophy hunters. In general, I think Twin Breaker would really benefit from a slightly higher energy soundtrack that would help make its duller moments and game modes more entertaining. Regardless, I could definitely see myself coming back to some of these alternate modes or hunting down a few more S-ranks during a future commute on my PlayStation Vita.
Sacred Symbols fans will enjoy Twin Breaker, but it’s far from a perfect game. Although very engaging for a brick breaker, its few frustrating moments are more memorable than its many enjoyable ones. The world that Moriarty creates is extremely interesting, but undoubtedly better suited for a project of larger size than for a short brick breaker. Its most exciting moments when the screen has four or eight bouncers rapidly shooting around the screen are amazing, but are also heavily RNG dependant and extremely shortlived. This is contrast to other parts of the game, where the boring time spent trying to clear a final brick can easily drag on for minutes. The soundtrack, although competent, doesn’t do enough to keep players entertained during the game’s slower moments.
On the bright side, the writing during the story and in collectibles is typically great, the boring moments in gameplay are hard to come by (especially during the first playthrough), and it’s a rare well-priced PlayStation Vita release that offers replayability on the go. I doubt Twin Breaker will manage to find much of an audience outside of Sacred Symbols listeners, but I’m glad that the game Sacred Symbols fans are receiving is a solid and unique one.