Bleatbleat‘s first release, Kiln, is a return to an old arcade style of gaming that never gets old. It’s hard to refinish the classics without the players preferring the original, but Kiln does not disappoint at all.
In Kiln, players use a ball to clear bricks on the screen and keep the ball in motion with a paddle. Even if you don’t know that the style came from Breakout and Arkanoid, players will recognize the format anyway. There are some features that help make it easier to play like a guided path to help you figure out the trajectory of your ball for the first couple of bounces, but the actual gameplay is very intuitive.
I didn’t really have any expectations for this game other than that it would load quickly and feel retro. It’s completely old school with plain bright text against a dark background. Even the game title, “Kiln”, is just a nice font with a brick texture. This was actually a little off-putting to me at first because an old gaming format does not mean lazy graphics. As I played the game though, I got used to the simple design and I appreciate it more now. Don’t let the lack of shiny graphics prevent you from giving it a try.
The sound effects are appropriate in game and the lack of background music makes sense by Level 3 when the bricks, depending on their color, play different notes when hit. Level 3 is when the interesting parts of Kiln start to appear. The entire color scheme of the screen changes after bricks are hit and the bricks themselves are a completely different width and color than the previous level bricks. In Level 4, the bricks shrink after being hit instead of disappearing instantly, which makes playing more difficult. In Level 5, there are two other balls bouncing around to make more things to keep track of. These are fun and interesting twists that prevent the game from being boring. The levels get more interesting the higher you go, but it’s difficult to get there.
Kiln promises 80+ levels of gameplay and even a 3D element after level 21, but I haven’t gotten to see any of that because of the tedious starting level requirement. In order to start playing at Level 2 instead of Level 1, you have to first clear Level 5. This is an annoying idea. Sure, there’s a benefit to warming up in difficulty before moving onto higher levels, but it also means that as you grow accustomed to gameplay, you are constantly playing the most boring levels. I would appreciate being able to start where I left off and then, if I’m rusty, choose a lower level to start from after I’m dead. I can’t play the game as much as I’d like to because I’m so tired of Level 1.
Not only that, but the paddle moves very slowly which means that if you had your ball bounce around the top of the bricks for a while and have no idea where it’s going to come out, you have to be lucky or you’ll never get your paddle to the ball in time. I somewhat expected the paddle speed to vary with the force that the screen is titled, but the speed is practically constant, and overall pretty slow. If you’re only going to have one speed, slower is probably safer, but it’s still frustrating.
There are plenty of other pluses to Kiln, though. Instead of only telling you if you beat your high score, it tells you if you made the high score chart at all and which place it is. It’s nice to see improvement if you can’t get that one high score again. It’s also relatively easy to get more lives. Every 200 points, another life is earned, and if you can get enough consecutive bricks, the points add up quickly.
Because this is a retro style game, there is no store to buy upgrades or anything like that, but it is very long and promises tons of gameplay without requiring any in-game, or real life currency.
Overall, I think Kiln is well worth the $0.99 price tag and is worth more than that. If you favor old arcade games like I do, you really need to have this game. Despite its hangups, Kiln is the best ball, paddle, and brick game that I’ve played since Cluefinders Math, which spiced itself up by making you solve math problems. The developers knew what they were doing when they made it.
This isn’t a game to play while talking to friends in the room to keep your hands busy. This is a game to play when you’re tired of thinking all day long and want to do something that’s cool, but not so brainless that you’d be better off having a nap. It takes something old, and makes it feel new while staying true to its roots.
For more screencaps from Kiln, you can visit its page on the bleatbleat website or follow bleatbleat on Twitter. You can purchase Kiln for Android at Google Play, or for an iOS system at the App Store.
[review pros="Not complicated, color and sound changes keep it interesting, not too hard to get more lives" cons="Paddle moves slowly, the level unlocking system makes early levels tedious, no background music during gameplay may be boring" score=89]