Review: Highscore Processing Unit

Countless games have iterated the classic brick-breaker, to varying degrees of success, implementing all manner of power-up abilities and sometimes even elements of role-playing progression while retaining the core ball-and-paddle mechanics we’ve all grown so familiar with since Breakout and Arkanoid made the genre famous.

Playing Highscore Processing Unit, you can tell that there is a common strand of DNA tying it to the classic brick-breakers of yore, but at the same time it is an altogether new breed of arcade score attack gaming that properly distinguishes itself from the mass of genre clones.

Similarities begin and end with the familiar setup of having a ball and a bunch of bricks to bust through. From there the gameplay takes on a completely different feel. Instead of sliding a flat paddle along the vulnerable bottom edge of the screen to deflect a ball up at hovering bricks while simultaneously keeping said ball from falling past the paddle, you must glide your mouse to rotate a cursor along a rigid 360-degree track encircling voxel shapes bobbing, spinning, and sliding within the circular play area. As you move the cursor, the ball attracts to it like a magnet, swooping back and forth across the screen, always chasing after the cursor. The idea is to manipulate the magnetic pull and gravitational force to keep the ball pinging off the blocks until they’re all gone.

Highscore Processing Unit is a pure arcade high score chase through and through. Unlike a traditional brick-breaker, you’re never making direct contact with the ball to influence it’s direction, and the ball can never fall out of the screen or be lost in any way. Instead, you’re allotted a starting time of three minutes to complete as many stages as possible, with 10 bonus seconds added back on the clock at the beginning of each stage. There’s a progression of 30 pre-defined stages, but if you manage to clear them all with time still on the clock, the progression starts you back from the first level. Basically, the game’s a time attack to break as many voxels as your mousing skills will allow.

The level progression follows the same order on every attempt, which is actually a good thing because it allows you to study the patterns and take what you learned from the previous run and immediately apply it to the next. There isn’t a lot of content or substance, but the game does mix things up with a constantly changing variety of targets of different shapes, movement patterns, and obstacles. Some stages are simply about mowing through the voxels, while others require a more targeted approach as the shapes contain especially vulnerable areas or even insta-kill weak points, like the center block of a spiraling blade or the beady red eyeballs of a demon head. Hitting the weak points explodes the whole target, which is obviously a whole lot quicker than breaking the clusters one brick at a time.

Certain levels contain glowing green bricks, which, when destroyed, spawn a multi-ball or unstoppable ball (it bulldozes through all bricks in its path without deflecting) power-up for the duration of the current stage, or grant a substantial time bonus to the clock. Acquiring a power-up as soon as possible is crucial to maximizing point output and completion speed.

Quick and efficient movements are a must as scoring is directly linked to speed, with the point value for destroyed blocks steadily decreasing as the timer ticks down. Fortunately the controls are incredibly intuitive and precise, the movement of the ball as it loops back and forth offering a tangible fluidity of motion that just feels so smooth and satisfying. The sound of voxels popping like a bunch of bang snap firecrackers only adds to the blissful simplicity.

In addition to the availability of mouse sensitivity adjustment to tune the cursor movement to what’s comfortable to you, the game provides three tiers of play: Simple, Twice, and Thrice. The level flow is the same across the board, but each step up multiplies the number of targets appearing in each stage, as well as ratchets up the ball speed. So, for example, a level with one target on the Simple difficulty will feature two targets on Twice and three targets on Thrice. Obviously, more targets means more potential points, so to place high on the leaderboard you’ll eventually need to graduate to playing on Thrice to maximize your scoring opportunities.

The game’s leaderboard system is handled in a fun way, including a traditional high score table as well as a voxelized world map that highlights the location of the Daily, Weekly, and coveted The Highscore rankings with glowing blocks to mark the global location of each score’s holder. I had The Highscore spot for a fleeting moment, but even after eclipsing that score I have since been knocked back to second place. Your best time and score is also kept for each individual level, not on the global leaderboard but rather on a personal chart. Better yet, the individual stage clock has a ghosting effect to represent your previous best time, which provides a helpful visual cue so you have some real-time awareness of how your current run is going compared to prior completion times.

Highscore Processing Unit definitely hits the spot as an easy to learn, hard to master arcade score attack, succeeding where many games have failed in the mighty task of innovating the concept of a brick-breaker. The game’s great fun for quick in and out play when you only have a few minutes to burn, and yet the simple reward loop of studying the patterns, improving your skill with the unique ball movement mechanic, and steadily advancing a little further and raising your score just a little higher with each attempt can easily turn into an unshakable score chase addiction.

BuyIt

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Codrer
Developer: Codrer
Release Date: 5/4/2018
Genre: Arcade/Brick-Breaker
Players: 1 (plus online leaderboards)

Source: A Steam key for Highscore Processing Unit was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration by Codrer.

Buy From: Steam for $1.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!