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Indie Game A Day: Break Limit - Review

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Break Limit is a tough game to peg down. There is a sub-genre of shooters known as bullet-hell shmups, where enemies fill the screen with projectiles for you to narrowly pilot a ship between. On that note, think of Break Limit as an everything-hell shmup. There isn't a single enemy bullet in the game, but in their place you'll be dodging just about everything else in the chaos that ensues on-screen.

Break Limit has a classic arcade design, which is to say, the game revolves around its leaderboards. The objective in each of the three levels is to survive until the end racking up as many points as possible. Points aren't hard to come by, with coins drawing paths to follow and every object you shoot adding to your total. But just surviving presents its own challenges. The levels have been devilishly designed, packed with asteroids, tunnels, moving walls, and heat-seeking space wasps all with the intention of ruining your day. And the first couple runs through each of the levels, they're likely to succeed.

That's where the titular break limit ability comes in. Scattered throughout each level are glowing blue orbs that fill up a meter at the top of the screen. By pressing the left trigger you can use this meter to send your ship into overdrive. There are significant advantages to being in break limit mode. First of all, you're invincible, allowing you to plow through obstacles and enemies. There are some parts that are impossible to survive without using your break limit, so having some stocked up in your meter at all times is key. Break limit mode also speeds up the level and gives you a significant point multiplier, so you'll be tempted to use it for more than just survival during a particularly hard portion of a level. And if you can master using your break limit, you may just find that it's possible to boost through the entire level if you know the right paths to take.

Break Limit's developer has done an excellent job of packing replay value into the game's three levels. Within each level there are multiple branching paths that temporarily flip the screen from a top-scrolling shooter to a side-scroller. These alternate paths offer unique challenges, and scoring opportunities. I found myself coming back to levels again and again to figure out which routes would net me the most points without killing me before the end. Each level can also be played on four difficulty settings, each with their own leaderboard to climb. And if the leaderboards don't entice you, Break Limit converts all of your scores into experience points for a persistent leveling up mechanic. As you level up you'll gain bonuses to your shields and weapons, so the more you play the better you'll become.

Break Limit isn't perfect though. The game is plagued by long load times, and due to the framework Microsoft allows for Xbox indie games the leaderboards don't always update right away. My biggest issue with the game though is the third level, Triton Omega. Sometimes a challenging game can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it's just downright unfair. Break Limit has two levels that fall into that first fun category, while the Triton Omega level falls flat on its face in the latter.

Break Limit is a dollar well spent for shooter fans and leaderboard lovers. It's not the first shooter to focus heavily on dodging obstacles, but it's the first I've seen that encourages you to dodge so aggressively thanks to the break limit ability. It's hard not to feel exhilarated when playing Break Limit, as the music matches the fast pace of the gameplay to make you feel unstoppable. Right up until you crash into a wall. And then you'll load it back up and start over again, because maybe, just maybe, if you give it one more try you'll reach that high score.

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