For a long time now, Colin Moriarty has been of sizable influence within the video game industry. From his early days of writing video game walkthroughs, to, more recently, forging his own company through Patreon to wide success, Moriarty is sure to evoke a reaction from any who know his name. Over the past few years, he has teased interest in one day being a part of the creation of a video game, and thanks to Lillymo Games (Habroxia, Perils of Baking), that has now taken the form of, Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure.
Immediately after starting the game, the level of fan service and respect that CLS has poured into the title is clear. Followers of Moriarty throughout the years are no stranger to his mannerisms and colloquial verbiage will be pleased to know that those characteristics have found their way into Twin Breaker in nearly every way. For starters, the two ship names used by the protagonists are named Greetings and Salutations, two words that are consistently associated with Moriarty. The fan service does not stop there, however. With Moriarty crafting the narrative of the title in its entirety, the writing feels similar to how he and his co-hosts would communicate on each podcast.
Twin Breaker stars Colin Moriarty and Chris Ray Gun (of the podcast Sacred Symbols) in a narrative-driven brick-breaker experience. The story follows two pilots as they navigate through a wormhole to locate NASA’s generation ships that have gone missing in interstellar space. Upon exiting the wormhole, pilots Colin and Chris are stranded, with the only source of communication coming from deep within this new solar system they find themselves in.
Although Twin Breaker is a brick-breaker experience, players would be mistaken in thinking that is all it has to offer. The game begins with traditional brick-breaker gameplay as the player controls two bouncer pads simultaneously with both analogue sticks. Shortly afterwards, however, the title begins to reveal its cards to the player as it consistently finds new ways to keep the player on their toes. With the objective of each stage to destroy every space brick as fast as possible, while racking up points to accumulate a high score, Twin Breaker will always test the player’s ability to focus and adapt to a rapidly changing environment on the fly.
Occasionally destroying a brick will spawn a space beetle designed to target your bouncers and shorten their length while slowing their crawl speed. The space beetles are one of the game’s many adversaries; players will also face off against the level’s geometry and the fleeting countdown clock as they struggle to keep their score from depleting. Fortunately, the game has a variety of collectibles that serve to both hinder and bolster the player’s run as they shoot for high scores. The Heavy Ball is the pinnacle of drops, as it ignores bounce back to smash through every brick in its path, making runs faster and easier to achieve a high score. Lillymo Games did a fantastic job of making each progressing level feel different from the preceding ones while maintaining a solid pace throughout the experience.
Just as players feel they have a grasp on the gameplay loop for Twin Breaker, the developer shifts perspective, forcing players to adapt to a new style. Throughout the game’s 40 stages, players will experience a variety of gameplay styles. The first 10 stages contain traditional brick-breaker vertical gameplay, while Stages 11-20 rotate the orientation to become the classic game of Pong, and so on.
Every ten stages in Twin Breaker features a boss fight that requires players to simultaneously accumulate a high score while defeating the boss. Speaking of bosses, Twin Breaker features a Boss Rush mode that can be accessed from the main menu of the title. As one would expect, this mode includes only the boss stages for players to continuously play and perfect their skills.
Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure is not just a 40-stage experience, but one that features a plethora of extra modes to keep players entertained well after beating its story. Marathon Mode is the first of the additional modes, where the player must see how far into the 40 stages they can make it without depleting their three lives.
One of the more surprising modes is Pong Mode. In this mode, the player faces off against numerous bosses with the goal to get the ball past them to ‘score’. First to three points wins, resulting in the player moving onto the next boss stage. The player can either outmaneuver the boss to score, or defeat them by whittling down their health bar. Defeating the boss will cause them to disappear for a few seconds, leaving their side vulnerable.
Random Mode takes all 40 stages and randomizes them to varying degrees. One level might start in a simple back and forth pong match, with the next level requiring the player to balance between four bouncers at high difficulty. In the game’s Shooter Mode, which is essentially Space Invaders, both bouncers are present at the bottom of the screen firing continuous cannons as bricks plummet towards them; failing to prevent a brick from passing will result in the loss of a life. As per the other game modes, the key to this is to accumulate the highest score before running out of lives.
Finally, Catcher Mode is where the player must catch falling coins to accumulate a high score while avoiding space beetles. Losing all three lives results in a game over.
Twin Breaker unfortunately possesses a few issues that can make the experience somewhat less satisfying. Given that the title is entirely text-based, the game allows for players to skip ahead a text box or skip the dialogue encounter entirely; however, skipping ahead deletes the current text box and moves onto the next without completing what was being said. The inconsistency of the game’s RNG (random number generator) can also be a little frustrating at times, with both the ball and the item drops making seemingly random decisions and thereby making some levels feel unbalanced.
Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure is a triumph for both Lillymo Games and Colin Moriarty. Twin Breaker is an experience that I did not think I would want in 2020, but desperately needed. Even though it does not stand tall with giant AAA titles, Twin Breaker forges its own path within the indie scene to solidify itself as a tentpole of its genre. Twin Breaker accomplishes something that few games have done before; it finds a way to make an older style of gameplay fun again and relevant. The game contains a plethora of content that rivals many AAA titles of recent memory. A 40-stage story mode combined with six additional game modes to create an endless stream of content makes Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure a must buy for every PlayStation owner.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
Disclosure: The reviewer financially supports Colin’s Last Stand on Patreon.