ArkanoArena for iPhone by Sketch Games icon

ArkanoArena for iPhone ($1.99) by Sketch Games is a beautiful steampunk-themed “Breakout” game for your iPhone.

When it comes to Breakout games, there’s not a lot that you can change, right? You control a ball with a paddle, and chip away at the blocks that are above you, while collecting power-ups along the way. Well, if that’s your idea of Breakout, then ArkanoArena is about to prove you wrong.

From the moment you open the app, you’re greeted with gorgeous graphics and ambient music in the background. The graphics beautifully represent the steampunk culture, as well as the sounds when you go through menu choices and break bricks. You also get a different background image for every level each time you play – it will never be the same game. You can tell that the developers put a lot of work into crafting ArkanoArena.

There is only one type of gameplay, as expected from a Breakout clone. However, there are three difficulty levels that will definitely challenge you: Normal, Hardcore, and Survival.

ArkanoArena for iPhone by Sketch Games screenshot

Normal is just like what you’d expect – you get three lives, and once you run out of lives, you’ll have the option to quit or restart the level. Hardcore is just like Normal, except if you die, you can’t restart – it will be game over for you. Survival is a special game mode, in which you are given all of the weapons and enhancements from the get-go, but you are only given one life. If you die on this single life, it’s just game over.

Game controls in ArkanoArena are simple enough – tap anywhere on the screen before launching to aim the ball. Double tap the Stinger (your paddle) to launch the ball where you aimed it. Drag the Stinger along the bottom with your finger to control where it goes. If you’ve played a Breakout game before, then these controls should be natural to you.

Each “arena” (aka level) will show you your current level number, time remaining, and your current score at the top. The time is pretty significant – each level will give you a bonus of four minutes to complete. If you manage to complete the arena before the time is up, you will score a point for each second that was saved. So if you finish quick enough, you will be rewarded – pretty nice, isn’t it?

As you gain points, at the end of the level, you are able to see the Armory. This is where you can buy weapons and other upgrades for your Stinger. Once you purchase an upgrade, you can use it by tapping on the appropriate buttons near the bottom right corner of the game screen. These upgrades make the game worth playing alone, since it adds a nice twist on your traditional brick breaking game.

In addition to just breaking bricks, you will encounter enemies along the way. This is when those machine guns (or whatever heavy artillery you went for) will come in handy (these only last for the current game though). You will also find power-ups hidden in blocks, special blocks that take more hits to destroy, and even blocks that hold enemies (which you don’t have to break to finish the level). Obstacles will also get in your way and won’t go away, so plan around these. It’s all just like the other Breakout games you’ve played, but with more excitement. Oh, and it’s actually a lot harder as well.

ArkanoArena comes with Game Center support for various achievements as well as leaderboards. If you quit the game and come back to it later, ArkanoArena will save and auto restore when you come back.

ArkanoArena for iPhone by Sketch Games screenshot

I did have a slight problem with coming back to my game – I didn’t pause it, and when I came back, the game just resumed automatically without delay, and thus I lost a life. If you want to pause the game, just tap where the timer is. Though this takes you back to the main menu of the app, hitting “Play” will ask you if you want to resume or start a new game.

I think that there should just be a pause menu rather than bumping you back to the main screen of the app. Also, putting the game on pause if you exit the game suddenly would be a nice feature.

I found ArkanoArena to be a beautiful and refreshing take on the traditional brick breaking game. The graphics are stunning, the music and sound effects are perfect, and the gameplay is exhilarating for this old classic. The upgrades that you can purchase for your Stinger definitely make you want to rack up those points so you can just destroy all enemies and bricks in your path.

If you’re a fan of brick breaker games, then you will definitely want to give this game a try. There is also a free version for the iPhone (gives you 10 levels) and an iPad version that will cost you $1.99. Luckily for one AppAdvice reader, we have a copy of the iPhone game to give away!

GIVEAWAY: For your chance of winning a copy of ArkanoArena for iPhone, simply leave a comment on this post (with a valid email so that I may contact the winner) by Saturday, September 10, 8 p.m. PDT. The winner will be chosen randomly. Good luck!