‘Impulse!’ Review: Arkanoid meets Kaleidoscope

Did you ever spend hours upon hours — probably while sitting in a car’s back seat — as a child endlessly staring into a Kaleidoscope, watching as the colored shapes moved and shifted about? Aleksandr Solovyev certainly must have spent some serious quality time with his favorite Kaleidoscope, as the results are quite plainly obvious in his recently released Impulse! (out now, free). The game is a modern tribute to the ball-bouncing action of Arkanoid, all while being filled with tons of trippy — and often times neon-infused — visuals that drastically change with each and every new level.

screen480x480 (4)If you’ve honestly never played Arkanoid, Breakout, or even Pong at some point in your life — which I must admit is actually a little shocking — then I’m here to inform you that the controls here are about as simple as one can possibly imagine. At the bottom of the screen — below what I shall henceforth refer to as “the paddle” — is a fingerprint icon, and placing your finger upon this will allow you to slide the paddle either left or right. Utilizing this simple control scheme you’ll have the mission of not allowing a bouncing ball to ever fall off the bottom of the playing field, with the ball furthermore being kicked back upwards whenever it comes into contact with your paddle.

Beyond merely keeping the ball from falling of the bottom of the screen — which will subtract one of your lives whenever it happens — your actual primary objective will be what happens the ball bounces upwards, for that’s where Impulse!’s real action exists. That’s because the upper-half of the playing field is where you’ll find the various Kaleidoscope-esque colored-shapes I mentioned in this review’s opening paragraph, and it’s your mission here to eradicate each and every last one of them. This happens whenever the ball slams into one of these (although it’ll sometimes take multiple strikes before a piece fully shatters), after which the ball will careen off in a different direction.

Keeping in line with my earlier comparison to Arkanoid, some of these pieces — when broken — will drop various power-ups that you’ll then have a brief chance to catch with the paddle (just don’t accidentally let the ball drop in the process). Many of these will impart a variety of useful effects: multi-ball, a ball that sticks to the paddle until you release, a ball-catching safety net, a laser-line that shows how the ball will bounce, etc. Some of them — however — will impart bad effects upon the player (and can be thankfully identified by their red hue), such as: making the paddle move the opposite direction of the player’s finger, making everything flash in strobe light colors, or other annoying things.

screen480x480 (5)Although these power-ups will usually appear the initial moment the ball smashes into a Kaleidoscope-esque tile, sometimes these tiles will instead fall down — still fully intact — towards the paddle after being struck. When this happens the player will have to catch the tile with their paddle in order to finish destroying it; which will both earn them bonus points in the process, as well as releasing whichever power-up it may have been holding. However — other than the loss of potential power-ups, and bonus points — there will be no penalties imparted should the player fail to catch any of these falling tiles, and thus keeping the ball in play should still be someone’s top priority.

Or at least that’s how the game’s default Arcade mode works, things flow quite differently in Tactical mode where red and blue tokens — rather than direct power-ups — fall from down from destroyed tiles. These tokens can then be spent to determine whichever power-ups you wish to use during each life, with the more advantageous power-ups obviously requiring more tokens to be purchased. These power-ups will then — just like before — remain in play until you’ve your current ball, after which you can swipe upwards to open the menu that permits you to again purchase more power-ups.

Now while it might initially seem otherwise, there are no IAP options here for players to purchase tokens with in order to just splurge non-stop during Impulse!’s Tactical mode (that’s all part of what makes your token-spending decisions tactical in the first place). What does exist — however — is a premium full-game unlock option, without which you’ll have to watch ads the entire time you’re playing through Impluse! (which is fair, seeing as you haven’t yet paid for the game). Unfortunately these ads are placed dangerously close to the finger icon, making it unnecessarily easy to accidentally hit them as you’re frantically trying to keep up with the action (especially during a multi-ball session).

screen480x480 (6)The second problem — although this is admittedly more specific to my hardware: an iPod Touch 5 — is that Impulse!’s ads tend to cause the game to slow down to an utter crawl every time it tries to load-up a new one, or worse will make the game just crash entirely. Sadly this forced me to prevent the ads from loading by disabling the Wi-Fi on my iDevice in order to finish this review, which is unfortunate as I don’t normally believe in the use of things like ad-blockers (there’s just no such thing as deserved free-lunch). Thankfully — however — if you did like what you saw then these troublesome ads will leave forever after you’ve opted into Impulse!’s full version, meaning you won’t have to worry about endlessly playing Aleksandr Solovyev’s game sans ever compensating him.

Which is certainly a good thing, seeing as how Impulse!’s variety of power-ups — solid touch-screen paddle controls — and trippy Kaleidoscope-inspired visuals (that change wildly with each level) all make for a rather solid Arkanoid-esque experience. Further adding to this top-notch package is a synth-laden zen-inspired soundtrack that fully changes up the music with each of Impulse!’s thirty wildly-different block-breaking vistas. So make sure you’re wearing your headsets when you pick this one up, as Impulse!’s music is actually an integral component of the trippy presentation at the core of Aleksandr Solovyev’s offering.


For those who like block-breaking paddle-games — such as Arkanoid and Breakout — Aleksandr Solovyev’s Impulse! is one worth checking out, thanks in no-small part to some rock-solid controls. This is then furthered by a wide-ranging series of ultra-detailed kaleidoscope-inspired visuals that change drastically on each of the game’s thirty levels, coupled with a zen-inspired synth-laden soundtrack. Thankfully you can check out the entire game for absolutely free before you decide whether or not Impulse! — and its wide range of power-ups — are truly for you (sadly the trial-mode ads, before you choose this upgrade, can cause slow-down and crashes on older hardware).

Trippy kaleidoscope-inspired visuals
Tons of power-ups
Solid controls
The in-game ads during the free-trial are placed dangerously close to the controls