ArkanoArena takes the familiar ball-breaker game, gives it a story and a fresh coat of steampunk paint. The end result is a beautiful game with interesting gameplay, but some fatal flaws keep it from being a top-notch arcade title, for the time being.
I was immediately struck by the gorgeous graphics in this app. They were done in a steampunk art style, that was both a blessing and a bit of a curse. The images and animations were mesmerizing in their detail and excellent design, almost to a fault. On one of the background screens, in particular, a lovely airship floats across the screen, distracting me from the goal of keeping the ball in play. This distraction might or might not be an intentional design element of the game, but there was another issue I have with the design. The color palette is pretty and fits the theme of the game well, but the lack of color contrasts made it difficult to follow the ball(s), especially when things speed up and there's a lot of action on the screen. I will say though, that despite this shortcoming, ArkanoArena probably is the best-looking Arkanoid style game for iOS.
A feature of the game that felt fresh to me is the ability to purchase weapons and upgrades for your vehicle. Once purchased, you may activate these modifications at any time. For instance, a missile shot in just the right spot might start a chain of explosions that give a huge head start in clearing a difficult stage. This added a nice tactical element that's missing in most other Arkanoid clones.
There are two control methods that can be used, two buttons on the left and right of the screen will move the vehicle in the respective direction, or traditional swipe controls may be used. The latter was my preferred method of control, and it works reasonably well, while the former will probably not be agile enough to keep up when the action gets heated.
Unfortunately, ArkanoArena also has some bug issues to be worked out. Numerous times, the app would crash when my vehicle was hit by enemy missiles, or when trying to resume a saved game. I'm sure this problem will be sorted out in future updates, but in the meantime, it probably won't get a lot of play on my iPad.