Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! brings brick-busting action to the cross-dressing lovelies

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Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! presents me with something of a quandary as a reviewer. On the one hand, it’s a good game from a great developer, well worth supporting — particularly given its underserved subject matter. On the other, it’s so uncomfortably close to another almost identical game that it’s hard not to come out of the experience wishing that just a little bit more had been done with this one.

With that in mind, I’ll be up-front and say that for the most part, today I’m going to treat Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! as its own independent title and talk about it on its own merits. There’s not necessarily crossover between those who enjoy otokonoko material and those who enjoy female-centric ecchi content, after all, so it’s entirely possible that there are Otoko Cross fans out there who have never — and will never — play Pretty Girls Breakers Plus, and vice versa.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp!

I do, however, feel like it is worth noting before we start that a significant number of stages in Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! are literally identical to their counterparts in Pretty Girls Breakers Plus, however, and as someone who enjoys both series of games, I found this rather disappointing. The new characters and the additional effort that has been put into including information about their backgrounds is, as ever for the series, worthy of praise — it’s just a shame that the actual game side of things seemingly didn’t have quite the same level of care and attention paid to it.

Anyway, that’s all I’ll say on that matter for now, because as previously noted, taken entirely on its own merits, Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! is a solid addition to the series, and a fun game in its own right. So that’s the perspective we’ll be approaching it from hereon.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! is, like the other entries in the series, an adaptation of a classic casual game formula. In this case, rather than adapting a tabletop game, we’re in the realms of retro arcade games: specifically, the brick-breaking genre as established by titles such as Atari’s Breakout and Taito’s Arkanoid.

Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp!

The main twist in Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! is that rather than controlling a flat paddle as in more conventional takes on the brick-breaking formula, you instead take command of a humanoid figure wielding a bat. Rather than simply placing yourself in the way of the incoming ball, you have to actually swing the bat at the ball, and the ability to swing both “forehand” and “backhand” allows you to knock the ball in various different directions.

This control scheme takes a little getting used to for those more familiar with the conventional block-breaking formula, but it does allow for some quite precise control once you master it. Notably, it helps eliminate a common situation in this sort of game where you end up trapped in a corner with the ball repeatedly bouncing in the same pattern, seemingly unable to hit the last few bricks unless you perform some seriously pixel-perfect manoeuvring.

There’s another factor at play with this bat-swinging action, too: hitting the ball with the pink tip of the bat causes a “combo” to start, and if this reaches a count of 5, the ball is temporarily powered up and breaks through blocks rather than bouncing off them as it breaks them. This can help you clear more complex stages very quickly if you master the timing and positioning required.

As in most post-Arkanoid block-breakers, there are also power-ups available. These include a simple “net” that prevents you from dropping the ball several times, a multiball function, the ability to cause your balls to swell to a massive size temporarily (always a problem when dealing with otokonoko, I find), a laser that allows you to shoot out blocks and several others besides.

There are also a few special features in the stages to contend with. Large, numbered blocks require hitting several times to destroy — though hitting them with a powered-up ball from a combo allows you to reduce their “hit points” more quickly. Many stages, particularly later in the game, also feature enemies that must be destroyed as well as the blocks; the further in the game you go, the more likely they are to fire at you, and you must either avoid or hit their bullets back at them, lest you lose a life.

The game can be played in either a stage-based format, in which you must clear individual stages as quickly and with as many points as possible, or in an endless mode where you continually battle for the best scores. This latter feature is a very welcome addition, as it adds plenty of longevity for after you’ve cleared the core stages.

As always for the Otoko Cross series, presentation is solid, with some lovely artwork for the core cast. Voice acting is a little variable this time around, with some characters having noticeably lower quality (and lower volume) voice recordings, which is a bit of a shame, but all the voices do at least complement the characters well. As in the previous games, the characters speak Japanese, but often with a slight accent that reflects the country they’re actually from, giving each a rather charming sense of personality in the way they speak to you.

On the whole, Otoko Cross: Pretty Boys BreakUp! is a solid addition to the Otoko Cross series, particularly if you enjoy block-breakers. It is a shame that it doesn’t do more to distinguish itself from Pretty Girls Breakers Plus, on which it is very obviously based, but taken entirely on its own merits, it’s a good game that is an eminently worthwhile addition to your casual game collection.

Plus, y’know, willies.

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Pete Davison
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