Pretty Girls Breakers Plus: more of the same, but better

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I frickin’ love the Pretty Girls series, and Pretty Girls Breakers Plus is no exception.

Some would call these games “guilty pleasures”; I unashamedly call them simple, straightforward pleasures. They’re good quality, well-presented, polished games that do exactly what they say they will do for a low price, offering the modern equivalent of classic arcade-style games for platforms such as the Game Boy.

Even better, developer Zoo Corporation clearly listens to feedback, as subsequent iterations on similar game formats tend to address common criticisms, meaning the games noticeably improve over time.

And eastasiasoft, responsible for porting and publishing the console versions of these games, treats the series with a great amount of respect, recognising that it’s one of their most popular brands and one that people constantly want to see more of. While some publishers would treat games like this as throwaway titles to be forgotten the moment they’re released, in many respects the Pretty Girls series is clearly one of eastasiasoft’s flagship franchises.

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus

One of the best things about the series’ development over time is how it has gradually expanded its scope from simple mahjong solitaire to Gals Panic-style area capture games, other solo card games (including some not often seen), competitive card games such as poker and Speed and even classic video game formats such as Breakout and SameGame puzzlers.

Last year’s Pretty Girls Breakers was a solid game that provided an interesting twist on the block-breaking format, and as you might expect from the title, Pretty Girls Breakers Plus offers more of the same — but better.

The basic format is the same as Pretty Girls Breakers. You’re presented with a wall of blocks, and you have to bat a ball back at the wall in order to destroy all the blocks. Rather than using a flat paddle as in traditional Breakout-style games, you instead control a character wielding a bat similar to that used in baseball, only with more neon. In order to hit the ball back at the wall, you actually have to swing at it rather than simply intercepting it, allowing for angled shots according to where on the bat the ball actually makes contact.

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus

The tip of the bat is pink in colour, and if you hit the ball with this part, you’ll add to a combo. Reach a combo of 5 and your next hit will be a powerful, penetrating shot that will pass through bricks rather than bouncing off them, allowing for large-scale destruction. Continue to build up a well-timed combo and you can net yourself a considerable score bonus at the end of a level.

Certain blocks release power-ups, which include adding additional balls into the arena, extending your bat, slowing the ball down and providing explosives and laser bullets for you to fire at the wall. Pretty Girls Breakers Plus adds a couple of additional power-ups into the mix, including one which doubles the size of all balls currently in the playfield, and a shield that can protect you from enemy shots.

Yes, there are enemies in some levels, too, and unlike other games of this type they’re more than just mobile obstacles. Here, many enemies actively shoot at you, and getting hit by a bullet will cause you to lose a life, just as if you’d dropped a ball. However, you can also ricochet enemy bullets right back at them (or the wall) by hitting them with your bat, so you’re not entirely defenceless.

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus

The levels in Pretty Girls Breakers Plus have a good difficulty curve, starting very simple and straightforward and gradually adding new gimmicks to increase the complexity. Some gimmicks have been implemented differently to Pretty Girls Breakers — most notably, the rotating, indestructible “handle” obstacles have been revamped so that they only move when hit now, rather than constantly rotating. This makes them considerably less annoying to deal with than in the previous game, but still allows them to present a challenge.

There are a few more new additions in Pretty Girls Breakers Plus, too. Large, numbered blocks need to be hit enough times to reduce their count to zero, and “toxic waste” canisters release large numbers of enemies when destroyed. Enemies have also been rebalanced quite a bit from the original, too, so there are now “popcorn” enemies that only take a single hit to defeat, in contrast to the heavily armoured foes that appeared throughout Pretty Girls Breakers.

By far the biggest addition to the game is a new “Endless” mode, which was sorely lacking from the original game. Here, drawing inspiration from the classic Super Breakout’s Progressive mode and later riffs on the same formula such as Taito’s Puchi Carat, you’re faced with a gradually advancing wall that you must continually smash before it reaches a line at the bottom of the screen. The longer you survive, the more points you score — but the faster the wall advances and the more complex the arrangements you’ll have to deal with, too.

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus

There are three stages you can play in the Endless mode, with the first simply providing a constantly advancing wall, the second placing a static “handle” obstacle in the middle of the stage and the third placing static guns in the corners of the screen. High scores and best times are recorded independently for all three stages.

The standard stage-based mode has had a few tweaks also. Now, you can opt to play the game with either a slower or faster ball than usual, with score penalties or bonuses respectively being applied for doing so. Each stage also has its own leaderboards, too, and successfully completing levels awards you with points that can be spent in the game’s Dressing Room mode to unlock new costumes for the girls and backgrounds to place them on.

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus features the enhanced Diorama mode that we’ve seen in the last few Pretty Girls titles, allowing you to position characters wherever you like atop a background, change their costumes and facial expressions, and even complement the scene with “stamps”. It’s a fun little toy to play with as a reward for your hard work in the main game, as well as being a showcase for the character art — which, as always, is drawn from Zoo’s back catalogue of erotic visual novels published on their Norn, Miel, Cybele and Yumesta imprints, often localised today by Cherry Kiss Games.

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus

Pretty Girls Breakers Plus provides exactly what I’ve come to expect from the series: solid gameplay, good presentation, excellent music and a surprising amount of longevity. While superficially similar to its predecessor, its improvements make a major difference, making it a worthwhile investment even if you played the original to death. And if you’re new to the wonderful world of Pretty Girls? This is as good a place to start as any!

Thanks to eastasiasoft for the review code. Pretty Girls Breakers Plus is available now for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Pete Davison
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