In 1989, Nintendo blew away the world by launching the Game Boy making car rides hundred of times better for all travelers. The Game Boy launched with five games available for North Americans. One of those games was “Alleyway” a brick-breaking game where the player must paddle a ball across the screen to clear the wall of bricks. Developed by Nintendo, Alleyway would help launch the Game Boy to commercial success.
I’m not entirely sure but for some reason, Mario is piloting the paddle in Alleyway. I think it’s strange to have someone in the paddle as it is but Nintendo loves to stick Mario in every place they can, in fact, he’s probably somewhere in their ass right now. I wish there was some dope story to go along with why Mario is inside the paddle saving the world from ultimate doom by bouncing a ball into bricks but alas, I think it’s just a marketing stunt. As for Alleyway, there’s no story. You bounce a ball into bricks. Hooray.
Alleyway is very simple and I’m sure you’ve played variations of the games on your cell phone back in the mid-2000s. There will be a wall of bricks or different formations of bricks on top of the screen. The player is in charge of moving a paddle from left to right as a small ball bounces between the bricks and the bottom of the screen. If paddle misses the ball, the player will lose a life and if you miss the ball enough it’s game over.
The goal of every level is to get the ball to smash every brick or if you prefer to call them blocks I’m okay with that too. Anyway, the ball will smash the block if it touches it and in this version, the ball only has to touch the brick once to make it disappear. You can slow down the paddle by pressing and holding down one of the buttons to give you a little bit more control but for the most part, I just kept the paddle at the normal speed. Each brick that is colored differently has a different point value that goes toward the high score in the top right-hand corner of the screen. White blocks are worth one point, gray blocks two, and black blocks are worth three. Each colored bricks also makes a different sound when you hit them. If you can hit a bunch in a row they start to make a neat melody. You would think that you and your friends or siblings would be playing to see who could beat the high score but the problem is that there is no save feature for Alleyway. You aren’t able to save your game or the high score. If you are going to beat the game you have to do it in one sitting. I was able to beat the game in about two-three hours.
There are a total of 32 levels in Alleyway with the difficulty increasing in each stage although not by much. Every four levels are grouped together with how the bricks are formed. The first stage has a pattern of blocks on it without them moving or any unbreakable bricks mixed in. The second stage in the pattern will have the blocks scrolling on the screen making it a bit tougher to hit them and the third stage will have the blocks advancing toward you. If you don’t hit them it’s not a big deal as they will disappear, it’s not like Space Invaders where if they reach the bottom they will kill you. There’s a fourth stage which is a bonus level where the blocks will form a character from the Mario series like Mario, a Koopa, or Bowser. These bonus stages don’t offer any resistance but are timed. If you don’t get all the blocks before the timer runs out then your score will just tally the blocks you were able to hit.
Some different challenges present themselves during Alleyway. There will be unbreakable bricks that are in some levels so you’ll have to hit the ball around them if you want to complete the level. At some point during your playthrough on each level the ball will speed up once and the paddle will shrink making it more difficult. To help combat the difficulty, you are awarded a bonus life for every thousand points you score.
Alleyway wasn’t difficult and you should be able to beat it if you have two or three hours to spare. It’s a great game to play in the car or the waiting room but unfortunately, as I mentioned, you can’t save your progress or your high score. For a launch title for the Game Boy it’s a great option for casual gamers and probably was advertised to adults rather than kids.
I had heard of Alleyway growing up but as a kid, it never interested me. I stayed clear of games like Alleyway, Tetris, and other puzzle games. Only in my older years, I’ve grown to enjoy them.
Alleyway helped launch the Game Boy and offered more casual gamers an option and another puzzle game other than Tetris. The gameplay and graphics aren’t affected by time so it’s just as fun (or boring) to play today as it was thirty years ago. A much needed save feature is missing but you’ll have fun playing against friends or siblings in the car as you pass the Game Boy back-and-forth.
Alleyway scores a 7.3 out of 10.
Do you remember when Alleyway first came out? Was it the first game you got with your Game Boy or did you get another game? Were you able to beat the game or did you get stuck on a certain level? Why is Mario in the paddle? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!
If you’d like to own a copy of Alleyway, you can purchase a used copy of it for Game Boy from eBay for around $10.