Squarepusher: Pixel Breakout

Reader Michael Cook sends word of Pixel Breakout, a teeny-tiny flash game which is both exactly what you’d expect and pleasantly surprising. For the 60 or so seconds it takes you to complete it, you’re pretty well rewarded. And yet now I am angry, because playing it’s reminded me of an old, freeware, overwhelmingly psychedelic Asteroids clone where everything you shot or touched exploded in a shower of pixels and tinny noise. I think it began with an A. Is that ringing any bells for anyone? It definitely deserves a post of its own.

EDIT: Spheres of Chaos! That was it. And I see Alec “Greasy Cheetah” Meer wrote about it a whopping three years ago, right here.


  1. Fumarole says:

    That would be acid, man,

  2. NieA7 says:

    Spheres of Chaos was awesome. I was brought up on RISC OS, didn’t switch to Windows until about 2005 or so – a great chunk of my gaming background means nothing to virtually everyone and vice versa. There were a handful of really good games originally written for it though – ArcElite (the best Elite, and that’s a scientific fact), Chocks Away, Stunt Racer 2000, Star Fighter 3000… Happy days *sniff*

    • NieA7 says:

      Playing Spheres reminded me of some other good games – Magnetoids (Asteroids meets Freespace) and Cataclysm (a genuinely interesting puzzle game based around water flow. Always liked that one, never really come across anything like it since. Even managed to find a couple of vids). Found some Star Fighter and Stunt Racer too. All kinda primitive looking nowadays but you can’t beat nostalgia. I remember Stunt Racer had a low graphics option which made all the cars look like wedges of cheese.

    • GameOverMan says:

      That Cataclysm game is a gem, more games should’ve been based on water physics.

    • NieA7 says:

      Cataclysm was lots of fun, later levels had lava (like water only lethal to touch, so you needed to plan it all in advance) and mix water (different tubes would pipe in blue and yellow water, it’d only count towards the end of the level if you could mix it together to make green before it went out the bottom funnel). There were also gun turrets that’d shoot you, aliens that’d get in the way (and sometimes shoot you) and even one or two guns to pick up to fight back with, not to mention the pressure platforms, switches and so on. I don’t think I really appreciated how different it was back then – part of the curse of having such a limited pool to begin with.

    • Hulk Handsome says:

      Enigmo is a modern water physics puzzler. Footage of the iphone version:

      link to youtube.com

      You can try the PC version here:

      link to ifd.com

  3. George M. says:

    Love what you did with the title there.

    Also, is it just me being nostalgic, or are such simple games as awesome as they are few nowadays? Queue endless argument over the freedom of current game designer tools and how it frequently ends up in disaster, in comparison with the limitations of tools and systems of yesteryear forcing devs, specially small ones, to be creative in overcoming such limitations..

    Shit, 24 and feeling like a gamer relic already.

    • Thants says:

      I think it is just nostalgia, really. There’s no shortage of cute little flash games.

  4. Berzee says:

    This is so, so, SO good. It makes me feel awesomely talented.

  5. TCM says:


    TCM: i was like
    TCM: “oh, okay, so each hit releases another pixel”
    TCM: and then i was like

  6. Devan says:

    :( I got stuck with one more pixel to break and not enough bouncies to break it. Pretty fun though

  7. Recomposer says:

    Is it hard or normal daddy

  8. Recomposer says:

    Is it hard or normal daddy?

  9. Dr Danno says:

    Spheres of Chaos! I loved that game. Forgot all about it until you mentioned it there. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Harlander says:

      The number of different background modes meant you could tailor your Spheres experience to.. I guess whatever kind of mind-expanding substance you were on at the time. I liked the one called Smooth, if I remember rightly.

      The guy was making a newer, 3D version, but it never saw the light of day.

  10. JonFitt says:


    I thought you were all taking the piss as my initial attempts didn’t get past the individual pixel stage. I don’t know what triggers the showers, but that was really a tipping point!

    • Vinraith says:

      The showers are gorgeous, very impressive, and absolutely necessary to getting anywhere, but I don’t understand what causes them either. That was visually lovely but if I don’t understand the rules of the game I can’t take too much satisfaction in a win.

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      I think the showers are caused by a pixel getting beneath a layer, bouncing back and forth, dislodging pixels which start doing the same thing. One thing for sure- after the first screen-long cascade or two, you really don’t need to worry about moving the mouse.

  11. pupsikaso says:

    Wait, I don’t get this…the ball chips away one pixel at a time? It would take a year to finish this game, not 60 seconds =/

    What am I missing here?

  12. Calabi says:

    I canna handle it captain there be too many of them.

  13. Urthman says:

    Here’s a fork of the original game that gives you a huge paddle, leading to guaranteed instant psychedelia.

    link to wonderfl.net

    (via the MetaFilter thread about this game.)

    link to metafilter.com

  14. Surgeon says:

    Do you know Squarepusher?

  15. manveruppd says:

    Glad to see Spheres of Chaos getting a plug, its demo alone has been keeping me amused since 2002! No joke, I still fire it up once every few weeks, and it’s still so interesting that I’ve not felt the need to get the full game (I really should, I feel guilty now…). If you get bored of just playing through the demo in normal mode (and how could you when you have my ridiciulously high score of 978,800 to beat?) then try switching on gravity and bouncy walls, turns it into a whole new game!

    And try playing it while listening to something like this: link to youtube.com
    It’s a trip! :)