Xbox One’s Brick Breaker features a series of achievements that, for the longest time, were thought to be completely impossible for humans to unlock. After a two-year break from the game, I had a eureka moment that brought me back to try my hand at it once again. A couple of days later, I became the first and only person in the world to prove that these dreaded achievements weren’t quite as impossible as people originally thought.
For those unacquainted with Brick Breaker, it’s a modern spin on the classic Atari Breakout format. Despite being based on one of the simplest gaming subgenres in existence — it’s basically a single-player Pong — it features one of the hardest sets of achievements in Xbox history.
Brick Breaker features two modes: Arcade and Survival. Arcade allows you to focus on one level at a time, with 100 levels overall, and grants you five lives per level and infinite retries. Survival features the same 100 levels, but you’re only given five lives total. Here, you’re tasked with trying to make it as far into the game as possible starting from the very beginning. Of the game’s 20 achievements, five of them are earned in Survival mode, simply — or notoriously not so simply — tasking players with reaching and completing levels 10, 30, 50, 80, and 100.
Here’s an idea of how hard it is to reach level 100: when I returned to the game after a two-year break, there were only seven people who had unlocked the achievement for reaching level 10 — in a game that had been out for four years. One of these seven people was me, two years prior. There was one person who had unlocked the achievement for level 30 (not me this time), and no one had unlocked the achievements for 50, 80, or 100. This is largely due to the game’s unbelievable difficulty spike on level 34, which persists for the rest of the game — some levels take several hours to beat in Arcade mode, never mind Survival.
Despite how long these levels take, Brick Breaker is relentlessly fast-paced. Explosion particles litter the foreground, while unforgiving and nonsensical bounce physics make the entire experience incredibly frustrating, and at times borderline unplayable. Completing Survival mode is certainly technically possible, but it was never believed to be in the realm of human capabilities. That’s why after two full years away from the game I wanted to become the first person to reach level 100, specifically because nobody else had even made it more than a third of the way there. Fortunately, I had an idea that could help me achieve exactly that.
A turbo controller is a controller that facilitates rapid button inputs. I could, for example, turbo the A button and get 30 A inputs per second. Once it’s in turbo mode, all you need to do is hold the button down. To start my experiment, I began toying around with the pause mechanics in Brick Breaker. Being a single-player game, I could only advance if Brick Breaker was unpaused, so by mashing the pause button on my controller, I could rapidly switch the game between a paused and unpaused state, a trick often used by speedrunners called “pause buffering.” This allowed me to drastically slow down the gameplay by locking every second frame behind the paus menu — and so, I set up my turbo controller to make 30 pause inputs per second, and I got to work.
Using this trick, I was effectively playing the game in super slow-mo. It advanced one frame of gameplay every two frames, as every other frame was frozen by the pause screen, making the game substantially slower. It was so effective that I managed to reach level 82 on my very first attempt, making me the first person to ever unlock the achievements for completing both levels 50 and 80. The thing is, I didn’t lose on level 82. Eight hours into my attempt, the game crashed.
I figured it was a fluke, so I tried again. Now that I knew level 100 was well within my reach, there was no way I was going to let faulty hardware take this away from me.
On my second attempt, the game crashed at level 82. On my third attempt, it crashed on level 82 again. By this point I had accumulated over 24 hours worth of very boring pause buffering gameplay and it was starting to get to me. It was clear that level 82 was bugged to death, so I took a break for a few days, switched from my day one Xbox One to my Xbox One S, and tried again.
Things weren’t looking good when my first attempt ended with a crash on level 66, but I figured that was just a fluke. Why would better hardware crash sooner? Still, I was disheartened, and worried that level 100 wasn’t just impossible to complete due to difficulty — what if I couldn’t even reach it? I decided to give it one more try, just to see if the game really was bugged, even on the more powerful console.
Fortunately, I was right to persevere. On my second attempt on my One S, after 11 grueling hours of slow, stressful gameplay, I became the first person in the world to reach and complete level 100. After four absolutely heartbreaking crashes, I finally got the achievement that was long thought to be impossible, and still is impossible if you try it “legitimately.” To this day, no one else has even reached level 50, but with my trick revealed, I’m hoping that maybe one day someone else will join me in the level 100 club.
With my pause buffering trick, the game became a test of patience as opposed to a test of reaction time or actual skill. I’ll admit that my method was a bit cheaty, though it would have been impossible otherwise. After all, achievement hunting is often just a challenge of finding the easiest ways around the hardest challenges, and this is just one of many examples of that.
To this day, this achievement stands tall as one of my proudest. Not for its rarity or its difficulty (because it’s not that hard with this trick), but because I got to dispel the myth of one of Xbox’s hardest and most notorious achievements in history. Impossible? I don’t think so.
MORE: How I Cheesed It To The #1 Spot On The Quake 4 Leader Board
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Gavin Burtt is a news, guide and list writer for TheGamer based up north in Ontario, Canada. Gavin has worked as a walkthrough editor and overseer for the TrueGaming network and has been an avid Xbox achievement hunter for years, accumulating over 700,000 gamerscore to this date. When he’s not writing or gaming, he’s focusing on his physics studies for Queen’s University.
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