Connect the blocks
It’s a fact of videogame puzzlers that when blocks are involved, things are guaranteed to get frustrating, addictive and obsessive. Exhibit 1a – Tetris, Exhibit 1b – Er…hmmm. Look, Tetris makes my point more than clear. You know what I’m taking about, just cos I can’t think of any more block based puzzle games. Shut it.
Now Square Enix are attempting to turn us all into block zombies, fiending after our next fix with Motley Blocks, a new block based puzzler featuring blocks, blocks and blocks. In fact, that’s pretty much all there is to this game – blocks. Someone challenged me to get the word ‘blocks’ in this review at least 37 times. I do believe I’ve completed that task in the first two paragraphs.
A 3D sphere of blocks (really?) made up of two or more colours rotates as you attempt to connect blocks of the same colour together by tracing lines across the screen with your finger. The more of the same type you connect, the more disappear. The aim is to completely get rid of the sphere by the time it rotates through a set number of laps. Fail to do that, and it’s game over.
Which is something that initially surprised me. On my first attempt, I managed to clear 98% of the circle and still fail. That’s a heck of a pass mark. If that happened during my GCSE’s, I’d be extremely upset.
But that’s how the game plays, it’s tough and unforgiving and all the things I mentioned above. There are power-ups available to help though; certain blocks have mischievous faces painted on them, tapping them unleashes a useful aid such as exploding extra blocks and freezing the rotation of the sphere. Using them fills you with a kind of manic hope that you might just eliminate the blocks before the time runs out. Until of course, you don’t.
So yes, gameplay is finely tuned enough that it’ll have you foaming at the eyeballs when you reach 99% and have to start again, but supremely satisfied when you just beat the clock by taking a risk to connect the final few blocks through a narrow alleyway of different colours. The perfect balance?
Not quite. The only real gameplay drawback is that, on an iPhone at least, the blocks are so small that in trying to connect them, you never feel truly…connected. The game is very generous with deciding which blocks you’re trying to connect, and you don’t have to be super accurate with your swipes. This keeps things moving quickly and eliminates the potentially fatal frustration of unfairly being penalized due to unresponsive controls.
Sometimes things will get so frantic that your thumbs feel like clubs against the small blocks, and because the feedback isn’t the tightest, it almost feels as if the game is playing itself. Maybe this is why the pass mark is so high. Perhaps it is perfectly balanced after all.
In other news, the graphics are simple yet colourful and exhibit a comic book stylee. The rotating sphere also has a kind of mesmerizing quality to it, as most rotating spheres do. I’ve experienced a lot of rotating spheres in my lifetime, you see.
There’s also a brilliant level editor which allows you to create your own crazy spheres of influence in order to drive someone crazy. Apparently, if they’re good enough, they will be made part of the game proper. Square Enix are watching.
The double-tap for confirmation system is something I believe no game should have, and what seems to be a deliberately obscure menu system (and the fact you have to register to access the game’s main features), is a bit iffy, but once you start playing the game proper, you certainly find it hard to stop. Remember, it’s 100% or nothing.
Don’t be a blockhead. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevThePen.