July 28, 2011 2 Comments
Pixel Blocked! received a Second Chance with the Chick. The gameplay for it has been radically altered. Read both this review and the new to get the overall picture of the game. Consider the Second Chance to be the definitive review of the game.
I’ll lay off of my “puzzle games belong on Xbox like a diabetic belongs at the Jelly Belly Factory tour” line just this once because the nearly two hours I spent with Pixel Blocked! were pretty fricken’ sweet. It’s one of those games that feels familiar despite being totally unique.
In the case of Pixel Blocked, it plays like a cross between Nintendo’s Picross series and any of the many Sokoban clones out there. You’re given a grid of blocks you can rotate at a 90° angle and a gun thingy that shoots more blocks. The object is to fill in the missing blocks on the grid with nothing out-of-place. The puzzles feature three different block types already in place in which to construct around. Steel blocks are the easy ones to work with. Magnet blocks grab any blocks that pass directly by them. And finally crumble blocks break as soon as a block lands on them.
The above set a new record for most uses of the word “block” in a single paragraph. Up yours, Lego people!
If you make a mistake, or you simply want to take a shortcut towards completing a puzzle, you’re given three missiles each round that can be used to destroy any non-steel blocks you want. If you want to just breeze through the game, using missiles is the way to go. If you want to challenge yourself, try going missile free. All 180 puzzles can be beat without using them. Every time I used one I felt like the game was shaking its head in disgust at me.
I actually had a really good time with Pixel Blocked! It’s hard to find original concepts for puzzle games these days, and even harder to find ones that function correctly. It does both. It’s play mechanics are simple and realized without flaw. There’s really only thirty different shaped puzzles here, each with six unique starting-variations. When I saw this, I figured that once you knew how to solve one, you would know have to solve all its clones. Thankfully that’s not the case at all. I actually have to tip my non-existent hat to developer Daniel Truong for this very clever design.
I do have a few complaints, chief of which is the reward system. You can earn three stars in each puzzle. One for completing it, one for not using any missiles, and one for finishing under a designated time. The problem is the target times seem pretty far-fetched to me. Earning them isn’t necessary for progression, but I was getting annoyed at completing levels relatively quickly and still getting a frowney non-star to make me feel like a total ignoramus. Probably another case of a developer losing grip on reality after getting too good at their own game.
I also didn’t care for the in-game music, which fails to have that catchy quality that good puzzle games practically need. There is no option to mute it either, which is a very disappointing oversight. The sound effects were well done but I had to skip out on them for the sake of my eardrums. Having said that, I did enjoy the overall presentation. The 8-bit visuals were a good choice and give Pixel Blocked! a retro charm. The only thing I felt was lacking was some kind of indicator that a block you were shooting was going to land in a correct spot. The designated spaces were marked with black boxes, which are not visible when you have the aiming cross-hairs on them. So sometimes I would have to move around to see if the spot I was shooting at was part of the puzzle or a mistake waiting to happen.
Overall, I really enjoyed Pixel Blocked! As is my personal rule with this genre, I have to recommend the portable Windows Phone 7 build if that’s an option. No matter what version you get, you’re bound to have a pretty good time here. Dare I say it, it’s one of the best new puzzle engines to come around in a decade. Along with Star Ninja, it’s one of the few games that I’ve seen on the indie platform that I feel has mass-market appeal. Pair it with a fitting license and it could do well. How about Lucy van Pelt’s Pixel Blocked! Get it?
You know, because she is always calling Charlie Brown a “blockhead.” No? Sigh, these final line jokes are tough to write.
80 Microsoft Points suffered writer’s block while coming up with the final joke in the making of this review. Ha, writer’s block. Get it? Sigh.