In some ways, this review is a Second Chance with the Chick.  I first played Blocky a few weeks back when it’s developer challenged me.  And I actually liked what I played.  It’s got an old school reflex-testing vibe to it, with small bits of action and experience upgrades peppered in.  And then it all went to hell with one of the most infuriating boss fights I’ve ever come across.  I was so pissed off I didn’t even bother to write the review.  Instead, I took to e-mail and gave the developer holy hell for it.  But then, being the benevolent goddess that I am, I told them I would hold off on my review until this one little bitty issue was patched up.  See, I’m nice.  Modest too.

Blocky feels like the type of casual game that would be developed by PopCap Games.  Hey, don’t scoff at them until someone buys you for $650,000,000.  You play as a square that has to avoid making contact with various baddies that move randomly around a static play field.  There’s a wide variety of goals present.  In some levels you have no offensive options and just have to try avoiding the enemies.  In some, you have to destroy the enemies using power-ups that spawn in random intervals, or by causing them to get sucked up in whirlpools.  In some levels you’re expected to collect as many coins as possible or gather a high score.  Not all levels are equally as fun.  I personally found the whirlpool levels to be the low point.  In them, you’re supposed to use the magnetic power-ups to repel enemies to their deaths.  However, the magnet power isn’t very strong, nor is it easy to steer the enemies.  Having said that, if you just wait a while the baddies usually end up killing themselves.  Maybe this is the evil spiky circle-block thingie way of committing Seppuku for failure to kill me in thirty seconds or less.  Hell, I don’t know.

Blocky isn’t easy on the eyes, but the enemies are distinctive, even if the backgrounds have this psychedelic quality that can be a bit distracting.  But overall the game is pretty fun, and at times a bit intense.  In later levels, enemies spawn faster than mutant babies in a village full of moonshine-plied hillbillies.  For the most part, you have to simply avoid them.  You do have hope in the form of a handful of power-ups.  I already mentioned the utterly useless magnet, but there’s also a fork that allows you to eat enemies for a few seconds.  There’s a shield that allows you to bump into a single enemy.  There’s a flashing thingie that slows enemies down.  And finally there’s a hammer, which pauses the game to allow you to select a small radius of enemies to destroy, but it’s pretty rare to get.  In fact, up until the boss fight, I had only gotten one via random spawning, but certainly that wouldn’t factor in later, right?

Oh, and there are experience upgrades.  They seem really out-of-place in a game like this, and they’re really not all that helpful either.  One of them increased the radius of the hammer, which again, I had only seen once over the entire length of the game.  Hell, I’ve seen Sasquatch more times in my life.  Another option increases your character’s speed.  I never did this one because it seems like a recipe for disaster.  In a game where dexterity and precision are so important, why on Earth would I want to make my character move faster?  Maybe it does actually work, but I’m going off of nearly 20 years of gaming experience that says the faster anything moves, the harder it is to control.  So I ended up pouring all my points into things that increase the amount of money you collect, and to my character’s gravitational pull for sucking money towards him when I’m too lazy to go grab it myself, in what I call the “Merrill Lynch Effect.”  You can spend the money in a shop between stages to buy extra shields if you’re smart like me, or on stuff like the hammer that will kill one small cluster of enemies that will respawn anyway.  There’s also stuff that slows baddies down or creates an escape portal for you, but I stuck with just the shields because I accept that I’m a total failure who will bounce off more enemies than Tiger Woods parachuting into a monogamy enthusiast convention.

I really did like Blocky.  And then I got to the boss.  There’s actually two bosses that you fight at the same time (later there are even more).  Each has a symbol of a power-up inside of them.  Once you get that symbol, you touch the boss and then mash the A button on them to inflict damage.  Simple enough.  The first boss I took down fairly easily.  The second boss had a hammer symbol on him.  Again, up to this point, I had only gotten one hammer in the entire play-through.  “But surely since this is a boss that requires the hammer, they will appear more often, right?”

The game’s answer was “Fuck you, and don’t call me Shirley.”

TWENTY MINUTES!  That’s how long it took me to get my very first hammer while “fighting” a boss that required a hammer to beat it.  That’s not an exaggeration.  Twenty minutes.  And that hammer did so little damage that I figured it would take several hours to beat the damn thing.  No thanks.  So after thirty minutes of nothingness against a boss that has no attack, in a big room where all I had to do was avoid it, I decided to quit out to the menu and purchase some hammers.  Only once I exited, I found out I would have to play the entire sixth world over again, only without shields I used to get there in the first place.  After all, I had just spent all my money on hammers.  World six was very difficult.  I would have to play it again.

What followed I believe is known as a “conniption.”  I absolutely blew my stack.  I’ve seen a lot of good games with questionable design choices, but this was the absolute worst yet.  First off, the game didn’t need a boss.  Second, WHAT THE PISS GUZZLING HELL WAS THE DEVELOPER THINKING?  So I sent off a calm, completely rational e-mail to him explaining to him that he had murdered fun and was going to jail for it.

This is a picture of the boss fight that drove me crazy and NOT a trip caused by the peyote you just took.

Actually, he took it really well and corrected the problem.  So now if you play it the boss is so easy to beat that it’s laughable.  Not that I’m complaining about that.  Again, I think the entire concept of a boss in this kind of game is dumb.  And it wasn’t difficult in the slightest bit to begin with.  Tedium and difficulty should not be confused, and something that simply takes a long time to complete doesn’t necessarily mean it’s hard to do.  Unless it’s running a marathon.  That actually is long and difficult.  But my point still stands.  Also, I was able to directly enter the boss room this time.  I’m not sure how that happened, but it did.

With the boss issue corrected, Blocky is now an overall pretty good game.  Hell, there were more levels after I beat the boss, and I wanted to keep playing them.  It’s been a bad month for Xbox Live Indie Games, so maybe I’m just all for anything that offers me even the slightest amount of stimulation.  I don’t think that’s the case though.  Blocky has some really good twitchy-gameplay and I genuinely had a fun time playing it.  It’s not mind-blowing by any stretch, and the added “retro” mode where you just go for a high score is useless without online leaderboards, but I do give the game my official seal of approval.  And now that the boss battles are fixed, I won’t even be pinning it to the developer’s chest using a rusty nail and a sledge-hammer.

Blocky was developed by Think Flow Games

80 Microsoft Points actually aren’t sure if it was Sasquatch that they saw or Robin Williams in the making of this review.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

One Response to Blocky

  1. Pingback: The Chick’s Monthly Top 10 Update: October 2011 « Indie Gamer Chick

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