Knock Your Blocks Off!
Release Date:Jan18, 2010
Summary:Remove the blocks without disturbing the red ones.
When I play a game, I like to rotate my iPhone to the left. Block Off, by Martin Wiesner, immediately loses points for only allowing the game to display one way. I’m trying not to overreact about this, but it really bugs me, to the point that I used italics. Anyways, Block Off is a pretty simple game. It’s like Pick-up Sticks crossed with Jenga, only with an insanely sensitive physics engine. The object of the game is to remove all of the objects from the screen by tapping them. If you disturb a red block in the process of removing everything, the game is over. You can remove red blocks as well, but the same rule applies: if another one of the red blocks moves, the game is over. So, it’s very simple – don’t move the red blocks! A helpful feature is the ability to reset the blocks, or re-drop them. When you “Opt Out,” the multiplier (whenever you clear a block your multiplier increases, so your score-per-block multiplies with each one removed) is reset, the blocks re-drop and your score remains the same. This is great when you get an impossible drop and don’t want to risk your score. It’s a half-hearted forfeit.
It’s actually quite fun to poke around and try to remove the objects without disturbing the red blocks. As it turns out, the game is pretty hard, but for reasons that seem to land on the development end – enter the insanely small margin of error and extremely sensitive physics engine. For example, the red blocks are all long and skinny, like 2x4s. They fall at odd, diagonal angles, and rest on and are covered by round and square pieces. It seems to me that it would make more sense to have blocks of different size and shape that don’t span two thirds of the screen. Additionally, the instructions say that disturbing a red block causes the game to end. Well, that’s kind of true. Through my impatient and happy-go-lucky tapping I found that if a red block is disturbed but quickly removed before it’s registered, the game continues. Your score is reset, but the multiplier is not.
A month back Jackie reviewed V is for Vortex, an iPhone game inspired by a mod for Half-Life 2 called Portal. In the review she noted that Vortex had a number of glitches, mostly with the physics of a “companion cube”. It occurred to me, after playing that Vortex and now Block off, that these two games were developed using GameSalad.com, a game developing tool for the “do it yourself” non-programmers. Considering that these two apps share some similarities in terms of drawbacks, I wonder if, in the end, developing should be left to the… developers? I’m going to say no. Partly, because I do think Block Off and V for Vortex are good games with relatively minor, yet annoying drawbacks, and partly because when it comes down to it, there are quite a few professionally developed games that have glitches, as well (Tiger Woods PGA Tour, for one – more to come later on that one!). The bugs, inability to flip the screen, and lack of diversity aside, Block Off is still a fun game with a timeless premise, and I will be looking forward to updates. Once the wrinkles are ironed out and the blocks are all stacked straight, this could be a real time killer of an app!