Game #14: Blocks That Matter (2011)

By: William David and Guillaume Martin
Completed on: 2 November

This cryptically-titled game is a cute little puzzle-platformer which I got through one of the Humble Bundles. Its main selling point seems to be that it combines elements of lots of other games, most notably Minecraft and Tetris, with a 2D platformer style.

I think I’m now one of the very few people who haven’t played Minecraft – I’m a little put off in case I get hooked, frankly! Or I just wouldn’t know what to do with such an open sandbox. But this game isn’t like that; you collect blocks, and then the Tetris part comes in: you can then place these blocks anywhere on the screen, as long as they’re in a tetromino/block of four at once, and you can then delete blocks from the playing field if they’re in a row of 8. You then have lots of different kinds of blocks to complicate things.

It’s definitely an enjoyable game, and the creators – who, confusingly enough, aren’t the two game programmer characters who you are sent to save – seem to have a lot of ideas for puzzles that can be done with the game, and there’s a whole set of extra puzzles that I haven’t completed yet, a lot of which are very difficult either to work out or execute.

The Blocks that Matter of the game’s title seem to be the treasure chests that you collect in order to get 100%; when you get one the game gives you a block painted with a character or block from another game. It’s basically a gallery of shoutouts – there’s Portal, Minecraft and VVVVVV, as a few examples. I was disappointed not to find Lemmings, but then I’m more obsessive about that game than most people.

I think one of the major criticisms I’d level at the game is the fact that after a while in the main game it does seem to run out of ideas, particularly for new blocks. Once you get the ability to mine away metal blocks, for instance, you’re quickly introduced to crystal blocks, which serve the same purpose, which is simply that you can’t mine them away until you are given the ability. So here I felt that a little more imagination could have quite probably come up with something better.

The other is the game’s obsession with Share buttons. If you pause, there’s a share button. Make a level, share it, etc. I don’t know what it does, and I don’t particularly like the idea of the thing posting away at my facebook account while I’m playing it. The list of user-created level is also full of social-networking tropes, such as asking you when you complete a level whether you liked it or not. This is probably a good way to weed out the chaff, but it comes across as slightly obnoxious. The list of levels is also massive, so it can be difficult to know where to start, although I’m sure there are some great ones in there and ones that difficulty-wise would put all of the original game to shame. There always is, after all.

The music is also good, incidentally, if quite quiet and downbeat, and the Humble Bundle gave me it as a download, which I quite like. The robot character that you play is cute, nuff said…

The storyline is complete duff, though, fine for a bit of amusement but just distracting from the game. It’s done through interruption by the programmer characters, which can get annoying because it’ll do it again when you have to restart a level (which will be quite often on certain levels!). They also put far too much effort into something that is clearly an author insert, and it’d have made more sense if they’d used their own names and nationalities, rather than making a fictional Swedish pair.

And one other thing that annoyed me is that it always takes you straight into the next level, rather than prompting you whether to go to it. This can keep me “trapped” for longer than I’d like sometimes.

All in all, it’s a good game, and it’s fun to play, but I’ve run out of steam with it. I might come back to it occasionally, but for now it’s just going to sit dormant on my harddrive, I think.

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