The puzzle genre is a well-represented beast, stuffed to bursting with a wealth of games vying for your attention. If you stand back and take a look, the best of the genre are all linked in a number of key areas. From Tetris to Peggle, visuals matter not a jot – the key is perfecting your gameplay mechanic. Step forward the team at Open Emotion with their PlayStation mini ‘Mad Blocker Alpha’.
Already out on the iPhone, Mad Blocker Alpha sees you aiming to match four blocks of the same colour, which will cause them to disappear and earn you a lovely wedge of points. This won’t get you far however, so you must learn to ‘chain’ your blocks together for maximum damage. A chain occurs when you cause eight or more blocks to disappear at once, increasing the number of points you earn. Blocks fall in horizontal rows of three, and whilst you can switch them around in the horizontal plane, you can’t rotate them. As a die-hard Tetris fan this took me awhile to wrap my head around, and even now I occasionally try and rotate the blocks.
Throughout a level you will earn access to power-ups, such as a block that will eliminate all other blocks that match the colour it lands on. It’s a nice feature, although most of the time my eyes were glued to the screen and I completely forgot about them. The game is split into three modes; Story mode sees you move from level to level, competing in a number of challenges such as ‘score 10,000 points before the timer hits zero’, and ‘get five chains’.
The story mode is an excellent idea – mixing things up and keeping the game feeling fresh. Eventually a touch of repetition does sneak in, but far later than most.
Endless mode does exactly what you would expect, pitting you against the computer until you eventually succumb to the block based onslaught. This is the mode that will attract high score junkies who are craving their latest fix. Tower mode completely flips the game on its head, as your objective is to actually fill the screen to the top with blocks. The big enemy in this mode is a single red line that resides towards the bottom of the screen. Not used to being linked with block annihilation, this red line is the danger zone and if your blocks fall beneath it then it’s game over.
To make things that little bit harder, obstacles will drop at random intervals and are hell bent on undoing all your hard work. The bomb will (obviously) blow away a couple of lines of blocks, and the heavy block will completely smash through anything in its path. It’s a great mode, although surprisingly hard to fail at, and even when trying (because I’m odd like that) it took a good five minutes before all blocks fell under the red line.
Mad Blocker Alpha’s visual style is certainly one that is different to the norm. In an age of brightly lit ‘Luminees’ style games, Open Emotion have chosen to showcase a hand-drawn art-style, with grimacing blocks and wacky backgrounds. In Nofi’s hands on with the game he mentioned he wasn’t keen on it, whereas I quite like it. Each to their own; it will definitely split opinion. If I were to be picky (and I shall), I felt that the block movement left and right could have been a bit smoother, as often I was caught out by sluggish controls.
- Solid gameplay mechanic
- Lots of content
- Varied modes
- Sometimes sluggish controls
Overall I really enjoyed playing through Mad Blocker Alpha. It will in no way convert those who have little interest in the genre, but for puzzle fans it offers a lot of content coupled with that ‘just one more go’ factor. Now if you’ll excuse me, the Open Emotion Twitter account has been taunting me with Endless mode scores of 30,000 plus. This cannot be allowed to stand!