You know what, sod shooting games and sod sports games! XBLA Indie Games is where it’s at right now! And you want to know why? I played Blocky for about an hour or so, initially, or at least it seemed like an hour, when in fact it had been most of Sunday. I love Sundays! And now it’s Wednesday night and I am uncertain of where the rest of the last four days went, but there is a pile of Diet Coke cans in one corner of the room and what would appear to be a bucket of lemonade in the other…
Okay so it isn’t quite the cocaine of the gaming world, but I would rather sit here and play Blocky for the price of a McDonalds meal than dish out good money on any number of titles from the All-You-Can-Eat bucket of gritty, brown space marine-a-thons. Blocky comes from the good people at Think Flow Games, otherwise known as my new BFFs. It can only be described as a the lovechild of Pacman and Geometry Wars, if the parents had firstly enough an evening of acute RPG action prior to conception. And while you get that image of Ms. Pacman out of your head, I’ll tell you why Blocky is a must-buy to keep you warm on these chilly autumn days.
Blocky is a rock, or more technically, I guess, a block. It matters not, as all you need to do is keep your little block safe from ninjas, swinging spike balls, electric charges and a selection of other enemies. Actually, if I could just get my only real complaint out of the way with now, is that the enemies get a bit samey after a while, with (I think) there being only seven enemies to defend yourself against over the course of the game. Nonetheless, the enemies that are there for you to avoid are all cute and colourful and each have their own way of trying to knock your block off. Literally.
You direct Block around the screen using the left stick, avoiding enemies and picking up power ups as you go along. These include the ability to let you eat ninjas, a magnet to force the metallic enemies out of your way, coins (or moneky) to purchase further power ups and upgrades, and a few other tricks that slow down enemies and destroy small clusters of problematic pests. Getting to the power ups in time is all part of the fun, and sometimes you’ll get cornered and before you know it, they’ve flashed up and flashed right back off again, leaving you with increasing numbers of ninjas and other predators to worry about.
The two modes to play the game in are Retro, which is essentially a one-life, one-chance mode, and Main mode, which is pretty much your campaign of levels to work through. Things start of easy, introducing you to the styles of enemy waves you will meet, and how to despatch them. Some waves require you to just survive and wait out the time limit, or ask you to eat a certain number of enemies, or even push those evil metal nasties into black holes by way of your magnet upgrade. The waves and enemies get nicely mixed up, so you never feel like you are doing the same task too often.
You earn experience points and the aforementioned monetary gains as you progress, and when Blocky levels up you can then increase his four stats, which include useful attributes like moneky magnetism and power-up duration. Every time you gather and use your power ups, more experience points are earned, which then means more ways in which you can make Blocky stronger. Moneky buys you power ups to use when you are stuck in a corner, which you operate by pressing the right trigger button, and then selecting one of the four coloured buttons to pick your desired power up. It’s incredibly simple, yet foolishly addictive.
Other fun unlockables include hats for Blocky to wear, which range from a cute side ponytail and ribbon combo, to a fez, just to add another gloss of charm to the game. Even when things get overwhelming and the lives start dwindling away, the charm and atmosphere this game creates is just perfect for chilled gaming sessions that have a bit of a ‘kick’ to them. The combination of simple RPG elements and good-old fashioned arcade fun, with just a dash of silliness and aesthetic delight, all comes together nicely to provide one of the best XBLIG experiences I’ve had this year, especially for the generous price the game comes at.
Plus, in what other game do you have the ability to both consume and hammer ninjas to death? Exactly…
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 11/10/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Blocky for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.