Game Pile: Blocks That Matter

After a month of talking about my childhood and the videogames that defined it while trying to convince you to spend ten dollars on four games that are art goddammit, then trying to get you to spend no dollars on a zombie horror game, it seems strange to turn the wheels of this reviewing machine back on course to talk about games you could play in front of your mum.

Blocks That Matter feels like it was made as part of a game jam. A great Game Jam, but it’s a game that runs down to the ground with the feeling of sitting in a room full of people who know the same cheap indie games you do, and want to talk about them. C’mon.

The Formula

Blocks That Matter is the kind of videogame that was churned out in the dozens back before the advent of the internet, and with the heavy distribution systems represented by titans like Apogee and Epic Megagames. Yeah, Epic, they used to distribute cheapo shareware games like Zone 66. Someone would have a single concept for a game, they’d see how they could make it work for about ten levels, then you could spend forty dollars to have the other twenty levels. Games weren’t very deep, but they were fun, and they were typically built around a game experience you could summarise in ten words or less. Here, the concept is Platform puzzler with taking and placing tetris shapes.

The mechanics are basic enough to learn in a few minutes; you can drill bricks, and break bricks from beneath. You can place bricks, but only four at a time, and only if they are connected to a supported surface, which means the shapes in Tetris. With the limit to only craft shapes four bricks at a time, levels can be about using and reusing bricks in different shapes, or they can be panicked hurtles away from enemies that can one-shot you.

And that’s more or less it. There’s a plot, which isn’t offensive and is actually pretty cute and charming by the end of it, but it’s not a plot you actually interact with in any meaningful fashion. You’re given a level, which is usually three or four puzzles in sequence, and in each level there’s an optional block to pick up, which will often require you to solve other puzzles differently. That’s pretty much it!

He’s Going To Say Iterate Again

If there’s any sin in Blocks That Matter it’s that it iterates poorly. You won’t finish the levels on your first try, so you’ll have to restart them. If you restart them, you’ll often have to re-do early puzzles that you’ve already demonstrated you can do, quite easily. In some cases, this can be a timing puzzle, or a jumping puzzle, and not a planning puzzle. You’ll fail, and this means you may have to do a boring or annoying part of a puzzle early on – especially when some of those segments are slow, or rely on waiting for something like burning logs or exploding dynamite.

It’s also a game that might not work for you if you’re interested in puzzle games as an alternative precision movement games. There are enough puzzles in Blocks That Matter that are easier if you can manage complicated jumps, and some that require it, that an inability to do classic jumping puzzles, or precise leaps, will frustrate you. You can skip the ‘race’ missions – if you fail them – but towards the end of the game, you are going to hit levels that require some quick movements to solve puzzles.

Verdict

It’s honestly nice to talk about a game like this. It’s a bit of a retro throwback, and it’s charming, if uncomplicated, and it’s imperfect, but none of its imperfections are outrageous. It is unremarkably good. You might not appreciate all the in-group indie game humour, but you don’t need to ‘get’ it to enjoy the game as an experience.

You can buy Blocks That Matter at Swing Swing Submarine’s website and Steam.

Buy it if:

  • You enjoy Super Mario style movement.
  • You’re into collection replay.

Avoid it if:

  • You’re bad with precision movement and timing.

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