Indie Review: Blocks That Matter (PC)

indie-review-blocks-that-matter-pcTake two French blokes who used to work at Ubisoft, add a dash of Tetris, mix in some great gameplay with platforms and a cute robot that looks like a washing machine, garnish with a hint of Minecraft and serve hot. Is this a recipe for a good game?

Talk to any Retro gamer and he will bang on about gameplay (or the complete lack of it) in many modern games. No matter how hard you try there is no way that flashy graphics and super sound will replace that element that drags you back for one more go. We all tend to look back with a slight rose tint to our nostalgia, forgetting the horrors and basking in the good stuff, and this is a pity as there are lots of new games out there that are simply slopping over with gameplay with hardly a HD cable in sight.

Grated Cheese

Some new games from big developers play it safe by giving punters what their marketing department think they want, and then drowning it all in a bucket of HD colour. Driven by sales and desperate to claw back the huge costs involved, the big boys have to shout the loudest and deliver a package that will set the world alight, even if this means churning out virtually the same game as everyone else. Promises of photo quality, eye watering reality seem to be first and foremost, with gameplay coming in a bit behind. This is like grating cheese on a week old pizza to make it edible, it really doesnt work. What people want is fresh ideas, new direction. Pizza hot from the oven.

The French Connection

There are two blokes from France who dont have to worry about such nonsense, and can take their ideas in any way they choose. Swing Swing Submarine is a small independant developer that you probably have never heard of, headed up by two 'young and stupid French guys' (their words not mine!) Both formerly working for Ubisoft,  have created a game experience that will delight puzzlers and platformers fans alike, but it has strong enough gameplay to keep just about anyone glued to their keyboard.

Gameplay

Blocks that Matter (BTM) is simple enough, the best games usually are. You have to help a little robot navigate an increasingly hostile environment from one point to the next, and then advance to the next level. How you do it is the clever bit. The robot is armed with a drill and has the ability to absorb what it destroys in the form of blocks. Blocks are made of different materials that behave in different ways when used. Using blocks is the key to clearing the stage, as most of the time the exit will be well out of reach. To use blocks you enter 'puzzle' mode, this freezes time and  allows you to place your collected blocks in such a way that will allow you to progress. There are a few rules, you must lay four blocks at  a time, they must touch, no diagonals allowed and the block must touch a part of the level (floor, wall, ceiling etc) This is where the properties of the blocks come in to play. Sand for example cannot support itself so if there is no block underneath, it will fall when you exit puzzle mode, a very useful feature for planning your escape. Monsters known as 'Slimes' appear in later levels adding to the challenges and even changing the gameplay later on as you get frantically chased from one side to the next. There are secrets to find and music to unlock as you progress, I wont ruin things by telling what the secrets are, but they did raise an eyebrow when I uncovered a reference to a certain 'Rockford'

Graphics and Sound

Graphically it is sharp, colourful and full of humor. The robot, known as 'Tetrobot' is well animated, his little legs going like billy-o when you dash, and is visibly damaged including sparks flying when touched by a slime. The environment looks good, each block is instantly recognisable making things easy to understand as you try and work out how to arrange them in puzzle mode to overcome the next obstacle. Sound is nice too, lots of spot effects and a decent soundtrack don't overwhelm or get in the way. 

In Conclusion

BTM is a bit of fresh air, a nod at Minecraft and Tetris that looks good, plays well and has humor enough to raise a smile. An editor is included for you to make your own levels and publish them so others can try your fiendish creations and you can equally be baffled by theirs. All of this adds up to a neat game with lots of nice touches that will have you tearing your hair out, only to see the solution in a forehead slapping moment later.

I have saved the best bit till last. The game is just £3.99 on Steam, so what on earth are you waiting for?


Last Updated ( 26 September 2011 )  

Page

I am the original first generation. I wandered in to an arcade in the late 70’s and never really got over it. I don’t have a favourite system but I do have a lot of favourite games and spend most of my spare time playing and writing about them. On sunny days you could find me outside, but only if my longboard is with me.

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Comments 

+1 (Link to this comment) Arcturius 2011-09-26 17:34
Stuck this one onto the wishlist for when I have the money again ^^ getting the demo for now though looks fun.
+1 (Link to this comment) Newtype 2011-09-26 19:16
Nice work Page, great review.
Truly brilliant game too, very clever & good fun - scarily addictive!
I urge all puzzlers to get this - well worth the tiny asking price.
(Link to this comment) JoeMD 2011-09-27 10:51
Gonna have to check this out for sure!
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