The Wii U eShop has been a haven for countless indie titles since its launch in late 2012. We\’ve seen highlights like Armillo, Teslagrad, Shovel Knight and Trine 2 among a myriad of other titles. At the same time, we\’ve also seen some low-blows like The Letter. Thankfully, the number of good titles are much higher than the bad. So in which section does our review title fit in? That fine, little gray area between \”meh\” and \”yeah!\”
GravBlocks+ is a match-three puzzle game, similar to titles like Candy Crush, Tetris and Bejewled. So what makes it so different? Unlike the aforementioned games, GravBlocks + uses a gravity system, that switches the direction of the dropping blocks. These \’gravity blocks\’ activate when three blocks with arrows that point in the same direction are stacked atop one another. So for instance, if the arrows point left, the gravity will then switch to the left wall, and blocks will then fall in that direction. For the most part, this does spice things up a bit, as it makes you think more. Combined with the gravity-switching blocks, GravBlocks + also has 5 different modes, all of which have unique gameplay characteristics:
- Challenge — Classic-style puzzle game: blocks fall in, and players play for a high score. It’s newly configured for Wii U, which means the levels advance faster, but the game can be played well past Level 30, now with more balanced gameplay.
- Destruction — The opposite of Challenge, here players are told to destroy blocks and clear the screen. In this mode, Wild blocks open a whole wall of Destruction Hazards.
- Zen — Like Challenge, but the difficulty never increases.
- Puzzle — 150 levels where players are given a set of blocks that must be cleared with only a few moves–the first 40 are cleared with only one move!
- Story — Story mode pits players against five aliens in an alien abduction scenario. Having reached the limits of what “traditional probing” can teach them, they now test abductees with GravBlocks. Story Mode offers a brand new way to play the game as each level requires players to clear specific tasks to move on.
While each of these modes offer something different, I couldn\’t help but get bored of it far too quickly. The core elements remain the same, so its easy to switch gears, but the growing difficulty in some modes can get annoying. When it’s taking things easy, single levels can drag on for minutes on end, and by the time you\’re done with one, you probably aren\’t to keen start another.
With any game, especially one that derives from the same ideas that Tetris, Bejewled and Candy Rush are built around, the player ought to be compelled to keep on playing. It’s supposed to suck them in and get them thinking: \”Just one more!\” I didn\’t get that rush with GravBlocks + and seeing that I usually tend to like puzzle titles like this, I was rather disappointed.
Nobody intends to have their eyes dazzled by a puzzle title, but neither do we expect to be put to sleep either. Like its gameplay, the presentation of GravBlocks + is also quite bland. Backgrounds are usually a mixture of black and gray with color thrown in every now and again. The blocks are usually the biggest source of color; quite the opposite from Tetris. On top of that, menus are very flat and lifeless and look cheap. Then we have the creepy aliens with some pretty weird animations playing in the background.
Sure, while a visual spectacle isn\’t expected, GravBlocks + doesn\’t do much to make things look at least a little pleasing. It’s just bland and boring, just like its gameplay.
One thing I can say about the game’s soundtrack is that it is actually, well, alright. Nothing special, but not as flat as the other factors. The game features a techno— sci-fi soundtrack which matches the outer-space theme. I found this to be a nice touch. In all honesty, I found the music more compelling than the game; I ended up playing puzzles longer just for the sake of listening to it (yeesh). While this is bitter-sweet in itself, that still doesn\’t change the fact that the sound-work wasn\’t badly done at all.
From Nothing Games have created themselves a pretty mixed-bag of a game with GravBlocks +. The game’s overall fun factor is just as random as its gravity-changing system. In other words; in some cases, it’s up while in (most) others, it’s down.
Even so, I can\’t really call GravBlocks + a bad game, per-say. When you have something like The Letter in the same store, to put in a similar category would just be cruel. As stated earlier, I think it’s best described as being in that fine, gray area between \”meh\” and \”yeah!\”; you will either like it or loathe it.
Considering that it is an enhanced-port of a mobile game, one shouldn\’t expect too much, but when there’s something like EDGE out there, then the lack of overall quality cannot be excused. In the end, I honestly can\’t recommend you to play it nor deter you away from it. With about 100 levels to complete, the $5.00 title will keep you occupied for a while if you intend to play through it all, so if you\’re really interested, it won\’t burn you to take the plunge. But just remember, if you don\’t like it, in space, no one can hear you scream…