The best real-world comparison for StarBlox Inc. is chess boxing, the ultimate showdown of brains and brawn where participants swap between a boxing match and a game of chess on the fly. StarBlox Inc. is a head-to-head game that has players fighting both in physical combat and in a race to fill out a puzzle board. That’s just the sort of inventive multiplayer title that deserves to thrive on Switch.
Imagine Tetris, but in order to add pieces to your grid, you and another player must first duke it out platform fighter-style for every block falling onto the playing field. That’s StarBlox Inc., and it is as glorious as it sounds. While the gameplay and presentation cannot quite reach the upper echelons of the indie local multiplayer hall of fame, this is still an excellent title that you really have to play to understand.
In StarBlox Inc., players assume the role of a robot working for an interstellar shipping company. This company, the titular StarBlox Inc., has very little respect for its customers, its line of work, and its employees. The space shipping industry is violently competitive, and each match pits you against representatives from a rival company. The encounters get heated, to say the least.
While StarBlox Inc. won’t win any awards for wide gameplay variety, it could win some for just how fun it is. The central gameplay loop is the exact same in career mode and head-to-head battles. Luckily, that gameplay loop is very, very impressive.
Your primary goal is to fill in your side of the map with different puzzle blocks from around the field. Depending on the game mode, you try to either chain together a bunch of each color or fill in a specific shape. When you find a block you like, pick it up, rotate it as you see fit, and aim it precisely where you want it to fall in on your grid. The only caveat is that part of the colored piece must connect to a piece of the same color already on your board. This creates numerous challenging scenarios where you must think ahead about opportunities to branch certain multicolored pieces together to ensure you’ll have enough room to practically complete the puzzle.
Working through a StarBlox Inc. match involves a watchful eye looking out for what blocks are coming, where they’re flying in from, and what the other side is doing at all times. You have to know when to work on your board and when to fight. Fill in your grid while you can, but if your opponent is lining up a shot, throw yourself into them. If they are dangerously close to the incinerator, knock them in or even bean ’em with whatever block you are currently holding. You get the picture.
The constant back and forth between completing a puzzle and beating the living daylights out of each other makes StarBlox Inc. a thoroughly great time with satisfying results. Knocking your adversary into an incinerator, grabbing the final one-by-one tile you need to win, and landing a perfect corner shot onto your board is one of the more rewarding feelings on the Switch.
Outside of the puzzle-brawler mashup, StarBlox Inc. also pushes the envelope with a bevy of space trivia. The developers turned the game’s space setting into a rewarding partnership with Ingenium, Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation. The game features enthralling cosmic backgrounds and seventy-two unlockable bits of trivia. These contain real-life tidbits about the many planets, moons, and asteroids that appear in the game, complete with pretty photos straight from NASA.
Gameplay shines where it counts, but StarBlox Inc. could have been a bit more polished. The game’s tutorial drags on with a lot of banter that tries and fails to be funny. It also has some pretty lame character models. More importantly, the game is unresponsive on rare occasions — sometimes, you’ll line up a shot that the game just will not recognize. In a battle where any decision can be rendered obsolete by just a few seconds of sitting around, this is a rather important problem. Finally, a more fleshed out single-player mode beyond simple bot matches would have been much appreciated.
Still, minor shortcomings do not hinder StarBlox Inc. At its core, the game is an absolute delight. Fighting tooth and nail over individual puzzle blocks is a Tetris mod I never knew I needed. Now that I’ve experienced it firsthand, however, I cannot recommend it enough. While it comes up a bit short of all-time indie multiplayer classics like Ultimate Chicken Horse and Towerfall, Starblox Inc. is still a challenging and unique game that is extremely rewarding to learn. I can see it spending a long time in my local multiplayer rotation. The perfectly-struck balance between the slow build of filling out your board and the satisfaction of knocking your friends into oblivion allows StarBlox Inc. to shoot for and land among the stars.
Release Date: Oct 18, 2019
No. of Players: up to 4 players
File Size: 452 MB
Category: Fighting, Party, Puzzle
The publisher provided an advance code for this review.