Review – Pixel Blocked!

Pixel Blocked! was exciting before I played it. Here was a game that looked to take the foundations of Guru Logic Champ, one of the GameBoy Advance’s best puzzle games, and then mix them up to create a new puzzle experience.

In a way, it’s successful. It certainly does create something new. Unfortunately, that new thing isn’t necessarily good.

The basic gameplay works like this: you rotate the puzzle with the triggers and can shoot blocks from the character at the bottom of the screen. Your goal is to shoot a block onto each of the outlined squares in the puzzle in order to create a shape. Blocks will only stay in the puzzle if they’re stopped by blocks that are already present, so the order is important. Blocks can be stopped by hitting metal blocks, by sticking to magnetic blocks, or by hitting crumbling blocks which disappear on impact.

In Guru Logic Champ, most of the puzzles came from the idea that you can also “suck” a block back off the board, and so had to put blocks where they weren’t needed just to place other blocks, and then remove them again to put them where they were needed, dealing with a limit on your blocks, you only had as many blocks to complete the puzzle as were in the puzzle, and so each block had its own goal. In Pixel Blocked! there’s no such limit, and blocks that you place incorrectly can only be removed by shooting a missile at them, of which you have three per level. Each puzzle is possible without missiles, though.

With the levels being so small, this makes them incredibly easy. I would consider myself to be pretty competent at puzzle games, and I had to think precisely once in the first 120 puzzles in Pixel Blocked! because the problem is that missile use isn’t really frowned upon and using missiles makes puzzles far too easy.

There’s a three star rating system in place. One is awarded for completing the level, one for using no missiles, and one for completing the puzzle in a certain amount of time. This, you would expect, would make it desirable to use no missiles but the rating system has the opposite effect. The time limits are so incredibly strict as to be near-impossible, and with one star ruled out for every level almost from the beginning, there’s no real compulsion to achieve the others.

The controls are slightly sluggish, but the real problem in trying to get fast times is that the game isn’t set up to allow it. If you shoot a block and then try to rotate immediately, the shot isn’t quick enough and so will smash into the wrong side of the puzzle and you’ll have to (slowly) go back and do it again. The game wants you to work quickly but then punishes you if you try.

There are things to like about Pixel Blocked. It looks wonderful and the presentation overall is tremendous, the way the next puzzle appears as you’re solving the current one is really nice. Unfortunately, without any challenge there’s just nothing there to keep your interest to the end unless a chilled, relaxing, unchallenging time is what you’re after – and there’s not really anything wrong with that.

Pixel Blocked! is available now for 80 Microsoft Points.


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