12th May, 2011 1 Comment
Blocks that Matter is the non-true story of two game developers who came up with a game so sought after that they were kidnapped at gunpoint and ordered to finish it. Except they weren’t working on a game at all, they were working on you.
You are Tetrobot, and if one was to describe Blocks that Matter as an enormous cliché, it would be this: it’s a love letter to gaming. Well, a love game to gaming. It loves gaming about games. Games, er, gaming? This has gone completely wrong. Moving on.
Tetrobot, who looks a bit like a washing machine, embarks on a quest to save his creators through numerous levels, encountering references to block-based videogames everywhere he goes, and collecting up blocks. There are two kinds of block he’ll encounter. First are the blocks of matter which are in plentiful supply around each level. These are collected by either drilling them, or smashing them by jumping up at them. Once you’ve collected four, you can enter build mode and construct your blocks into Tetrominoes (the explanation behind this is wonderful) and then use this new construction to reach further parts of the level.
Blocks that Matter is a platformer in screenshots, but it’s very much a puzzle game in operation. You must collect blocks and then use them to reach new areas where you can collect more blocks. The challenge doesn’t come from getting there, it comes from working out how to get there. There are not many areas that will require precision platforming, though the perfect controls and jumping mechanics mean that when this is needed, it’s within your grasp.
The game really shines in its level design, which is often very clever and will give you just enough materials to succeed – as long as you’re using what you’ve got in the right way. Even when you’ve got many blocks to build with, you may find yourself in a tiny area and the limitation on the way that you can place blocks (you can only build them into Tetrominoes, remember) means that it’s not just as simple as placing the blocks to get where you want to go.
Sometimes, it will be important to keep track of the types of blocks that you’re placing, too. Blocks made of wood or rock will remain in place when you build them, but blocks made of sand will fall to the floor if there’s nothing there to support them. Then there are many other types of block, too, which behave differently. This adds an interesting element to puzzles as you’re sometimes required to take advantages of these differences to reach your destination while making sure you keep enough blocks to build with. You also may need to take advantage of other powers you receive, such as being able to destroy eight blocks at once, if they are placed in a horizontal line. There aren’t often many ways to solve a puzzle, but with so many options it means that the solutions aren’t always as clear as you’d expect.
The second main kind of block in Blocks that Matter are the Blocks that Matter, of which there is one in each level, in a treasure chest. These are either well hidden, or in plain sight but difficult to reach. There are times when you won’t be able to reach it at all and you’ll have to come back later when Tetrobot has gained a new power. While getting to the end of the level is sometimes simple, working out where the Block that Matters is and then how to reach it is always a challenge.
It’s a challenge worth taking on, though, as not only does collecting these unlock bonus levels, but each one also represents a block from a game from the past and a lovely pang of nostalgia. There is so much fun to be had collecting these and seeing them represented in the art style of Blocks that Matter, and then wondering what game will appear next – or if your favourite block will make an appearance. It’s obvious from the very first second that this game was made by a team that love gaming, but it’s never more apparent than in the respect and the love that they show for these games, and their Blocks that Matter.
Of course, none of this love for games would carry any weight if their own game wasn’t tremendous and so, luckily, it is. The puzzle design, the graphics and the controls are top class and it comes together with so much care that there’s just everything to like. If ever there’s a sequel, they’ll have to refer to their own game among the best games containing Blocks that Matter.
Blocks that Matter is available now for 240 Microsoft Points.