Groovin’ Blocks Review: Keep The Beat
About a year ago, Empty Clip Studios released their first game on Nintendo’s WiiWare platform called, “Groovin’ Blocks,” and, even though it is one of the highest rated games on the service, there’s a good possibility that some gamers (like myself) may have missed it, not having a chance to play it. Well, if there are any Wii owners that didn’t catch it the first time around, and are fans of the whole falling-block genre, you’re in luck; Empty Clip and Zoo Games have released a version 1.5 of the game at retail, and you can give the enhanced version of the game a shot, at a discounted price.
At first glance, “Groovin’ Blocks” may appear to be just another “Tetris” clone, with some “Lumines” tendencies, but the gameplay goes much deeper than that. Sure, blocks fall from the top of the screen, and you control them as the fall, trying to clear them from the bottom of the board by lining up sets of three or more. That’s all very standard, but that only accounts for the “blocks” in the title; it’s the “groovin’’ that makes this game unique. As the blocks fall, the player is tasked with timing their intentional drops (the ones where you force the block to the bottom by pressing down) to the beat of the song that is playing in order to build up their multiplier, as well as activate power-ups. This additional layer of gameplay is a really unique blend of puzzle and rhythm games coming together to create an experience where you have to juggle the additional task of timing on top of the traditional task of location. It’s what “Lumines II” should have been, had it not really just been more of the same.
Much like the “Lumines” games the soundtrack for “Groovin’ Blocks” is one of the game’s highlights. It’s all original work, from mostly unknown artists, but it’s all very well-done, especially since the music is such a vital part of gameplay. All of the tracks have a very electronica twist to them, as if to emphasize the beats that you need to sync up with the gameplay. Consider yourself warned, if you can’t tolerate techno tunes for too long.
“Groovin’ Blocks” also offers a couple of great multiplayer options, where two people can either play the game cooperatively or battle it out by going head-to-head. It may seem like a standard addition at this point, but, nonetheless, it’s still a lot of fun to play.
Unfortunately, the fun of multiplayer points out one of the game’s glaring omissions – online play. “Groovin’ Blocks” is a prime example of a game that needs to come with online play, it’s so simple and addictive, that it should include the option to have someone to play against at all times. On the other side of the coin, as much as it hurts not to have online included, the game’s budget price of $19.99, might account for, as well as make up for the lack of the feature.
If you’re sitting down to play any game like “Groovin’ Blocks” you’re definitely in it for a little challenge, and, if you’re looking for it, this game can offer it. Unfortunately, the game’s difficulty curve is all over the place. The levels in the game’s casual section can be extremely easy, with the length of each level is determined by the length of the song that it’s set to. You’re pretty much never going to lose a level because you ran out of time. It’s your score that you need to worry about, as those are what determine what other levels of the game you unlock . Most of the levels in the casual mode have fairly attainable scores, but there’s one or two that ask you to score well above what someone playing “casual” should be able to do. Then when you graduate and switch modes to the two more challenging settings, the difficulty gets ratcheted up immediately, and you’re going to have to have a very firm hold on the game to make it through each song, much less score enough points to unlock more levels. At the same time, I found that this game might be the most forgiving puzzle game ever published. In each of the modes, as the blocks pile up, and you reach the top of the screen, on more than one occasion, all it took was one block and some dumb luck to clear more than three quarters of the blocks on the board in one shot. It was a roller coaster of emotions.
The very release of “Groovin’ Blocks” to retail stores is an interesting move, since this is technically the first WiiWare game to get its own retail re-release, either as the original product, or with enhanced content. Hopefully it’s a move that will get the game a bit more, well-deserved visibility, but that doesn’t really warrant a need to pick up the physical copy, at least not if you’ve already download it via WiiWare. After all, this release doesn’t take any liberties with the core gameplay mechanic of the game, it just adds in more levels and more songs to keeping you playing longer than the original. However, if you missed it the first time around, and love a good challenge, then you may want to spend the $20 and give the game a go. “Groovin’ Blocks” is one of those games that will really appeal to puzzle fanatics, as well as casual crowd who grew up playing “Tetris.” Anyone that is familiar with what has become a very stale and traditional block falling genre is in for a treat if the decide to take “Groovin’ Blocks” out for a spin.
“Groovin’ Blocks” was developed by Empty Clip Studios, and published for retail by Zoo Games. The original WiiWare title was released on September 8th 2008, with the retail release on August 11, 2009. This review is based on the retail release.