Noodlecake Games, previously known for Zombie Road Trip and Lunar Racer, just released their newest puzzler, Block Block Block. Noodlecake claims that their new title has a simple-but-tricky style. While this casual style is meant to appeal to gamers on the go, it turns out that that Block Block Block can be just as complicated as some of the most intricate of puzzle games. Is Block Block Block next to the likes of Lumines, Dr. Mario and Bust-a-Move in terms of puzzle-greatness? Or should we simply Avoid Avoid Avoid?
It turns out that Block Block Block's best quality exists wholly in terms of its simplicity. Throughout its 200 specifically-designed puzzles, the challenge drags but builds up as you quickly start learning the dismantling process of the puzzles as you go. Dozens of the game's puzzles can be solved in mere seconds. Again, this reflects the simplicity of the gameplay, but Block Block Block will start to challenge players as they start going through the plethora of levels.
The puzzles of Block Block Block are solved by eliminating all the colored squares that appear on the screen. In order to do so, players must move or swap squares over, one at a time, until three or more squares of the same color are in a row. Players have a specific limit of block-shifts, encouraging them to really think about the puzzle. Each square's movement must be methodical and calculated if you wish to proceed. Furthermore, this limitation prevents gamers from aimlessly switching squares on the screen, and helps players find the intended/perfect solution for each puzzle set by the developers. In other words, randomly shifting the squares in hope of finding the solution will not get you far due to the limit of block-moves.
Once three squares are all in a row, the three squares will disappear. But Noodlecake builds on this by constantly throwing curve balls, forcing players to expand and build upon the previous notions of Block Block Block's puzzle-solving. For example, players will find that they have to put four squares in a row, but the second they link three squares together, the chain disappears leaving one lone square, resulting in a failed level. The solution to this is to purposely build a line of four squares, but with one of the two center squares left out, and finally moving the standalone piece to complete the chain of four.
This building on the fundamentals of Block Block Block's mechanics is a small sign that Noodlecake actively tries to keep players entertained; they could have easily made the puzzles very cookie cutter-like, but each puzzle seems quite different from its previous level and are all elaborately planned.
One alteration in Block Block Block's gameplay comes in the form of special blocks that have distinct purposes. Some blocks are colorless, X'd out, and unable to be used for square-connecting. As a result, block-chains must be built around the X'd out pieces, without including the defunct blocks in the chain. Once the game starts throwing in squares that travel multiple spaces until they hit another block, or multiple colors that must be broken down accordingly with similar colors, Block Block Block turns into a head-scratcher.
Luckily, the game's limited number of moves-per-level specifically ties-in with Block Block Block's hint system. Players can unlock hints through various means (mainly game progression), that can be used to show players the specific steps needed to solve the unsolvable.
Ultimately, what prevents Block Block Block from achieving puzzling glory is not in its gameplay, but everything else. Its gameplay is excellent, but its graphics, sound effects and music are all extremely bland, even for a free iOS game. It's quite a shame that Block Block Block's graphics and music hold it back in such a manner, because those factors (along with the pop-up ads, which are expected of free titles), are the only things that restrict me from associating this game with the likes of Peggle, Lumines and LocoRoco.
Nevertheless, I still recommend that puzzle game fans should immediately download this free game. Just make sure you have a music app running because I got horribly tired of Block Block Block's soundtrack (which seemed like the same song on repeat). If this had just a bit more graphical flair with the block-dissolves and a decent soundtrack, it could have possibly been one of the best puzzle-based iOS experiences ever made. Download Download Download!