Review: Does anyone even say "groovin'" these days?
Released at the tail end of 2008 on Nintendo's WiiWare service, Groovin' Blocks has just recently found its way to PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Store. The debut game from Empty Clip Studios might seem like your standard color matching puzzler merged with catchy, beat-driven music, but it takes the concept pioneered by Lumines and actually makes it a vital gameplay element. The result is a fun, quirky puzzle game that has plenty of content for $10. With various difficulty levels, offline multiplayer, and great original music, Groovin' Blocks is worth a shot, especially if you're a fan of Lumines but wanted the great music to be more integral to the gameplay itself. It won't change puzzle games forever but it's definitely a fun time waster and a good ?chill out? entry to PSN.
Groovin' Blocks is - on the surface - your standard falling block puzzle game where you match colors to clear up space for newer falling blocks. However, the game adds a layer of complexity by effectively requiring you to match your block bashing with the rhythm of the song in order to build up a score multiplier. You don't have to keep the beat if you don't want to, but the score earned at the end will be very poor. Given that you need to earn stars from each song to unlock more, abiding by the rules of the game is a necessary evil. When beginning on the Casual level, the game gently introduces its tricks ? there are only three blocks in each drop, and the pressure to match the beat isn't too demanding. As long as you slam that puzzle piece down consistently with the music, you'll be golden. As you climb up the ladder and begin wading into the more difficult sections, you start adding more pieces per drop, the songs get more complicated, and the scores become tougher to earn, forcing you to work very fast before the song ends.
To counter the bump in challenge, Groovin' Blocks throws in some power-ups to level the playing field. Plowing through Casual unlocks a couple: one of which clears out more blocks than normal, and the other can double the score multiplier if done right. More can be earned on the higher levels, and old ones level up to become even more useful. All this makes Groovin' Blocks a unique take on the traditional puzzler ? it might not be wildly innovative, but the blending of styles makes for a game that doesn't come around often. Top it off with a couple multiplayer modes and you've got a game worth dropping $10 on if you really like the genre and want another game in the Lumines mold. A lack of online play is likely the result of it being excluded from the Wii version, but it is a weird omission given we're talking about a downloadable game here. You already need to be online just to buy it...so why not make it online capable?
Empty Clip took a minimalist approach to its visual design, and it really works. The entire screen is black, save for the playing field, which takes away distractions and focuses players directly on the game. The blocks pulsate with the beat to help you figure out when to drop them, and the colors of each block are bright and varied to easily differentiate between them. If you're perhaps color-blind, the game does have a feature for you ? it changes the blocks into unique shapes. If you're shape-blind... I don't know what to tell you. Anyway, the interface is sharp and intuitive, which is all one can hope for in a puzzle game. The soundtrack is surprisingly great, especially considering these are all original tunes and not licensed stuff. Naturally, everything is heavy on bass and grooves, so don't come in expecting Rock Band Puzzle ? it's more like DJ Hero Puzzle. The variety of the music is quite high, and almost every song has a unique beat which forces you to change your own rhythm to consistently play well.