By: Uma Smith
With classic titles being re-released with either the 3D rendering or HD enhancements, does this mean that better graphics translates to better entertainment? On the contrary! It’s time for Vancouver-based developer Damni Games to prove that you don’t need visual enhancements to make an enjoyable game. You can say that Pixel Blocked! is making its way toward… pixel “damnation.”
Your objective is to shoot your blocks onto a template to fill up the outlined square spaces in order to create an image. Some of the puzzles have blocks that crumble when you shoot blocks onto them. As a result, you lose one square in the template but end up getting another right beside. There are also magnets that basically lock your block in place as soon as it gets in contact.
Using the triggers on your controller you can rotate this template while you move your character (depicted by a heart with wings) using the d-pad or left stick. When you press the X or A buttons, you shoot out one block, which will only stay in the puzzle if it hits another block in its path or sticks to magnets. If you happen to place a block in the wrong spot, it can be removed by shooting a missile with either the Y or B button. But take note that you are limited to three per level.
When completing a level, you could be rewarded up to three stars. One is for solving the puzzle; the second is for not using any missiles; and the third is for finishing before a target time. Getting this last star is very difficult since the times required to achieve are set ridiculously short.
Part of the reason contributing to this challenge is the sluggish movement in the controls. Also, if you try to rotate immediately after shooting a block, it actually ends up on the wrong side of the puzzle because the shot isn’t quick enough. So although the game encourages you to work fast with its rewards, the controls punish you.
Although there are 186 puzzles to solve, Pixel Blocked! can be completed in a matter of hours, which is appropriate for a casual game like this. In the beginning, you will find yourself whipping through level after level with just a few seconds. And if you decide not to go for all three stars, you will progress through the game even more efficiently.
Even at the later stages in the game, Pixel Blocked! prevents gamers from feeling hammered with…”pixel damnation” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). It has a good balance of amusement as well as intuitive thinking. Players won’t find themselves stuck on or (dare I say) “blocked” from completing a puzzle for an excessive amount of time, as long as they remember to rotate and look at a different angle for a different solution.
Having an 8-bit presentation is what gives Pixel Blocked! its retro style and charm. Everything in the puzzle is depicted as blocks set in a simple sky background with a few cute-looking clouds flying across the screen. It goes to show that you don’t need fancy graphics to have an enjoyable experience.
There isn’t much to say about the music other than that it’s short and fits the retro theme of the game. Usage of sound effects are kept to a minimum, but that doesn’t mean the quality suffers. In fact, when you do earn a star, it has the same effect you hear during Super Mario Bros. when you collect a coin. The nice crisp chime will have you wanting to earn those three stars just to maximize the number of times you hear it.
I’m always the fan of the leaderboard, which brings me sorrow when it is not included in Pixel Blocked! Such a simple feature could easily be incorporated to a game like this. It would easily increase its replay incentive considering how difficult it can be in achieving all three stars per level. But instead, it “blocked” me from coming back for more.
Pixel Blocked! may not look like an entertaining game at first glance, but don’t let your false impression misguide you. For just 80 MS points ($1), you too can learn not to judge a “pixel” by its cover.