Developer: Greater Good Games
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Have you heard of Greater Good Games? Dayle Flowers, a former Tripwire Interactive employee (a key player behind Killing Floor and Red Orchestra 2) joined forces with illustrator Noah Wood to create a studio who pledge to donate at least 20% of the profits for each sale to Doctors Without Borders - and more when key benchmarks are met for each title. Tripwire are publishing their first effort, Break Blocks, which is a novel mix of colour matching, rhythm games and urban breakdancing.
Block breaking is, as you'd expect, the aim of the game. The action takes place on a circular grid, at the centre of which lies your coloured block. To unlock it, however, you'll need to tap out a series of timed button presses on the beat of a groovy R&B tune, revealing its true colours. You'll then need to rotate both the block and the radial grid and deploy your newfound block to the periphery, with the objecive of making enormous groups of similar shades.
Once you've matched enough colours, you can deploy a power move that destroys the massed blocks, grants you points and busts out a sick dance move from your breakdancing avatar on the left hand side. Pull enough of them off and the crowd goes wild (and you win the game, natch), but make enough mistakes and their loyalty swings towards your opponent. Later matches become tense battles as the difficulty and song speed ramps up, essentially a tug of war for the hearts and minds of your audience. Getting into the rhythm of the song, tapping your feet to the beat and getting into a trance-like groove is highly recommended.
You'll get a lot for your money - any amount of money since Greater Good Games will be favouring the Pay What You Want pricing model. Plenty of levels and characters are included along with multiplayer functionality, which promises to be even more tense and hardcore than the singleplayer street dancing.
The theory is solid and the implementation is good, but Break Blocks hits a couple of stumbling blocks thanks to its mix of genres. The first being controls: having to rotate the grid with WASD, tap out rhythms with the arrow keys and then manipulate the blocks using the same buttons is incredibly counter-intuitive, and takes a fair bit of practice to even understand. Let alone master. On top of that, the brusque tutorial throws every trick in the book at you from the word go and expects you to keep up, creating a steep learning curve. Luckily you can start out on the lower difficulty settings to learn the ropes, though for an ostensibly casual game, Break Blocks is anything but.
Thankfully, though, you'll enjoy every minute of practice due to the fact that Break Blocks is an audiovisual delight. Chunky and stylish graphics go hand in hand with well animated cell-shaded dancers, thoroughly excellent songs and personable voice acting from your rivals. It's a colourful treat for the senses, and a breath of fresh air if you tend to dabble in shooters, RPGs or any genre that tends to prioritise greys and browns.
- Slick and colourful presentation
- Catchy tunes
- Pay what you want charity initiative
- Counter-intuitive controls
- Steep learning curve
The Short Version: Break Blocks is a colourful and catchy puzzler with snazzy visuals and some addictive tunes to bop along to. While the controls and core concept can take a while to learn, its pay what you want model and charitable focus allows me to recommend Greater Good Games' first project without hesitation.