Don’t dismiss this as another Tetris or Bejeweled clone as Fire Hose Games have made a real effort to try something new, ambitious and a little bit crazy.
The aim is to destroy your opponent’s tower with your own tower of weaponised blocks. Using familiar (read: exactly the same as) Tetris shapes you must create same-coloured squares (4x4, 8x8 etc) which will then convert into a weapon. There are different weapons or shields for each colour. Blue is a shield and protects the next square along, red fires rockets, purple a laser, orange repels enemy missiles with ping pong bats, green launches little drills and even more weapons await you in the later levels. These weaponised squares can be powered-up by making the squares bigger by adding extra blocks, a bit like Lumines.
So far, so good, easy to grasp, yes? Well it’s about to get complicated. To get the blocks you must fly your builder character around the screen, and beat up colour-coded enemies who will leave a block in the air for you or your sneaky opponent to collect. It’s certainly a more novel approach than simply waiting for them to fall out of the sky.
You can hold a few pieces at once and swap between them before placing one down, which helps you separate your creations easier than the traditional method of only being forced to use what you have next. If you don’t like any of them you can absorb them to get a bit of health back.
Wait, what? Health? Your opponent’s weapons will damage you if you get in their way and you can even get directly into a brawl with him too. Just fly over there and beat him up with a combination of simple combos using Square and X. The loser of these scraps will have to wait for a while to respawn, although a QTE minigame will bring them back quicker.
It can all be a bit over-whelming for your first few matches. There are difficulty settings for all gamers, but you might not feel too connected to your first few wins. The main complaint I had was seeing where I was dropping blocks. The shadow showing where a piece will land and even the air above it are often obscured by your flying character which can be really frustrating when the action starts to heat up or on the levels where the camera is further away. Once you get to grips with the game you might start to feel more comfortable and develop better spatial-awareness, allowing for quicker drops.
Blocks can be placed in any gap immediately if they fit. You don't have to 'drop' them in from above in the genre's usual way; they can be pushed in directly. Combine this with the eraser block that allows you to remove individual blocks and you can handily fill in those annoying gaps that the annoying S/Z blocks create when you panic. Now if somebody could convince the lovely folk down at Tetris HQ to include this, then everyone would be happy.
Stages are selected from a world-map made up of cities, tropical islands or mountain passes and usually have a slight variation on how they play out. Non-dual stages involve progressing up a tower by filling blank spaces with weapons while fending off swarms of flying pests. The toughest stages are those inside a volcano where you have to maintain two towers with an equal weight to stop them overbalancing the scales and falling into a lava pool below. This is made even tougher by having to take on two opponent towers that are safe from the lava and constantly having to smash grey volcanic ash blocks off your tower.
The boss fights warn you about having to exploit a weakness, but chances are you’ll not have to change your attack strategy from a standard level. Which is basically build as many large weapon squares as you can. Maybe fly on over every now and then and punch the huge glowing button on his chest. Thankfully there are plenty of difficulty settings to try as there aren’t that many levels overall, you’ll be finished in a few hours.
With such a short single-player game, there’s a lot riding on the multiplayer. It’s offline only unfortunately which is as shame, but there is fun to be had if you can force a friend through the initially bewildering tutorial. Don’t send them in blind, they’ll think you’ve drugged them and they’re hallucinating Super Smash Bros interrupting a game of Tetris like the two work in neighbouring studios.
You can play together against the AI, which makes things a hell of a lot easier as you can decide which colours to concentrate on or get one player to beat up bugs for blocks or just harass your opponent.
Or you could go head-to-head against up to three other friends which works well enough, except some matches tend to involve beating each other up as a priority to get the lion’s share of the blocks. Four player matches are just insane too. In a good way though.
- A refreshing take on the block-puzzler
- Fun multiplayer
- Cool cell-shaded visuals
- Short single-player game
- Too much going on sometimes
- £11.99 is way too pricey
The Short Version: While you’ll have no problems finishing Slam Bolt Scrappers, it will take you a while to learn how to play the later stages well. There’s so much going on with sorting weapons, beating up insects for blocks, mugging your opponents and maintaining the safety of your own tower. Possibly a bit too complicated for it’s own good, but it is a fresh take on a tired genre and well worth a look.