Dec 8, 2011

Block Rogue

Our next game on the roguelike beat isn't really a roguelike, but has a little inspiration from them. Block Rogue is a sokoban-style puzzle game, but with a couple interesting twists. Much like the amazing Spelunky, it's a game in a different gnere (here, puzzle games) that generates levels procedurally. Done well, it's a recipe for nearly infinite gameplay. Done poorly, it's an express route to tedium. How does Block Rogue do?

Sokoban is a game that classically involves pushing crates onto storage locations. In each puzzle, you have a number of crates that need to be stored away, and you have to carefully orchestrate which crates are pushed when. Because of inherent limitations, such as the inability to pull a crate off a wall once it hits it (since you can't pull, only push), the solutions to sokoban puzzles can be quite intricate, often with a fair bit of backtracking. The puzzles in Block Rogue are not huge, with a 10 by 10 grid of squares available, but there are some very nice variations that happen. You will encounter both traditional crates, which move one square at a time as well as boulders, which roll until they hit something. You'll also deal with rooms featuring switches that toggle wall spaces as well as lasers that inhibit your movement.

The combination of these factors lends quite a bit of texture and variety to the puzzles which I appreciate. I find that straight sokoban wears me out after a while, but at last count, I had solved more than 400 rooms in Block Rogue. The boulders, in particular, I find to be a lot of fun. Boulder-heavy levels give a feel much like the board game Ricochet Robot (which is highly recommended, by the way), where you have to coordinate carefully when and where to give your boulders a push, even using the crates as backstops for them. The puzzles are all pretty quick to work through, but interesting enough to not get stale. As I mentioned earlier, they're procedurally generated, and Block Rogue does a good job with it. You will get some pretty easy puzzles occasionally, but most are pretty interesting, and the easy ones can be plowed through quickly to get to another one. The generation of puzzles turns out to be a big strength of the game.

If the game were just a string of randomly generated puzzles, that would be more than enough. But it also has a story mode, where you are collecting pages from a triangular-shaped dungeon, with magic mirrors and the pages you collect telling a cute story that I enjoyed piecing together. One recommendation is that you can set up the game so it generates random hard puzzles right out of the gate - it took me a while to find that option, and I played through the first few puzzles in the dungeon a lot before I figured it out.

The graphics in the game are solid, doing their job with a distinctive style. The sound is fine, but as always, I don't always pay much attention to the sound. The controls are probably the only slightly negative thing I can bring up about the game. You control your character by means of slow swipes across the screen, which works OK, but I feel like it could be a little faster. A little bit of tweaking on the controls would be welcome - perhaps a slider in the options? One very commendable fact about the game is that it loads quickly and saves its state well, so it's very easy to jump in for a quick burst of gaming and jump back later.

Overall, Block Rogue is one of the best puzzle games I've played on Android. The random generation of puzzles works well and is not at all a gimmick, the production is very strong and most of the details are right on. If you enjoy puzzle games, it's more than worth your $.99. If you're looking for a quick game that you can play in small gaps in your life, this is just about perfect. With just a bit of tweaking on the controls being my only suggestion, I'm going to give it a 5/5, as a delightful find.

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