Chock A Block Review (iOS)
The trouble with the puzzle game genre is the frequent decline into repetition. The problem is particularly evident on iOS where one puzzle game can become popular and a thousand knock-offs will appear in its wake, attempting to scavenge off its fanbase and mimic its success (looking at you, ‘Adventure of Candy’). Sometimes accidental, sometimes deliberate, the creation of a clone can be a dull nightmare for gamers and reviewers alike.
I mention this for one reason: should Chock A Block, developed by Claymore, ever be called derivative, you have full permission to cite CalmDownTom when we say that this game has managed to do the impossible and create a match-three game that actually manages to bring something new to the genre. And it’s brilliant.
So let’s start with the basics – Chock A Block is a match three game where the object of the game is – surprise surprise – to match three coloured blocks to score points. There you go. That’s as much of the basic genre as this game borrows. It’s everything else that makes it more interesting.
For starters, there are multiple colours on each board and whenever you match three each colour will progress to the next. Match three yellows, and they’ll become one orange. Three oranges become one red, until you start reaching black multipliers which can’t be moved but multiply your final score and diamonds which are worth a bajillion points at the end.
And – in the majority of game modes – the board you see is the board you get. Whatever pieces you have are the pieces you use, and as soon as you can’t match three they become penalty points. The goal is to use as many pieces as possible, and minimise the loss. It’s a nice little touch, which forces you to think before you make a rash move and waste your hard earned high score.
But it’s the means by which you match three that is my favourite aspect of Chock A Block. I’ve been trying to think of a comparison all evening and the only one I can think of is an ice-section in Pokémon, except every block is both the player and the ice-wall. A single satisfying swipe of your finger will send a block skidding across the screen until it collides with another. Cue a game that becomes about thinking, and plotting your moves in advance to ensure the highest score. There are bonuses for matching four or more and if you manage to do it enough times, you can clear the board in one fell swoop but even when those options aren’t available you find yourself constantly enjoying the sheer mental power of such a simple game. It won’t just let you think you’re brilliant at it, and the lack of hand holding is a God-send.
This is not to say the game is perfect, by any means. Each mode opens up with a tutorial, but describing the game proves to be a much more intricate task than simply letting your player figure it out and a single demo level would’ve sufficed. In addition, the games ’survival mode’, in which you attempt to remove blocks before the rows reach the top of the screen, feels distinctly out of place in a game that rewards skill over sheer dumb luck and I found myself quickly learning to survive by just shifting the top blocks into other rows and letting the incoming rows make pairs for me. As well as this, there seems to be some incredibly frustrating lag issues whenever a new row comes in, but I expect this’ll be patched later.
And honestly, that’s about as far as complaints can be made. The game has five modes – Classic, Challenge, Survival, Beat the Clock and Zen – and whilst their particular quirks aren’t exactly a model of innovation, they give the game an excellent replay value. The contrast between the modes is especially worth noting. In minutes, you can flick between Zen mode where you’re free to marvel at the games beauty and focus on honing your skills at your own pace to Challenge mode, where you can face off against your friends in heated (trust me) head to head games where you’ll both be presented with the same board and then compete to see who can complete it with the highest score. Should your friend trump you (Keep trusting me) you can watch a replay of their game to see where they’ve thrashed you and where you can improve. Whatever your play style, Chock A Block attempts to match it.
Perhaps most importantly, in this day and age I’m most impressed to see the self-restraint this game has towards social media. You can play it to your heart’s content and never once see a pop up to let your friends know how you’re doing. No barriers, just gameplay. Should you want to brag the option’s there, but, critically, it’s never in your face. No tickets, no in-app-purchases to make the game easier, just you and the game you bought. Apparently, miracles do happen.
So, final thoughts? Chock A Block is a game that sometimes tries to be everything for everyone but does exactly what it says on the tin and more, breathing life into a genre that rarely bothers to do more than give a battered corpse a fresh lick of paint and fire it out.
4.5 Blocks a chocked out of 5Chock A Block Review (iOS),