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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Bashi Blocks HD (iPad)

I appreciate the need for developers to come up with concepts that are unique within the genre they exist within, especially if it’s such an old genre as Breakout. I appreciate indie developers that do it to stand out even more – often that originally leads to a unique experience, if not in terms of gameplay, than certainly the aesthetics make for an artful experience in itself.

Bashi Blocks’ initial quirk – overlaying Breakout with soccer – doesn’t work so well. Yes, the ball is a familiar black and white checkered pattern, and yes, there is a ‘goal’ at the other side of the screen. But in every other way the game functions as stock-standard Breakout clone and the soccer theme is wasted entirely.

Making your own levels is fun

It’s difficult to see where this soccer theme is meant to fit in. You don’t control a human person kicking the ball, you control a regular breakout paddle. The goal at the other end of the screen is guarded by a rival breakout paddle, but only until you remove most of the bricks from the playing field (regular, conventional bricks), at which point the paddle disappears and you can shoot the ball through the goal and get going on the next level.

To be fair, later levels are themed differently, but it’s more of the same in practice. The themes are entirely superficial, to the point where they’re distracting. On the other hand, the boss battles are a genuinely nice touch and add some variety to the game, though at the same time they’re limited by the constraints of the genre – you’re still just bouncing a ball around.




There’s the usual modern breakout trappings – powerups rain down on the playing field as you break blocks. Some are useful. Others cause more harm than good. There’s a wide range of layouts to play through, some with enemy objects requiring multiple hits to destroy, others with unbreakable blocks.

The music also weirds me out; it’s a pulsing beat that manages to be both forgettable and completely inappropriate for the soccer theme.

Not that any of this is outright bad – especially on the iPad, Bashi Blocks plays really well. The paddle glides across the screen with grace and is highly responsive to your movements. The ball speed is paced just right - it’s rare that you’ll be completely blindsided by its speed, but the game also keeps you on your toes as Bashi Blocks is a very action-orientated game.

At least it's easy to see what your score is


There’s also plenty of levels on offer (90), as you would expect for a Breakout clone. Even better, there’s a level creation mode and the ability to share levels with people on the Internet. Get into this, and it’ll more than pay itself back. It’s just that it’s hard to get into with such a disconnect between the themes and the gameplay. The developers really haven’t put any effort into linking the two and the end effect is the same as replacing zombies with My Little Ponies in a Resident Evil game (though I guess that’s a whole other level of frightening); it becomes very difficult to engage with the game.

As a result, Bashi Blocks is a deeply confusing and strange game. It doesn’t gel with me, but it still might be worth checking out – if you can resolve the weird disconnect between aesthetics and gameplay, you will find a very solid core in this game.




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Review: Bashi Blocks HD (iPad)
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