Sometimes it feels like app developers are checking off the boxes and trying to cram in as many popular features in games as they can. Retro look? Check. Minecraft? The kids love it. Tower defense? How can you go wrong? And hey, why don’t we throw in some first-person shooter action while we’re at it?
All those elements are ingredients in the chunky stew that is Block Fortress, and it’s a lot to swallow in one mouthful. The game has an adequate tutorial and plenty of help screens, but the first level is still an intimidating experience. It’s not that the game is difficult, it’s just that there is so much to do.
You start off with a small fortress, a supply of gold and minerals, and as much time as you want to build your defenses. You can’t afford many weapons, but there is a long list of wall styles to choose from and nearly unlimited options for building them. (There’s even a sandbox mode, for players who are more interested in building castles than destroying enemies.)
Once you’ve set up some walls and a few machine guns, you start the attack. Waves of “Goblocks”– blocky little goblins– march forward, intent on ruining all your hard work. In a typical tower defense game, you’d spend the next few minutes directing your guns from an all-seeing perspective. In Block Fortress, you grab a pistol and a few tools and run around the landscape blasting the Goblocks.
This part of the game is a little overwhelming. The graphics throw off your sense of perspective and make it hard to navigate, while the virtual joystick and the draggable viewpoint do not work well together. We frequently found ourselves turning, looking, and shooting right past the Goblock we were trying to target. It’s a good thing the tower guns are automatic.
Fortunately, the shooting gets easier as you level up and gain more powerful weapons. The good guns are easy to unlock, and you can build sniper platforms from which to terrorize your foes. Best of all, you can customize your guns.
The crafting system is part of what lifts Block Fortress from “fun” to “aargh, how did I lose track of time and stay up past 2 a.m. again?” As you play, you mine rare minerals. These minerals can be used to buy improvements to your weapons, your support gear, and even some of the walls. You can add damage effects, speed up reloads, even build self-powered weapons that don’t have to sit near fragile generators.
You earn minerals and level up quickly enough that your next ultimate weapon is never far away. There are in-app purchases for the impatient, but we didn’t mind grinding because we were having so much fun building our fortresses.
Block Fortress has one of the most flexible building systems around. You can snap the wall blocks together any way you like. They stay in place as long as they’re connected to each other, so you can build structures that couldn’t exist in the real world. Walls and gun emplacements are just the first step. There are hours of exploration to be had building impossibly tall towers and castles in the sky.
In the end, Block Fortress is like a huge set of Lego blocks. At first, you’re wondering what to do with all the stuff spread out in front of you. Then the answer hits you: just about anything you want.