Irides (Blocks2)


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Blocks2 Hands-On

If you’ve ever owned a PSP, you probably also owned Lumines, the platform-defining musical puzzle game that was to the PSP what Tetris was to the Gameboy. Lumines was a must-have game for a handheld system that has been struggling for definition ever since.

The iPhone also has some identity issues, but no shortage of games, and Blocks2 owes a lot to Lumines. Maybe Blocks2 and the iPhone can help define each other.

Blocks2 contains the same basic premise as Lumines, but with a few twists that develop as you progress through the 28 missions. Like in Lumines, you drop 2×2 blocks of different colors, trying to match them together to form solid squares or rectangles. Early missions simply require you to achieve a certain number of points or solid shapes formed. Later, you’ll also come across bomb blocks, color-changing chameleon blocks, countdown blocks that only disappear after a certain number of combos, and several more.

Instead of racing ahead of a “beat line” like in Lumines, in Blocks2 you can build combos while a bar fills up along the bottom of the screen. When the bar is full, your solid sets disappear and give you points. You can keep resetting this bar by creating even more squares of solid blocks, which will help you achieve a nice high score.

Like in Lumines, Blocks2 also has a techno soundtrack, albeit a slightly milder one. The background themes that accompany each stage them all tend to be set in outer space, with pictures of stars and planets.

Controls in Blocks2 are all completely touch-based. You simply tap on the left or right side of the block to move it side-to-side, and flick your finger up or down to rotate the block. Dragging the block downward makes it fall rapidly.

The basic action is just like we remember from Lumines, with the occasional new element that varies depending on the level. You can also play in an endless mode to rack up a high score, and that brings us to this game’s other notable inclusion: OpenFeint.

With OpenFeint, you can upload your high score from endless mode, visit chat rooms, and work to unlock achievements. While there’s no multiplayer in Blocks2, these online components can help make it feel like you’re part of a community of blockheads.

Blocks2 is very similar to Lumines, but it does add a handful of new features, like different types of blocks and OpenFeint integration, that help it stand on its own. This type of block-dropping gameplay can still be fun even if you’ve played it before, and we’re looking forward to playing the full game to see if all the pieces fall into place.

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Blocks2 Review

If you read our hands-on preview of Blocks2, then you are already aware of what this Lumines clone is all about. Lumines was what made the PSP a must-have system at its launch, and many would argue that its sequel topped the original. Since then, Xbox 360 and PS2 users have also had the opportunity to try it out. The good news is that Blocks2, while not Lumines, offers much of the same experience. The bad news is that being a spitting image of its spiritual successor means that it brings few new things to the table.

In some ways, Blocks2 is the perfect cross between Lumines and Numba. As mentioned in our preview, several of the gameplay elements that differentiate it from Lumines are also found in Numba, like bomb, chameleon and countdown blocks that disappear over time.

Using these in addition to regular colored blocks, your task is to match up combinations of four or more like-colored blocks in squared-off shapes. Once that’s done, a bar will begin charging at the bottom of the screen. Increase the number of completed squares and rectangles continuously before the bar is fully charged to increase your combo points. It’s a simple premise that gets harder with increased speed and block types.

Blocks so big they can be seen from space.

This is all well and good, but we have perhaps been a bit spoiled by Lumines’s introduction of music as a key element in the gameplay. The music in Blocks2 is quite good, and it offers up similar beat styles, but the music plays no part in how you play the game and is therefore not integral to the experience. Because of this, levels can feel less absorbing and more like a grind.

This is not to say that Blocks2 is not a fun game. Especially for those who have already played Lumines, you are bound to have a great time, as this is block-matching at its best. For others, though, the game can start to feel stale after several levels. The lack of significantly changing backdrops doesn’t help you stay pumped for all 28 levels, either.

A scene from Star Block 3: The Search for Block.

Multiplayer, at least in this version, does not exist, which is a sad omission. While you can chat it up and compare scores with pals via OpenFient’s superb interface, not having a competitive or cooperative mode does limit the replay value.

We don’t want to be too harsh on a game that offers plentiful block-dropping goodness, but the comparisons to Lumines, a game that is ultimately better, are inevitable. The current $0.99 price tag (soon to go up to $1.99) goes a long way towards making this a worthy purchase, especially if you are tired of lugging your PSP around, but as a clone, it comes up short in a few key places. If future additions include some of these elements, we will happily revisit the game and offer our two cents. But until then, Blocks2 falls short of our highest rating.