Groovin' Blocks
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-09-03 Wii Puzzle E (Everyone) Empty Clip Studios / Zoo Games

Groovin' Blocks was first released as a WiiWare only title in September 2008. At 800 points ($8), the game provided a cheap puzzle-game experience that proved to be a decent first effort on the part of Empty Clip Studios.

Now a year later, an expanded retail version of the game has been created that contains over 50 all-new levels, as well as an original soundtrack sure to please fans of the original, who were disappointed in the (understandable) lack of content found therein.

Groovin' Blocks looks a lot like many other puzzlers released over the years, but is not a true clone of any one of them. Instead, the game is a hybrid of sorts, combining the columnar sets of multi-colored blocks found in games like Columns with a tweaked version of Lumines' rhythm/music system.

The object of each level is to earn as high a score as possible (with additional stars being earned at different point levels, and said stars being used to unlock new levels) by creating columns or lines of three like-colored blocks. Doing so removes the trios from the board, allowing any subsequent blocks to settle into their place, normally creating chain reactions with the surrounding pieces.

Each set of three blocks begins its descent into the playing field in muted colors. As the game's techno / electronica music plays in the background, you are shown a rhythm bar at the top of the screen, and by pressing down on the Wii Remote (which is held horizontally) on beat with the song, the blocks transform into a brighter, glowing color pallet, increasing your score multiplier.

You can also instantly, albeit temporarily, double your multiplier by hitting down on a Superbeat, which is represented by a much larger hash mark on the rhythm bar.

Special power blocks are unlocked as you progress that contain items such as bombs that destroy whole groups of blocks at once, or triggers that decrease the speed of falling blocks.

As the name suggests, the game lives and dies by its soundtrack, which is a bit of a double edged sword. Sure, you'll be nodding your head to the beat after just a few rounds, but it won't be because the game's soundtrack has you dancing in your seat. Rather, keeping time with the beat by nodding your head or with the shake of a foot or other appendage is the easiest way to actually play the game accurately, as you'll know to hit the down button on the Wii Remote when you body jerks.

That being said however, some of the songs within the game change tempo mid-song, forcing you to relearn the rhythm, which is easier said than done when your focus is split between matching colors and trying to hit a button in time with the music. Likewise, many of the songs contain a beat that is less than intuitive, with your gameplay rhythm being overshadowed by the other instruments in the song to the point of forcing you to look at the scrolling beat bar to know when the next bonus spot is coming.

One last complaint comes with the graphical department, which, although entirely adequate throughout the majority of gameplay (bright, crisp lines and colors fill the screen, along with a technological flair with the timer and score multiplier displays), finds a major flaw in the coloring of the puzzle blocks themselves.

While most colors, like blue and silver, are understandably easy to distinguish from one another, regardless of whether or not they are the dull or shiny versions, when a dull red and orange square line up against or on top of one another, it can be almost impossible to tell which block is what color, causing mix-ups when you place a stack of two reds on top of an orange or vice versa, thinking it was the other color.

Rounding out the gameplay experience are various new gameplay modes. Aside from the single-player, Groovin' Blocks also allows for co-op high score runs and competitive head-to-head matches, where power ups can affect not only your board, but your opponents' as well.

All in all, Groovin' Blocks does contain a few noteworthy flaws, but remains fun in short sessions or in multiplayer situations. As such, my suggestion to pick this one up relies solely on your ownership status of the WiiWare original. If you are a puzzle game fanatic, who is new to the Groovin' Blocks universe, by all means, take advantage of the game's budget price of $20. However, if you're an owner of the original, there isn't much here other than the additional game length to warrant you buying the same title twice.

Special thanks to Sam Dalsimer and Zoo Games for providing a copy of this title.