It's starting to feel like there's a secret conspiracy amongst devs in the indie gaming scene to make 2011 the "Year of the Block." Bigger indie titles like Minecraft and Terraria may be leading the charge in the block-centric build-and-destroy genre, but other scrappy games like Blocks That Matter are also holding the flag high -- albeit in a different way. This fun download channels the spirit of Tetris into a slick puzzle-platforming adventure that's brainy and humorous. Problem is, it tends to whittle away at your patience the deeper you go.
Blocks That Matter sports a silly, self-referential tale that pays homage to fellow indie developers and more traditional gaming classics. Trouble arises when fictional game dev duo Alexey and Markus (not-so-subtly modelled after another pair of well-known game makers) are kidnapped in the middle of developing their next big project. Fortunately for them, their project isn't a game at all but a tiny robot capable of drilling and arranging blocks. Controlling the little fellow through loads of adorable hand-drawn, puzzle-filled levels is the only way to rescue the captured creators.
Tetrobot, the game's pint-sized protagonist, is equipped with a drill that lets you bore through blocks and collect them for later use. Navigating the challenging 2D stages to reach the exit is a meticulous process that requires planning and platforming skills alike. Once you've collected groups of four blocks, you can enter the game's building mode and lay down tetrominos to trigger gates, climb heights, bridge gaps, and tackle other environmental puzzles. Different block types have unique properties that play heavily into the game's puzzles. It's an interesting idea that's expanded on as you progress. I found the core concepts at play to be a lot of fun to noodle with, but the stages themselves grew frustrating far quicker than I expected.
The unforgiving trial-and-error nature of Blocks That Matter's puzzles leads to arbitrary moments of irritation that suck up the fun. As the number of different block types increase and the stages grow more complex, you have to pay very careful attention to every single move you make to ensure you're not about to take a step that'll force you to restart the stage from the beginning. It's not a huge deal if you have to restart a few times, but the game loses its charm when you're stuck replaying some stages a dozen times because every tricky obstacle you overcome leads into another nefarious trap that creates an impasse. Over time, this pokes holes in the game's momentum.
With over 40 challenging stages to push through and bot upgrades that reward you with cool retro game blocks to collect on repeat play throughs, Blocks That Matter has a lot of content for its meagre price. But despite the immense level of creativity infused throughout the entire experience, there are still moments where the gameplay is not that enjoyable to muscle through. Unless you crave a good brain bending, your mileage may vary with this one.