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Groovin' Blocks

Score: 82%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Zoo Games
Developer: Empty Clip Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Groovin' Blocks bears some visual similarities to other games in the puzzle genre; that is, it takes a minimalist approach. It makes use of a very simple color palette and avoids the dynamic backgrounds of other music/puzzle games like Gitaroo Man and Lumines. All of your visual cues are right in front of you; falling blocks pulse to the beat, and there's a subtly-placed indicator that measures each beat you can make use of. Otherwise, Groovin' Blocks is a relatively plain-looking game that uses its visual presentation exclusively for gameplay purposes.

Groovin' Blocks is almost as much a music game as it is a puzzle game. Luckily, the game sounds pretty good. There's no rock, pop, or punk. Every bit of music in this game is some form of trance or electronica. Since there's a lot of pulsing objects on the game screen, it's a perfect fit, and while it may take a while to get used to, you'll be bobbing your head with the beat in no time.


Gameplay:

Groovin' Blocks is what you get when you combine the rules of Lumines and Puyo Puyo. It's a falling block puzzler in which you must align three blocks of the same color in order to clear them. Rack up a high enough score, and your Star Rating will go up. The more high Star Ratings you earn, the quicker you unlock power-ups and new songs.

There's a catch to the gameplay: you must play along with the music in order to build your score multiplier. Slamming your blocks down on predetermined beats will help increase your multiplier. Of course, most block puzzle games are at their best when you're allowed to set up satisfying screen-clearing combos. Groovin' Blocks is no exception; when you successfully match three blocks of the same color, any adjacent same-colored blocks will be eliminated as well.

There are two local multiplayer modes, and Head-to-Head almost goes without saying. The one who scores the most points over the chosen song will win the game. Co-op is a bit more interesting, in that, well... it's co-op in a puzzle game. Working together to bust blocks is a bit weird at first, but if the two players assign themselves a certain side of the screen and communicate well, it's really fun.


Difficulty:

There are three preset difficulties to choose from; they alter the number of blocks per cluster, as well as the rate at which they fall. With that said, how much trouble you'll have with Groovin' Blocks is directly affected by how aggressively you play. If you really want the high scores and you're dropping blocks every beat or two, your screen will fill up pretty quickly, and before long, you'll have quite a mess to clean up.

Most puzzle games immediately grab hold and don't let go for a really long time, but the addiction factor of Groovin' Blocks takes time to sink into place. It won't destroy your free time like Lumines will, but you'll definitely find yourself coming back to it.


Game Mechanics:

Groovin' Blocks is a game that is tremendously easy to explain, simply because there's not much to it at all. You hold the Wii-Mote lengthwise with two hands, much like if you were playing a Virtual Console game. You can also use the Classic Controller, but since it connects to the Wii's primary controller, it feels far too clunky. Plus, the game is simple enough as it is. The D-pad will move your block lines and clusters left and right, and it's also what you'll use to slam your blocks down on the beats. The 2 button shuffles the order of the blocks. That is all there is to know when it comes to the basics of playing Groovin' Blocks.

Power-ups are integrated into the mix pretty well, in that they are locked inside regular blocks. You must break the blocks in order to reap the benefits, which can range from the destruction of a handful of blocks to a score boost. None of this is earth-shatteringly innovative, but power-ups are always welcome in a puzzle game.

If you want a traditional puzzle game for your Wii, Groovin' Blocks will fit the bill. It does just enough to set itself apart from the rest, for better or worse. The most important criticism I can level at Groovin' Blocks is that it seems afraid to break out of its cocoon. A little tweaking here and a bit of innovation there, and it could have been a really pretty butterfly. That's not to say all hope is lost. I think if Empty Clip Studios gives it another go, we could have another phenomenon on our hands sooner rather than later.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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