Many years ago, the puzzle gameTetris introduced the idea of fitting a variety of geometric shapes together to produce a continuous line that would disappear. This type of puzzle game makes you think about the position and shape of each falling object and how they collapse into another to form lines.
You have to have similar skills to understand and solve the puzzling movement in Action Blox by TikGames. Action Blox is sort of a cross between aTetris style of puzzle game and Labyrinth. Your objective is to roll a two by one 3D rectangular block around a field of squares until you can sink the block through the open hole. Like Labyrinth, the playing field in which the rectangular block moves changes in size and shape with each level, with new obstacles and challenges to overcome.
Because the block is three dimensional, there are some subtle physics involved that give the game a sense of space. When you make a wrong move, your block literally tumbles over the edge of the grid. The physics also mean you have to think through the location of the rectangular block and figure out how to follow the path using bridges and buttons and teleporters to get you to the correct position where you can deposit the block through the hole. Getting it wrong gives you that hopeless feeling that overcomes you when Mario meets his demise and plummets into the hot lava. I found myself shouting “Oh no!” when my block fell into the ether.
If you like physics-based puzzle games that require thinking through sometimes challenging puzzles to accomplish a goal, then you might enjoy this game. For me, it held my interest for several levels, yet fell short in a few areas. Although the music definitely added to the ethereal and science fiction atmosphere it soon made me weary and added unwanted stress and monotony.
Sometimes repetitive music (if it loops at the right time) can enhance the gaming experience. Other times, it just makes you want to turn it off. After a few levels, I had to turn off the music in Action Blox. While I found the music annoyingly repetitive, I did enjoy the sound effects, especially the realistic sound of the block ‘clunking’ and ‘rolling’ around on the playing field.
To me, another flaw may not feel like a problem to others. Although the 3D block and square-grid are intentionally designed to be simple and light in their graphic appeal, I found myself wanting for more. Maybe it’s because the graphics display capabilities of the iPhone are so rich and intense. Maybe it’s because I’ve played so many iPhone games that are actually more beautiful in appearance than many games I play on the PC or Nintendo DS. While some might find the puzzling gameplay a blast, I found the graphics simply blasé. I was expecting more colors, more variety in the backgrounds, more interesting obstacles, and maybe some animated elements to hold my interest.
I do applaud the developers figuring out a interesting way to make use of the iPhone’s tilt-sensitive accelerometer. On the fly, you can switch back and forth between “touch” mode or “tilt” mode where you can either move the block with a touch of your finger or advance it by tilting the phone in the direction you want the block to move. I must confess I tried the tilt mode for a while, and it is challenging and fun, but I found it much harder than the touch mode. As is the case with some other iPhone games that incorporate the accelerometer into the gameplay, often I found myself titling the phone away from me to move the block, which only made it harder for me to see the action.
Is Action Blox a good value? Well, you get 33 levels of increasingly difficult puzzles for $1.99. If you like this particular type of puzzle game, then you’ll want to add it to your iPhone game collection. But if your idea of a good puzzle game is matching jigsaw pieces or finding hidden objects, you might want to pass.