Overall Score 72%
Tetris... surely everyone has heard of Tetris? An assortment of blocks, all made of four squares, fall down the screen. The player can move these blocks sideways and rotate them, the idea being to create complete lines across the play area and in the process remove them. The game ends if the blocks stack up too high and the blocks fall faster over time. Simple - and much copied.
This, however, is not Tetris. This is MagnaBlock, which takes the basic premise and applies a new approach. Blocks enter the screen from all four sides, and you catch them with your keyboard controlled magnetic block. Match a line of three or more squares of the same colour to make them (and any blocks attached to them) vanish. The game ends when your mass of blocks exceeds the boundary of the game grid.
MagnaBlock is a somewhat different animal to its progenitor. For one thing, you aren't controlling the approaching blocks - you move the MagnaBlock in the middle. You rotate the mass of blocks attached to said MagnaBlock rather than the incoming threat. Each level you merely need to survive for a few minutes before starting again with new block graphics and a fresh MagnaBlock.
As you may expect, the graphics are decidedly square. Play takes place over an assortment of backgrounds in a grid occupying the left side of the screen while a strip on the right details your score and what block is coming next (and what direction from). The time remaining on this level is also given, along with a gauge of some description which seems to go up as you clear blocks. I'm not entirely sure what this is for but it seems speed related. A variety of designs for the squares are selected, apparently at random, and include colours, shades of blue, strange geometric shapes, squiggly aliens, roman numerals and more.
To my delight, Magnablock is the first game I've reviewed for a while with a range of music. The Tetris homage that opens up level one is rather sweet. Alas, there is little scope for sound effects in this game (attempts are made to provide different sounds should you score bonuses, such as a duplex or pentalux) so it is somewhat difficult to rate what there is!
There are a few hiccups to my mind in the playability. One thing I'd like to see is a form of key repeat - I am constantly hammering the keys to get my magnablock from one side of the grid to the other. Another problem is the ease with which one can die suddenly - while the game will not (as far as I know) let you rotate the mass of blocks in such a way that you exceed the limits of the grid, you can certainly move off the edge. If you snag an approaching block before it fully enters the grid you also die instantly.
A game (assuming you avoid committing suicide, as above) can last some time. There is a certain fun in seeing the later block types and the gameplay does speed up. It just takes a while. Things are a little easy, though - if you clear a row of squares then all the squares only attached to the magnablock through them will disappear. Huge chunks of squares can be quickly dismissed with a little forward planning. In addition, there is no real urgency to the game - all you need to do is survive about three minutes and you're on the next level.
I rather enjoyed playing Magnablock but I get the impression that the central premise is missing something. Kudos for trying a new approach - the playability just seems a little out of balance. Something for all Tetris fans to try out.
Keywords: magnablock review, thephorse reviews, thephorse games, magnablock scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.