Wii

North America

Groovin' Blocks

by Jonathan Metts - September 18, 2008, 10:08 pm PDT
Total comments: 18

8.5

Fans of Lumines and Meteos will appreciate the subtle and addictive design of Groovin' Blocks, the first must-own WiiWare title.

Everyone knows that the best action-puzzle games, like Tetris, connect with something deep in your brain tissue. They are so simple that you barely have to think, yet so satisfying that you can't stop playing. These are games that make you zone out, entering into something like a Zen state of consciousness. You probably wouldn't expect puzzle gaming's "holy grail" to be found on WiiWare, at least outside Hudson's upcoming version of Tetris. And yet here is Groovin' Blocks, a brilliant little game that combines falling blocks and hard-hitting beats for something fresh and totally mesmerizing.

The core gameplay is instantly familiar – colored blocks fall from the top, and you try to shuffle the colors and place the pieces so that three or more same-colored blocks will match up and disappear. There are a couple of minor tweaks worth mentioning. First, clearing blocks is "contagious", meaning that adjacent blocks of the same color (but not in the matching set) will also be zapped away. Second, there are power-up blocks with useful effects like slowing down falling blocks, shifting the colors of nearby blocks, and destroying nearby blocks.

What sets Groovin' Blocks apart is the integration of rhythm into the gameplay. Every level is set to a different techno song, meaning there is a finite end once the song is over. This effectively breaks up the game into short bursts (usually three to five minutes long), which is nice for quick sessions.

The point of having these driving techno songs is to provide a heavy beat that sets the tempo of gameplay. As with Tetris and other puzzle games, you can press down on the D-pad to immediately drop a block into place. If you drop blocks on the beat of the music, they'll be worth more points and will eventually build up a score multiplier. It's a simple little addition that feels natural but adds a lot of depth to how you play. Don't be embarrassed to nod your head or tap your foot while playing… those are legitimate strategies for high scores! For those of us with no innate sense of rhythm, there's also a visual indicator of the beats, so you can just rely on hand-eye coordination and good timing. If even that is too hard, you can always ignore the music and play Groovin' Blocks like any other puzzle game. There's no penalty for doing so; you just won't score as many points or activate the power-up blocks.

What's impressive about the rhythm element is that it is so smoothly integrated with the rest of the game. It never feels like you're playing two games at once. What could have been a distraction instead actually helps you slide into that groovy state of mind and play the game even better. When everything finally clicks in your brain, Groovin' Blocks is on par with some of the best puzzle games ever made.

Where it may not quite reside in that pantheon is in terms of longevity. The game's design relies on different songs to provide variety, but the track list is slightly shorter than I would have liked. Still, the amount of music packed into the game is very respectable for a downloadable game. Moreover, each song can be replayed to get higher scores, which is encouraged by the unlockable content structure. New songs and upgraded power-ups are revealed by ranking highly on each level. The "Casual" tier is easy to open up, but the two other tiers are significantly harder and include a couple of extra songs not available on Casual.

Other features include a standard versus mode for two players and a more unusual cooperative mode, in which you bothplace blocks on the same field. It's fun and hectic but also unfulfilling, since the game doesn't record your cooperative score or ranking. The lack of any kind of high score table or online leader board is also mildly disappointing.

Groovin' Blocks is one of those games that can be hard to explain, but it is easy to pick up and understand once you play it. It's special among WiiWare games for being such a well-rounded, complete package and for avoiding common gimmicks like misplaced motion control and garish Mii integration. This game could easily be released on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and it probably will be in the future. That's certainly no reason to avoid it on WiiWare, as this is easily one of the most polished games on the service and also happens to be a great value at a relatively low price. With its broad appeal, simple gameplay, and addictive nature, Groovin' Blocks should be occupying a couple hundred memory blocks on everyone's Wii.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7 10 9 9 8 8.5
Graphics
7

Clean and simple, but that's a good thing here. One minor gripe is that the playing field is slightly oblique, which can sometimes cause confusion about which column the falling blocks are in. The problem is most pronounced in competitive multiplayer, since the fields are smaller and off to the side. The color-blind mode is an admirable feature.

Sound
10

Over a dozen catchy techno tracks not only sound great, but also strongly affect how the game is played. The later songs are more complex, and thus more challenging. Even non-fans of electronic music will probably enjoy this soundtrack.

Control
9

No frills, no problems. You can play with the Classic Controller, but the Wii Remote (held sideways) is totally sufficient.

Gameplay
9

The game sounds complicated, but it’s actually very simple. The focus on rhythm works so well in a puzzle game context that it's a wonder this game wasn't made long ago. Everything just feels right, and the game is undeniably addictive.

Lastability
8

Groovin' Blocks isn't quite as timeless as something like Tetris, but it comes close. The only limiting factor is the soundtrack, which is finite despite an impressive array of songs. Some method to compare scores with your friends, even locally, would have pushed the longevity to another level.

Final
8.5

Groovin' Blocks won't change your life or keep you up late at night, but it is a highly competent, uncommonly original take on a well-worn genre and is absolutely worth downloading.

Summary

Pros
  • Addictive and mesmerizing
  • Great techno music
  • Simple, yet deep and challenging
Cons
  • No leader boards or co-op scorekeeping
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

No comments at all?  That makes me sad for this game.  I wonder if any of our readers have even downloaded it...

DAaaMan64September 19, 2008

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

No comments at all?  That makes me sad for this game.  I wonder if any of our readers have even downloaded it...

I'm going to. I didn't recall this being up yesterday though. :P

Yes I'm looking forward to this one.

shammackSeptember 19, 2008

I was going to download it, but it's huge.  I basically would have had to delete all of my virtual console games, and I'd rather have quick access to a bunch of different games than one game that I would probably only play every once in a while.

But maybe I will get it after all since no one else is.

Shammack's dilemma is all the more reason why Nintendo needs to resolve the storage issue ASAP.  If it's too much of a hassle to "clean the fridge", you lose out on spontaneous purchases of larger WiiWare games.

AVSeptember 20, 2008

seems good but not good enough for my money.

I already have plenty of puzzle games.

Meteos
Tetris DS
Dr. Mario Online RX
Clubhouse games
Brain Age 2

I haven't played the last two in like years. Dr. Mario in months, Tetris and Meteos over once in a while.

Seems like a good game and all just not remarkable enough to go out of my way for.

I will buy this as soon as there's a storage solution. And LostWinds and Toki Tori were both must-owns before this.

shammackSeptember 20, 2008

Okay, I deleted the Internet Channel and got this.  Seems pretty fun so far.  I'm having some trouble keeping a multiplier for long... I tried calibrating the lag, but that only made it worse (and I'm using a CRT, so there shouldn't be lag anyway), so it's probably just that I suck.

I actually like most of the music, which is surprising.  I kind of wish there were an "endless" mode that would string the songs together or something and you just play until you die.  The typical round ends a bit faster than I'd like.

But yeah, it's quite good.

I think Lost Winds is too short to be a must-own (it's just a bad value, but still a pretty good game), and Toki Tori is pretty hardcore as puzzle games go.  GB has a really wide appeal and is a great value for the current price.

shammack, there is one song that's twice as long as the others.  I agree that a looped endless mode would be nice.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusSeptember 21, 2008

I actually bought this and strong bad 2 yesterday and my god is groovin is addictive much much better than lumines and meteos.  Compared to Lumines this game is just awesome and its practically the only puzzle game that nails puzzle + rhythm perfectly which is awesome considering how Lumines failed in that department. The only thing I don't like about groovin is the isometric\on a slant looking board it sometimes throws me off a little bit for some matches.

I think that color blind mode should be standard in all puzzle games especially if your dealing with blocks, I am not color blind I keep color blind mode on for variety reasons and it's easier for me to manage colored shapes than colored cubes in the heat of things, I lost so many matches in super puzzle fighter HD remix just because I accidentally put the wrong gem color right next to another gem.

SchadenfreudeSeptember 21, 2008

I had the same problem is Super Puzzle Fighter HD remix. I'm yellow-green colorblind so I had serious trouble telling the difference between the two. Color blind mode is much appreciated.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought Lumines was good but not great.

The color blind mode in Groovin' Blocks looks very close to one of the Meteos planets.  I'm glad that Flames chimed in with some praise for this game, as I was starting to wonder if I am the only person who "gets" it.  Meanwhile, I may be the only person who DOESN'T get Lock's Quest.

vuduOctober 13, 2008

Jonny, do you have any updated thoughts on this game?  Are you still playing it a month after the fact?  I just finished RFN 115 and your praise about the game has made me seriously consider picking it up.  I'm in the market for a game I can play for 10 minutes when I have nothing else to do.

I haven't played it lately, but that's mainly because I've been incredibly busy playing other games.  I just wrote my fourth review in less than ten days.  Today I downloaded three more games from the Wii Shop Channel.  Neal is letting me borrow Killer 7, and I still have GameFly sending me random Xbox games whenever they feel like it.

If you like falling block puzzle games, you're going to love Groovin' Blocks.  It's really excellent.

vuduOctober 14, 2008

I downloaded World of Goo (which is totally amazing) and Secret of Mana today, but I plan to pick up Groovin' Blocks sometime in the near future.

vuduAugust 07, 2009

I finally got around to buying Groovin' Blocks (only 10 months after I said I would) and it's just not clicking with me.

I can't get the timing aspect down.  I swear on my life that I'm dropping the blocks in time with the beat but I only get a score multiplier about 10% of the game.

I used to be a drummer, so I have a pretty good sense of rhythm.  Something is horribly wrong.

KDR_11kAugust 07, 2009

TV lag?

vuduAugust 07, 2009

There's a calibration option and I've tried it on two separate occasions--doesn't help the problem.  :(

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Genre Puzzle
Developer Empty Clip Studios
Players1 - 2
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Groovin' Blocks
Release Sep 08, 2008
PublisherEmpty Clip Studios
RatingEveryone

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