An enjoyable title that combines the basics of rhythm with the proven 'falling puzzle piece' formula.
With so many puzzle games on the market across so many platforms, it becomes hard to innovate with the genre. A recent trend is to combine puzzle mechanics with other genres to enhance gameplay. EA did this with Henry Hatsworth, a DS title that combines puzzle gaming with adventure platforming. Groovin' Blocks is another title that innovates by meshing two different genres. In this case, the 'falling puzzle piece' genre is mixed with the basics of rhythm gaming, and the results are surprisingly satisfying.
Groovin' Blocks first started life as a WiiWare title developed by Empty Clip Studios (read Jonathan Metts' review here). Courtesy of Zoo Publishing, the title now receives a retail release with double the content of its WiiWare iteration, with its original gameplay intact.
Groovin' Blocks is a falling puzzle piece game akin to Tetris and Lumines. The object is to clear rows of blocks by aligning three or more blocks of the same color horizontally or vertically. As in many puzzle games, you can chain blocks together to gain the highest score possible. Groovin' Block's main innovation is that it mixes the concepts of rhythm gaming into its puzzle mechanics. On each side of the screens are scrolling beats, and the object is to place the puzzle pieces to the rhythm of the song. Doing so earns the player a score multiplier.
While keeping the beat isn't necessary to successfully complete a stage, it is the best way to open new stages and achieve high scores. The game lets you know how well you are keeping the beat by the color of the blocks. Blocks placed in rhythm will be bright, while those blocks placed off beat will be darker and register a thud sound when placed.
It's a very novel idea that works extremely well and creates surprising results. While the core puzzle concept is basic and works well on its own, the concept of keeping rhythm as one of its goals accentuates it in a grand manner. The only issue is that some players may find it confusing having to keep track of both tasks at once. It is easy to either focus on placing blocks and missing the opportunity to score high, or focus too much on keeping the beat and letting the blocks stack up. But it never gets to the point of being overwhelming, and it is not necessary to follow the ideas loyally. It's a very engaging concept to say the least.
There are three modes of difficulty: casual, intermediate and expert. The main differences between each mode are the blocks that appear, with the harder levels featuring larger blocks that drop more frequently. Each stage has a score goal, and achieving this goal earns you star icons. These are used to unlock new songs and stages. Players can also earn power-ups such as multipliers and bombs that can help them beat the stage faster and get an even higher score. Best of all these power ups can be leveled up as you achieve the stage's highest score. Power-ups are fairly standard in puzzle games, but the ability to level them is a welcome addition. The game also features over 50 stages, with the idea of successfully hitting all the beats and scoring chains of blocks likely to keep players at it for a while.
The music is also a winning aspect of Groovin' Blocks. The songs are able to provide a level of challenge when it comes to keeping the beat, while creating a smooth and pleasing atmosphere that reminds you of the hottest clubs around. Not all of the songs are winners, but the soundtrack does both of its jobs well.
The title also shines in terms of its options, . providing plenty of setup options to create a more personalized and appropriate experience. Players can synch the audio and the image in the event that gameplay seems off, and there's even a color blind mode for those players that have issues telling the colors apart. It's always great to see developers offer the player the opportunity to tweak the game in the event of an unforeseen issue.
The only major drawback with this version of Groovin' Blocks is that it's nearly identical to the WiiWare version, despite the addition of new songs. The only decision buyers needto make is whether they want more content or quick accessibility. Regardless of the version you buy, you will be getting a unique and fun puzzler that proves that the genre can still be innovated- even if you have to mix two different genres to create a new one.