With the follow up to Tetris arriving in the form of Welltris (reviewed elsewhere in these pages), it's not too surprising that similar games should appear. American development company California Dreams have been rather quick off the mark and have come up with their own interpretation of the falling shapes genre with Block Out.
The game is based in a square well shape, with falling blocks having to be constructed into patterns on the floor, but this is where the similarity to Welltris ends. Instead of the shapes being flat tiles, Block Out contains solid 3D objects which can be rotated in three axes. The idea is to place the shapes in the well to form layers, which when completed are removed from the playing area.
If any gaps in the layer are blocked off from above, then the next, higher layer must be completed before access to the holes can be gained, thus making the going harder. If the blocks mount up filling the well, then the game is ended and you start again.
There are three basic modes of play corresponding to different block sets - Flat, Basic and Extended. The flat set has shapes only one block deep, so ifs easy to form them into layers. The Basic set contains more irregular shpaes and the Extended set can be of any proportions, making the game particularly tough to crack.
Different game types can be created from an options page, determining the block set to be used, the size and depth of the well and the starting speed of the game. So a massive eight-by-eight well 20 blocks deep with extended blocks piling into the shaft would undoubtedly be rather hair-raising!
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Sound in the game is rather minimal. the most noticeable piece being the clasical loading music. Elsewhere in the game sound is used sparingly, providing only the odd effect when a layer is completed. The graphics, although simple, portray the action very well indeed. The clear, colourful displays and smoothly shifting shapes floating down the shaft go together to make a well-presented and good-looking puzzle game.
LASTING INTEREST: The action is fairly easy to get into, the only real hassle being the 3D rotation to get the pieces to fit. However the system isn't that complex and soon becomes second nature. As you'd expect the going is pretty compulsive, and even if you do think you've mastered the art of layer building, shifting the options around could add considerably more challenge than you'd expect!
JUDGEMENT: On first sight, Block Out could well be passed off as a WeIltris rip-off. This is unfair, since Block Out is a true 3D puzzle game, with the player having to think not only in width and height but also in depth. Don't dismiss the game out of hand! Have a try and you'll see that it has enough of its own character to stand up as a challenging game in its own right and for many people will have more appeal than WeIltris.
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