Genre: Puzzle Developer: California Dreams Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
Surprising enough to me, the falling block puzzle genre was fairly limited as far as mass releases go for the Genesis. There was the flagship game Columns that was fairly popular, and Sega tried to port Tetris but was caught up in copyright problems. Overall, only a select few good puzzle games ever saw the light of day for our favorite black console.
Electronic Arts was a pretty solid company, and it figured out how to bring out the strengths of just about every console it made games for and released several stellar sports titles for the SNES, Genesis, 32X, and 3DO. It really couldn’t do anything wrong when it came to sports games, and it wasn’t until the company ventured off from the sports genre that the quality of its games fell so that buying them was like playing a game of Russian roulette. In other words you really took a chance on whether you were getting a good game or not. In its defense, most other games were produced by other small companies and only published by EA.
BlockOut was produced by a small unknown company called California Dreams and if you haven’t guessed, it’s a clone of Tetris. Actually, it’s just Tetris viewed from the top down with a 3D effect. Since it’s in 3D, each piece can be moved up, down, left, or right. Buttons A, B, and C all flip pieces on separate axis and start drops pieces down just like holding down in Tetris. The size of the game field can be adjusted, and you can adjust the height, width, and depth depending on how complex you want to get with the gameplay. Pieces fall as white wire frame before they land, then each layer turns a different color so you can judge the depth and decide where each piece needs to be placed. Once a whole layer is filled in it disappears. Hopefully I’ve painted a good picture of how complex and confusing the game plays.
If you haven’t guessed, all the above mentioned is far too hard to keep track of during the game, and confusion and frustration sets in early. It’s very hard to clear layers once they are boxed in by the higher layers, and it’s far too hard to keep track of which button to press to flip a piece a certain way, so often times you’ll put pieces in a wrong spot just because you were fumbling with pressing the right button to flip the piece the right way.
I don’t have a problem with the graphics at all, what little of them there is. There’s not much variety, and nothing changes color when you advance stages, but they get the job done. I do have a problem with the sound effects though, as they are extremely generic and grating, and they don’t vary much. Also, there’s no music in the game at all, and it makes things all the more grating to have to sit through, especially for me because I had to play it to write this review. Don’t expect to change the gameplay much in the options. They’re there, but the programmers skimped on them pretty badly. You have everything from the field size to speed, and that’s about it except for a lame two-player mode and a couple of controller settings which aren’t much to write about either.
There have been a lot of variations and sequels to Tetris that have added a lot to the strategy and gameplay, but this game didn’t have to be released. This is prime proof that 3D doesn’t always help a game become better, and in this case it kills it completely. There are bad games that can be rewarding through the frustrating gameplay and actually pay off and become worth it. BlockOut is a means to an end; it starts out frustrating in the beginning and the only reward the frustration gets you is more frustration on top of existing frustration. You never accomplish anything here. You play it several times and lose anyway, never getting a reward for your hard work. It’s not fun trying to beat your high scores, and you’ll never get someone to play it with you either. I’m surprised that EA published this game, but it didn’t seem to care about the quality if it wasn’t a sports game. Don’t spend your time here because so far it’s the worst puzzle game I’ve played on the Genesis and probably the worst Tetris clone I’ve seen.
SCORE: 2 out of 10
Back then everyone was trying to copy Tetris without actually copying Tetris. BlockOut lacks the immediacy which made Tetris a hit as rotating a wireframe block is too cumbersome to have that quick and addictive puzzle game quality. I still wouldn’t call it a terrible game, but it’d be completely forgettable if it weren’t for the excellent soundtrack.
Basicaly Tetris in 3D, BlockOut doesn’t deserve 2/10. Sure its slow gameplay mechanism may cause drowsiness, but it also offers what its formula have to offer. An average puzzle game that is not very addictive but quite challenging and technically impressive (a bit) for its time. CONCLUSION: 6/10