With the rise of downloadable game services for the current crop of consoles, it's not unusual to start seeing retail compilations of these games hit store shelves. After all, not everyone with a current-gen game console is connected online or has a good enough connection so that downloading a small title won't take a day or so. What is more unusual, however, is seeing the same downloadable title available on store shelves. In the case of the Nintendo Wii, this has happened before with the release of TV Show King, where new questions were added to the retail release due to the service's size limitations. This anomaly is happening again, this time with a puzzle game. Groovin' Blocks was released around this time last year on the WiiWare service and quickly became a favorite for puzzle fans who were craving something different from the usual classics. With Zoo Games handling the publishing duties, Groovin' Blocks has made its way onto store shelves, and it's packed with new levels and new songs. Does the additional game content justify a disc purchase over a digital one, or will the WiiWare version be satisfying enough for players?
Groovin' Blocks follows the standard formula that most puzzle games have used for over a decade. Colored blocks come in from the top of the screen and land on the bottom. Your objective is to make it so that three blocks of the same color match up horizontally or vertically. Doing this will cause them to disappear and cause the other blocks above them to fall into place so that the process can start anew.
While this doesn't sound like anything new, the developer tweaked a few things to make this game stand out a bit among the crowd. For starters, the sets of colored blocks don't always follow the same shape. While early levels present blocks in stacks of three, later levels will give the player different shapes, such as cubes of blocks, to deal with. It isn't much, but it does add a bit of variety. The same goes for power-ups that are earned when high scores are reached in each level, and they range from bonus points to adjacent blocks being destroyed when matches are made.
The biggest addition to Groovin' Blocks, however, is the use of music for both level length and bonus points. The selected track acts like a timer, and once it stops playing, the level ends and points are tabulated. However, if you pay attention to the beat, you can gain bonus points by dropping the blocks at the right chord, gaining more points in the process and building a higher bonus as a result. This new addition makes the game a bit more strategic if you want to earn as much as possible in the short amount of time. Considering the score requirements for some of the levels, you'll need to master this mechanic as early as possible. The original game featured four levels per difficulty with three songs each, while the disc-based version adds three more levels to each difficulty and three new songs per level.
There are two different multiplayer modes available for the game. There's the standard versus mode, where you and an opponent fight for high scores on a selected song. The standard rules from single-player apply here, so dropping blocks at the right beat is almost essential. You also have a cooperative mode, where you and another player drop blocks in the same playfield. It's standard stuff, but it makes the experience more enjoyable.
As expected, the controls are very simple. Holding the Wii Remote horizontally, the d-pad is used for block movement. Left or right handles the direction, while down makes the blocks drop. The "2" button changes the block order or rotates it, depending on what shape you're currently controlling. What's interesting is that there is only one way the blocks rotate. Players who are used to having separate buttons for block rotation (one clockwise, the other counter-clockwise) will lament the missing feature, but otherwise there's nothing else wrong with the system. Also noteworthy is the fact that the game supports the Classic Controller, though this may not be used very much given how simple the controls are to begin with.
The graphics haven't changed at all from the WiiWare version of Groovin' Blocks. The backgrounds for each level consist of nothing but a color gradient, a grid for the playing field, and a metronome made of blinking colored dots. The field is rendered in 3-D, and the camera is positioned in a way that almost looks like the blocks are coming at the screen from a downward slope. The blocks are shaped well, with colors that do a good job of not bleeding into one another; the special effects from the special power-up blocks are also nicely done. Even the scoreboard has a nice 3-D effect to it while remaining readable. In short, this is a very clean screen that is helped out a bit by being presented in widescreen at 480p.
While sound usually isn't a factor in puzzle games, the fact that this is one that has some dependence on rhythm makes it important. The good news is that the mostly instrumental tracks are a pleasure to listen to. Everything falls on the techno side of things, but even non-fans of the genre won't find it insulting to their ears. Don't be surprised if you turn up the volume a bit for this game, especially for the homage to the C-64. The sound effects are also clean but subtle and don't get in the way of the music, which is important when you consider the use of the beats for bonus points. All in all, this is an audio treat.
Groovin' Blocks is a fun puzzle game that feels both familiar and fresh, thanks to the one gimmick it sports. There's no doubt that puzzle fans will surely enjoy the game for quite some time. However, the question remains whether or not it should be played on disc or through digital download. It will all depend on whether you have played it before. Those who went for the digital download will discover that the cost of buying the game for the extra levels is too high to be worth it, especially since the bonus level count for $20 doesn't match what was originally offered for $8. If you haven't played the game before, though, the disc is easily worth the money because it offers a more complete experience without losing anything or gaining unwanted items in the process.
More articles about Groovin' Blocks