In these times of super-computer fueled video-gaming extravaganzas it's easy to forget that a game is supposed to be fun from time to time. Of course, everyone's definition for "fun" differs. Some people think it's fun to enter a living world where they can lose their real-world persona. Some want to gather with friends and share in the experience first-hand. Others might want to challenge their mind with riddles or unique interactive puzzles. Sometimes you just want to watch pretty colors float around and listen to chirpy sounds while you veg-out.
This vegging-out style of play is most often referred to as "casual-gaming." Most cell-phone type games fall into this category, as well as your factory installed solitaires and Minesweepers. These are games you can pick up, play for a few minutes, then put back down without worrying about saving your place or forming an attachment to it's characters (if any.) Modern casual-games have a more robust structure than early games like "Tetris" or "Breakout". Sure, they are still quick to play, but they are often surprisingly deep at the same time. Better graphics can give simple game-play a simple story and a few simple characters. Sure, you won't give a damn about those tiny depthless people, but a little gloss and shine can make a rather bland "Space Invaders" clone into a fresh new experience.
Sometimes simply mashing two good ideas together is enough to bring the fun back to otherwise tired modes of play. Take the block breaking action of "Breakout," add the vertical down-scroll of "Tetris," some head-to-head action and sprinkle it with lots of pink and blue glitter and a mind-blowingly stereotypical anime-school-girl and you have "Blocken."
Why will you play this until your rods and cones are blunt and useless? Continue on to find out!
As expected, there is very little story to be found in "Blocken." It would seem that an evil sorceress has made off with some sort of magic jewel that our heroine wants back. And...that's it. This can be neatly summed up in a few quick screens:
Bad-girl makes off with the jewel in her vanity-powered super tank. Along for the ride is Mr. Purple Pirate-Bird. More on both of them later.
Good-girl thinks she can catch up to the tank on foot. Maybe they need to do a better job on the physics classes in Japan?
Good-girl is chased away by a psychedelic rainbow-ball that eventually turns into the games logo. Wait, what?
There are four difficulty settings to choose, from "I'm just waiting for the coffee maker to warm up" to "That one guy that died from playing video-games for days without moving" to "Utada Hikaru." (Just Google her name along with "Tetris") Even after several attempts I couldn't get very far in the third tier, but that doesn't mean I won't give it another shot. Damn you obaba!
The game attempts to form a plot by sending you around to different places on a world-map. Really this is just a device to gradually raise the difficulty and throw increasingly weird characters at you. The configuration of the blocks on each board also change up with each character. While the boards never reach the creative heights of some of the more traditional block-breakers, they are still fun to play though and present enough difficulty to keep you going for just one more round.
Here's the basic play-field. It's your standard block-breaking set-up. Most blocks take only one hit to break while others may take two or more. There is a row of bumpers at the bottom that will return your ball once before breaking, while at the same time sending the bricks down one space. There are also special star blocks that release orbs that you can collect. You can then use these collected orbs to send a blast of blocks over to your opponent with the hopes of ruining their day. The best way to totally piss on their parade is to store up eight orbs, which releases a massive volley of bricks as well as both turning your paddle into a flaming horror and your ball into an invincible killing machine that can cut through bricks like warm butter.
There are two ways to win:
The most obvious way is to clobber your opponent with a barrage of maxed out power-ups. This results in a crushing-press win for max humiliation!
Then there is the clear-win where you manage to clear your side of the board before your opponent can send a new volley of bricks your way. You'll also have to keep the ball in play without it touching the bumpers on the bottom thereby sending more bricks scrolling down. If you can manage this you've earned your bragging rights and can feel free to make as many references to your ass and your opponents face as you wish.
Once you make it past the gauntlet of cotton-candy hairdos and testosterone-poisoned muscle-men you'll reach the second set of levels. These seem to be set just a hop skip and a jump away from your hometown. Over the river and through the skull shaped mountain caves to some crazy chick's Barbie Dream Castle of Doom we go. And lo! Who is on yonder welcome mat but none other than Mr. Purple Pirate Bird from our motivational opening film. It's not clear in that pic but he's sporting a dashing black eye-patch, just in case you were wondering why the hell I keep calling him a pirate. He could also be spewing a hail of "Yar!" and "Shiver me spindly little birdy legs!" and "Raise the suet feeder and cast off for the Johnson's bath on the way back!" but since I can't read Japanese I guess we'll never really know for sure.
Would a bird-pirate have a little chirpy man on his shoulder?
Here's a look at one of the tougher guys from level two. I assume all four of those large objects hold an extra boss to fight for each level of difficulty. I'm not entirely sure what's going on here. Some sort of Navy-themed robot with a boat-style life-preserver and a large red phallus hanging between his legs? I mean, that's what it looks like to me, 'sall I'm sayin'.
Seeing as how I'm a wuss when it comes to the higher levels of "Blocken" I can't say much else about the other bosses. I'm sure they are all totally awesome and a million times more crazy than the last. Like some sort of baby with a spider body and a huge penis, or maybe a block of tofu with a huge penis. I mean, the sky's the limit, with a huge penis!
The ending for the first-level game is pretty disappointing. The crazy-girl with the surprisingly large boobs gets away with the jewel, while the Pirate Bird totally gives you the "I'm gonna get me some tonight!" look. This is probably the "bad" ending.
The second-level ending is much happier. Sailor-chan totally pwns the crazy tank-girl and gets all up onz, pushin' that phat rock all up in her grill. The next shot shows another stone on a chess board in some distant land. Well, I'm guessing that's what's happening. At this point no one really cares anyway. It's probably the equivalent of "Sorry Sailor-chan, but the real jewel is in another castle." Bastards!
Despite the super-thin attempts at a plot, "Blocken" is very fun to play. The controls are very smooth and the pace is set just right to lull one into a false sense of security just before a rain of terror begins to fall. Each round moves by quickly. You only get one life per-game, but being able to continue at the same place makes playing through to the end quick and enjoyable. There isn't much in terms of strategy other than "don't miss the ball" and "catch all the power-ups." You're not going to play "Blocken" because you're looking for a soul wrenching odyssey of the heart and mind, you're going to play "Blocken," again and again, because it is fun.
There's not much to say about the sound, but what there is you can check out in
this 545k MP3 of "Blocken" sounds.