Fallblox

How do you create a sequel to a puzzle game? The genre can be considered quite an anomaly, considering that the lack of plot and the key concept of a fun puzzle game make puzzle games hard to continue and improve on. The only thing to do is offer more of the same, but Pullblox/Pushmo already offers near endless replayability with its hundreds of levels, level creator and QR code support. There is, of course, the option of providing a twist on the accustomed formula – and risk changing something that was already great.

Fallblox‘s mechanics remain largely the same as its predecessor, Pullblox; you push and pull a tower of blocks in order to leap your way to the your target, which is usually at the top. While the controls and the basic gameplay premise remains the same, the logic  required to complete a Fallblox puzzle is quite different. And it’s all the better for it.

Mallo, the cute, chubby, spheric sumo wrestler, returns to the park, where a visitor has arrived. Mentor Papa Blox’s grand-niece  has landed her enormous hot air balloon, which is actually a basket held by a hundred flying birds. Mallo foolishly scares the birds away, leading them to hide in Fallblox puzzles, and sets out to find them all and bring them back so Poppy can get back home. The feathered fiends are being all douchey about it too, hiding at the top of every puzzle.

The game’s new gimmick, as the name suggests, adds gravity to the proceedings, causing blocks to fall down when they are no longer supported by other blocks. Rather than a stationary statue where blocks can be pulled out up to three spaces, every block in Fallblox only has one space of width for Mallo to stand on. However, you can now move all blocks in any direction across a large grid. This means that you must assemble an elaborate set of steps to reach the top and grab the bird.

One wrong move, however, can send a vital block plummeting to the ground. Many puzzles require you to maintain support for an important block and keep it in its place, while building the steps leading up to it. Of course, if you do mess up, you can use the handy rewind feature established in the previous game, or hit the reset switch if you’d rather start from scratch.

That’s not to say you won’t be using gravity to your advantage, though. Some of the most satisfying moments in the game come from watching a set of steps delightfully fall and line up into place. Interestingly, if you pull a block forward or backward, any blocks on top will not move with it, instead falling to the ground. Again, this can work to your advantage or your detriment, and only serves to invite more strategic thinking.

The added freedom in the movement of each block adds more possibilities, as well as new complications. One thing that becomes apparent quickly is that Fallblox is far more challenging than Pullblox. Pullblox was pretty mean itself at times, but Fallblox is an angry beast in comparison. Things get pretty difficult pretty fast, and while the difficulty curve is questionable, it’s never to the point of frustration. Instead it brings a welcome sense of mental exercise, assessing every possibility and anticipating the results, or indeed consequences, of each move.

Papa Blox again adds gadgets to the puzzles, with ladders making a return. There are also some new features built into each puzzle to assist in its completion. Doors work in the same way as ladders, in that entering one will transport you to the other, except they are placed on walls and require a space in front of them in order to enter. Move Switches will cause a block to move one space in a certain direction when hit, and floating blocks will not fall to the ground but can be moved when you reach them.

The sweet music and vibrant, colourful visuals are just as adorable as ever, making even the most taxing of puzzles a tranquil, relaxed experience. You can now rotate the camera 360 degrees and zoom in and out at will to get a greater overview of your situation. QR code support is back, meaning you can again download other user-created levels, or in fact additional levels from Nintendo themselves from their website. Already there are 140 levels and 90 training stages, but should your addiction consume you then you can potentially play the game forever.

What we got was not an upgrade to the greatest eShop title of last year, but a familiar yet new experience, and Nintendo have successfully managed to extend a fantastic formula into something refreshing, instead of going the lazy route and just giving new Pullblox puzzles in a new package. It may be harshly unforgiving at times, but to Pullblox/Pushmo fans, Fallblox/Crashmo is a no-brainer. Just make sure you use your all-brainer when you start playing.

[Thanks to NintendoLife for the images!]