reviews\ Nov 17, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Denki Blocks - GBA - Review

OK … what’s the deal with all these “Tetris” clone puzzle games out these days? It seems like almost any puzzle title out, from Puzzle Fighter to Egg Mania, uses the basic theme and shapes from the best selling hit that started it all. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing … since Tetris is a lot of fun and very addictive … but how about something new? Well, Majesco and Rage have released Denki Blocks on the GBA that has everything to do with blocks and shapes … but nothing to do with Tetris or any of its clones.


Denki Blocks takes place on a little place called Puzzle Island, where the inhabitants spend large amounts of time playing puzzles … especially the ones that revolve around blocks … and it’s your job to step in, challenge the current champions, and take your place as the puzzle master of the island by playing Denki Blocks with each one of them. How do you play Denki Blocks? Simple …


The old wizard Jessop greets you on your arrival, and will explain how to play through a series of Tutorial missions to go through. The object is to slide different colored sets of blocks (Called Gumblocks) around a playing board and match the same colors together to form shapes. Overall, it doesn’t matter what shape, (Unless you are going for a bonus, which I’ll explain in a sec.) just as long as you can get them all put together. Since you can have up to three colors on the board at one time which all move together, and white blocks (Blockers) that don’t move and are scattered throughout the playing field, this is a heck of a lot harder than it may sound.


Denki Blocks has a few different ways to play. The first way is in Solo Play, which contains Training … which is the Tutorial stages, Tournament Mode … which puts you into an increasingly challenging tournament to beat 15 out of 25 of the current champion’s favorite puzzles, Workout Mode … which allows you to perfect and work on your block building skills and even includes a timer to help you see if you are improving, and Perfecto Mode … which has you try and make the Islander’s favorite shapes in less time and moves than they can. All of this gives you a bunch of different ways to play on your own, and a little something for whatever mood you may be in at the time.


The second main mode of game lies in Versus Mode and contains three options to mix it up as well. You can select to play in a race fashion against the computer or a human friend to see who can build shapes the fastest using a set number of blocks. If that doesn’t work, you can play All Change, which makes each player build a shape in 30 seconds … then they swap out to the other person in which there is 30 seconds to build the shape that your opponent made. Still not enough for you? Try Battle mode … where players take turns moving the gumblocks around the board and joining their colors before the opponent does.  


Now, as you go through Denki Blocks and the various puzzles in Tournament Mode, there are different things that can be done periodically to earn what are called “Denki Stars”. Basically, getting a bonus by forming the gumblocks into a particular shape that the champion tells you to make will earn a star … and getting a three of a kind (Three different colored sets of blocks in the same shapes) will earn you three stars. These Denki Stars then get traded in at the Denki Blocks club to unlock more and unique puzzles.


There are only a couple of things that I can see as a potential downfall to Denki Blocks which are the same potential downfall that is found in any other puzzle game … repetition and difficulty. On a big plus side, you can see that even though everything you do in this game has the same style to it, there are multiple different play modes to use which help to keep boredom away. The difficulty is what it is as well, but nothing in this game is impossible … and it will probably actually work in the game’s favor for most or you puzzle fans out there to make you keep playing over and over again trying to beat the board that you are having so much trouble with. In addition, only having to beat 15 out of 25 puzzles to move to the next stage will take away some of the problems or frustration if you just can’t figure some of them out, which is especially good for younger gamers out there.


Graphically, Denki Blocks is a simple but well done title that is made up of childlike animations and bold, bright colors. There are a multitude of cute but unique characters to meet and play against, and the blocks themselves are still pretty visible even without a worm light and not the brightest surroundings available. The sound is made up of simple shifting noises and some happy background music, which is forgettable and sometimes a little repetitive …, but never annoying or overbearing.


Overall, I have to say that Majesco and Rage not only put out a fun and addictive puzzle game, but one that definitely stands out on it’s own and can say that you’re getting something different with it than other games of the same genre that you may have bought. If you like puzzle games, this one should definitely be in your GBA library, and will provide hours of headache inducing fun. If you aren’t much on straining your brain from time to time, this one can provide some good entertainment, but may or may not do much to change your mind since it’s different from other puzzlers out there … but it is worth the try.    


Gameplay: 8.2
Oh so simple … but oh so challenging. There are tons of unlockable puzzles and levels to be found as you progress, although they all revolve around the same goal each time. There are a number of different play modes for one to four players as well, and it definitely helps to keep repetition away.


Graphics: 8.0
Very simplistic and child like, but bold and easy on the eyes. There are multiple characters to play against also, and each has their own unique personality and look to them.


Sound: 7.5
Very simplistic sounds, ranging from sliding noises and “congrats” music as you progress. All of the dialogue is done through text boxes, and the music provides a good backdrop for the game itself … but does get a little repetitive and forgettable.


Difficulty: Medium
The puzzles start out easy, but get more difficult as you progress or play a current champion in one of their favorite shapes. There will be tons or start overs for most as you are playing, but a good sense of gratification when you figure them out.  


Concept: 8.6
A solid and fun puzzle gaming experience with lots of play mode options and unlockable puzzles along the way. It definitely won’t be another Tetris clone in your GBA collection.


Multiplayer: 8.8
One to four players can compete in the various options listed above if you want to play something other than solo mode.  


Overall: 8.2
Even if you aren’t a big puzzle gaming buff, I would still recommend you hang onto the receipt and try this one out. It may not do much to change your impression overall, but it did mine a little since it’s so much different. If you are a fan of puzzle game titles, like my wife, you need to get this one. As a matter of fact, she stole my GBA to play it about 24 hours ago and I haven’t seen it since … I may have to offer a reward if it doesn’t turn up soon. Great job to Majesco on this game.  


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