Review: Boxes


Let's be honest, there are a huge number of games out there that are inspired by Tetris. Some of them only tangentially so, others sail the 'tribute' line very close to the wind. I'm not sure where I would place Blugri's Boxes. It's obviously the game of disappearing lines, but it has power-ups, stronger blocks, and enough of a difference to be noticed. What I am sure about is that it's pretty addictive, and a little quirky.

Author: Blugri

Version Reviewed: 67

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I'll start with those changes. The first is power-ups. As you clear lines, you'll see that a number of the blocks have a small icon on them. These represent the power-ups you can collect, and the game has five of them; a laser that will clear an entire line, a bomb that clears an area of blocks, the earthquake that will shake all the blocks to the bottom of the screen, slow time (go on, guess that one), and a nuke which clears the entire game grid.

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Complete a line which has a block with an icon, and the icon will grow on screen and tag itself to another block. Clear that line and you will earn the power-up... you'll see how many you have collected at the side of the screen. To use one at any point in the game, simply tap the icons at the side of the screen.

The other major change is having 'tough' blocks. The normal blocks will disappear as usual when a line is created, but the tough blocks will need to make up multiple lines before they can be removed - a red block needs to be in three lines, and a green block in two lines. This adds another level of strategy and planning to the game, changing the style of play away from the regular Tetris method.

Finally, and perhaps a minor touch but one that can catch you out, are the five different playing areas that you can use. The first is the regular ten column wide playing field, but as you play through the game you have the option to use other grids which will need some subtle changing of playing style.

I think that's the appeal of boxes for me - it's close enough to Tetris that my muscle memory and eye are able to relate to the game, and I can leave them to work almost by instinct, while the planning part of my brain has new scenarios and skills to learn.

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I'm not quite convinced by the controls. I quickly dispensed with the accelerometer-based controls as being a nice touch for a developer to show off, Swipe based controls  are the order of the day, with left and right choosing where to drop the block, a swipe down for a fast drop, and a swipe up to rotate the piece. The latter is a touch unintuitive (in fact, the first time I played the game I thought it was Tetris without rotation, which was actually quite fun), and I would have preferred a tap gesture rather than a swipe for rotation. The fast drop also needs to be tweaked - if you continue to swipe down after the drop is finished, the following block will start a fast drop as well!

The controls are the quirky bit, so get used to them, and move on. Because it is worth moving on and exploring the game. 

To help keep the game alive there are a list of achievements for you to aim for - like the  achievements in the Xbox Live titles, although obviously this indie game doesn't earn you gamer points. What it does do is give you some long term goals to aim for alongside each individual game that you play through, and all of them feel relatively easy to achieve, albeit you might need some grinding for the higher points scoring achievements. This is helped by having your score multiplier increase with each achievement passed, which gives you a reason to look at these, other than a need to complete everything in the game.

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Boxes is clearly a Tetris clone, but it's one where the developer has done more than port the game - the additions do not damage the inherent Tetris-ness of the game, but they add a different level of planning. The muted tones work well, and everything does stay clear while playing the game, especially the small versions of the power up icons. The controls are perhaps a touch too sensitive, but I treated that as a challenging feature rather than a bug.

Boxes does not fit easily into the Tertris-style pantheon of games, and it is an acquired taste, but it's one that I have enjoyed. It's a free download, so there's nothing stopping you sampling it for yourself.

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