Review: Beta Bloc

BetaBloc.jpg Apple claims that the PSP has seen ~600 games released in the nearly 5 years since it was released, and I estimate that I have reviewed more than 150 for one place of another, and played close to 250 in total. Some are great, some are terrible – and some have aged worse than others. Yes, as I occasionally pull older UMDs out of my storage box to replay games I find that something that was a minor niggle in 2005 is quite annoying now.

Why is this relevant? Recently D3 Publisher, who has brought us gems like Dead Head Fred and Puzzle Quest, announced that they were releasing Beta Bloc and Super Pocket Tennis to the PSN Store for $4.99 each. One would suspect that these are PSP Minis, but they are actually budget releases of games that came out in 2007 in Japan and the EU. So how does Beta Bloc play now and is it worth the budget purchase price? Read on!

Beta Bloc – not to be confused with the class of cardiac medications – is sort of a hybrid of a Breakout clone and a light RPG. You play the game with the PSP in vertical orientation, and if you think that sounds awkward on a normal PSP, it is no better on the PSPgo. The game itself uses the directional and face buttons in a way that really needs both hands to work effectively, something that is a pain to do in vertical orientation.

Everything else about the technical presentation is unremarkable. Visually it looks like an early or budget PSP game (which is what it is), with decent looking areas built into some interesting gardens and waterfalls and other interesting environments. Enemies are pretty well detailed, but suffer from the small size they need to be to fit on the high-perspective view. Everything looks pretty good, but nothing is on par with any of the better games released in the last couple of years. The sound is completely generic fantasy background stuff that is neither memorable nor annoying – it simply fades to the background and allows you to listen to something else as you play.

Aside from the basic Breakout / Galaga clone gameplay, there is a light RPG theme. As you complete stages of the game you gain experience and can level up your ‘hero’. You can also collect medallions to unlock new stages to play. Finally, as you progress you get access to special moves that can give you a significant advantage completing stages.

Beta Bloc also features multiplayer over an ad-hoc wireless connection that allows you to battle against friends who also own a copy of the game. That mode works as well as expected, and at $5 a copy, if you like the core game there is no reason NOT to share.

The problem was that I didn’t find the core game all that enjoyable. The biggest issue was the controls. First off, holding the PSP in vertical orientation – even the sliding PSPgo (PSP-3000 was worse) got quite uncomfortable after even a relatively short session. Also, the precision offered by the arrow keys on the PSP was inadequate for proper control. I would often try to nudge the paddle just a bit to control a shot at a certain angle, only to overcompensate and miss completely and lose health. In the end I found that the game wasn’t worth playing – not even for a quick download and $5.

SkipIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Core Breakout-clone gameplay can be decent fun
+ Budget price

Cons:
– Controls are awful
– Vertical orientation is uncomfortable

Game Info:
Platform: PSP via PSN download
Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Tamsoft
Release Date: 12/3/09
Genre: Arcade
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!