Review: Block Shock

Man, what the hell’s up with the lousy brick-breaker games this year? One of my all-time favorite genres has been getting thoroughly bastardized, which is baffling because it’s not exactly a super sophisticated style of game that should be so hard to execute.

Energy Invasion showed some promise by integrating a unique twin-stick shooter mechanic, but the game overall failed to fully capitalize on its twist, and ultimately turned out to be bland and forgettable. Block Shock doesn’t fare any better, suffering through a number of bugs and design flaws while at the same time not being particularly fun to play. It plays like a poorly coded Atari 2600 game, that’s how busted it is.

Even by the simplistic standards of the genre, Block Shock strips the task of breaking patterns of floating bricks down to its most basic elements. The game features a measly 12 stages, and gives you three lives to run the gauntlet. You’ve got a paddle to slide horizontally across the bottom of the screen, and a ball to deflect back upward at bricks in an attempt to clear the whole screen. And, well, that’s about it.

The spartan presentation doesn’t include any menus or customizable options; you can’t even hit ESC or any other key to pause during gameplay. The stages are all set against a static black backdrop, while bricks come in five different color varieties. The brick layouts aren’t especially inventive or interesting either. The mouse-only controls are functional, though the lack of an option to disable mouse cursor visibility is a turn-off.

Worse still, Block Shock completely botches the fundamental aspects of a brick-breaker. For starters, where the ball hits the paddle has no influence over the ball’s upward trajectory, which removes all skill and finesse from getting the ball where you want it to go. The only time the ball changes course is when it hits off the corner or edge of a brick. Compounding things even further, the ball physics just don’t feel right. When the ball takes a deflection and gets going side to side, it’ll often get halfway up the screen and then just start dropping back down as if it’s physically weighted. It’s also not uncommon for the ball to get stuck bouncing back and forth in a straight vertical line, which really blows since you can’t use the paddle to directly alter its course.

Another annoyance is the way a level resets entirely after losing a life. Typically, bricks that have been destroyed remain cleared so you can continue where you left off on the next life. Not in this game.

Beyond the flawed game design, as of press time Block Shock is afflicted with a critical bug that literally breaks level progression. Whenever you lose a ball, you might as well just quit (or more like go through the motions of intentionally losing the rest of your lives since you can’t manually pause and quit or restart) because you’ll soon find out that the game has become impassable. On a normal attempt, once all bricks have been cleared the stage automatically ends and moves on to the next. However, after losing a life the level progression becomes corrupted, so that on subsequent attempts the stage won’t end even after all of the bricks have been destroyed. The ball gets stuck in an endless loop of bouncing back and forth with nothing to hit. The only cure is to quit the game and restart from stage one. Therefore, even though the game starts you with three lives, due to the glitch you really only have one life to clear all dozen levels.

The developer has acknowledged the bug and stated that a fix is incoming. It was supposed to be out by end of last week at the latest, but hasn’t updated as of press time. However, the sad truth is that even if/when the bug gets squashed, the core gameplay fundamentals that make a brick-breaker fun and addictive are so deeply flawed that even without its technical deficiencies the game still wouldn’t be any good.

SkipIt

Pros:
Sorry, I’m struggling to find anything positive to say here.

Cons:
– Busted level progression glitch
– Ball and paddle physics feel off
– Sparse content, settings, and UI
– Uninspired gameplay, level design, and presentation

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Vox Studios
Developer: Vox Studios
Release Date: 2/6/2018
Genre: Arcade
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

Source: A Steam code for Block Shock was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration by Vox Studios.

Buy From: Steam for $0.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!