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Fallblox review

The sequel to the best 3DS eShop game ever is here. Can it beat the original?

The trick to a good sequel, if Hollywood is to be believed, is gravity. Think of The Godfather: Part II, Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Toy Story 2 - all of them take well known formulas and inject them full of betrayal, death, dark family secrets and evil prospectors (er, that one only applies to Toy Story 2). Fallblox, Intelligent Systems' sequel to the sublime Pullblox also opts for gravity, albeit of the 'apple on head' kind, and less of the "I am your father" variety. Although your mentor is called Papa Blox...

As the title cleverly infers, Fallblox is Pullblox with added falling. Where in the previous game puzzle blocks protruded from the back wall, here they stack into a central tower waiting for our sumo block-botherer to come and heave some sense into them.

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The aim is still to build a staircase to an out-of-reach victim (birds this time round) but the climb is much more complicated: blocks can be freely moved in four directions and higher blocks require a lower block for support.

For the first hour or so, you wonder if Intelligent Systems might have muddied the purity of the original. Pullblox's single wall of blocks meant solutions had to be staring you in the face; Fallblox's freedom of movement grants multiple angles of attack and with it, multiple angles of failure. And with gravity in play the pile refuses to stand still. Pushing away a base block changes the shape and makeup entirely, calling for the kind of advanced forward planning that didn't come in until Pullblox's later levels.

That Intelligent Systems makes it work is down to their uncanny ability to subliminally train players through play. In much the same way as the best Zelda dungeons introduce basic rules before asking us to extrapolate them in logical ways, so Fallblox teaches you to use taller blocks to sweep up smaller blocks or use lower blocks to catch and transport higher blocks before giving us puzzles that use a mix of both. In a couple of hours you're shunting blocks like a, er, pro block shunter.

And the added murkiness of that initial objective means the eventual light bulb moment is all the more brighter. Pulling out a block only to see a tower tumble into a perfect stairway or taking a few steps to the right and seeing abstract shapes align as safe passage is an empowering moment. We imagine this is how Leo must feel when his Inception plans come together, albeit without the risk of his nutbar wife going stab crazy on us. If anything, it makes some Pullblox puzzles look like crude trial and error in comparison.

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And like the original, the game escalates quickly with the introduction of floating cloud blocks, doorways (basically front-facing versions of Pullblox's ladders) and arrow blocks. These last ones are brilliant fun: mechanised bricks that move in a given direction when Mallo jumps on their chunky buttons. On paper, the idea of levels moving under your feet is enough to induce cold sweats, but as with everything else in Fallblox, it's expertly drip-fed until you're riding the blocks like a pro. Seeing these solutions crank into place is particularly satisfying.

The major downside is that this is a slighter package than the original, for slightly more money (£7.19 to £5.40). 100 core puzzles are bolstered by 90 training stages (lighter challenges, but worth doing) and some bonus high concept stages. Ultimately, you'll be through Fallblox faster than you were with Pullblox, though it's arguable there's less repetition than in the previous game. If it helps you feel more comfortable about the price hike, call it 'leaner' instead of 'smaller'.

And, if Pullblox was anything to go by, the end of the packaged puzzles is only the beginning, as swarms of fans will no doubt take to the impressive level creator to keep the content rolling out. With the core rules being that much deeper, we can foresee people pushing user-generated content further than before. We're already eyeing the ONM forums waiting for our next batch of devious reader DLC.

Fundamentally, we're just overjoyed to have more 'blox in our lives. Pullblox was such a perfectly formed diamond that we never expected to see a sequel.

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Evolving a puzzle game is always notoriously difficult. When Alexey Pajitnov attempted to better Tetris he gave the world Hatris, aka: Tetris made out of hats. Fallbox avoids a millinery misstep and extends the formula in logical, satisfying ways. Here's hoping the series calls it a day before going a bit The Godfather: Part III, eh?

Fallblox is one of the best 3DS eShop games.


10 comments so far...
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  1. deKay Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 11:14

    Due to an unexpected bill, I'm going to have to pass for a couple of weeks, but YES, I will get this. Excellent.

  2. Herbert_Rarr Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 15:33

    Downloaded it straight away without even hesitating.

  3. Parane Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 18:24

    I shall give it a miss for now and perhaps pick it up after Christmas.

  4. RainbowGazelle Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 18:35

    Do you guys get paid extra for continually reminding us that Pullblox is "the best eShop game ever" every time you mention it? :D

  5. Nintendalek42 Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 20:06

    Downloaded it and started playing it. Great fun, and Papa Blox's vocal reaction when the birds fly off in the intro is priceless :D . Just annoyed I was missing 7 cents and had to top Up an extra 10€ which I won't use for long. Nintendo should let you top up smaller sums.

  6. Herbert_Rarr Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 20:16

    Downloaded it and started playing it. Great fun, and Papa Blox's vocal reaction when the birds fly off in the intro is priceless :D . Just annoyed I was missing 7 cents and had to top Up an extra 10€ which I won't use for long. Nintendo should let you top up smaller sums.

    I get most of my 3DS credit for free from a points-earning website which I can guarantee is reliable and not a scam. I can PM a link to anyone interested :)

  7. goomboo Thursday 15th Nov 2012 at 22:14

    Downloaded it and started playing it. Great fun, and Papa Blox's vocal reaction when the birds fly off in the intro is priceless :D . Just annoyed I was missing 7 cents and had to top Up an extra 10€ which I won't use for long. Nintendo should let you top up smaller sums.

    You can :) If you go on the thing you want to buy, then if you don't have enough, you can top up by the requiered amount, e.g. 7 cents :) At least you can in the UK so I assume it's the same

  8. Shmilly Saturday 17th Nov 2012 at 17:37

    Definitely on my wishlist, the first game was great. Once I find some change it's an essential download.

  9. Starman64O Saturday 17th Nov 2012 at 18:47

    Got it on release, rather than waiting for Pokedex 3D Pro to reduce in price in a sale that will NEVER happen.

    And I have to say it is embarrassingly difficult. I had completed all puzzles on Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask literally the day before and I now I am struggling at level 24 or whatnot!

    Still, it is amazing, but it is a serious puzzle platformer, even more so than Pullblox!

  10. LOZanges Friday 14th Dec 2012 at 18:57

    I'm probably not gonna get this. It seems a tad bit to complicated for my liking. Which is kinda upsetting. :cry:

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