Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox Review
Developer: Digital Eel
Official Site: digital-eel.com/blox
Platform: PC, Mac
Reviewed on PCX
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 350 MHz, 64 MB RAM, OpenGL 1.1 compatible video card, DirectX 6, 25 MB HD space
Digital Eel's latest effort is a "psychedelic puzzle game with easy-going yet challenging gameplay, groovy sounds and music, and trippy art." Demolish blocks by matching patterns before they fill the screen and end your fun.
Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox is another entrant in the vast arena of Tetris-like games. While this game doesn't represent the same level of bizarre innovation that some of Digital Eel's other titles display (such as the strange shooter Dr. Blob's Organism), this version does have a few interesting twists, cool art and original music. Most of all, they made the sensible decision to sell this one for $10, while other independent developers ask $15 or $20 for much simpler versions of the same fundamental game.
The basic game is called "Flaming Peelout," featuring a hellishly fast car-theme and flames in the background. Columns of three blocks fall from the top of the screen. There are six block designs, and you can move the column or cycle through the order of the three blocks, in order to make rows of like symbols in the pile on the lower part of the screen. Get three or more symbols of the same type in a vertical or horizontal line, and that set is destroyed. As you clear sets of blocks, you advance levels, and the rate of the blocks' descent increases. There are four other variations on the standard game, each with their own art and music.
"Blok Atak" has a science fiction/digital world theme. In addition to the conventional six blocks, there are two special blocks. In this version, there are boulders that won't go away no matter how many you line up, and bombs that can destroy a large area around the row once you match up a set of three. The nearly indestructible boulders mean that tactical placement of blocks is even more important than in other games, because you need to place bombs near enough to the boulders to prevent the screen from rapidly filling.
"Groink" has a funky mystical theme, and adds a slot machine effect to the six more conventional (but mystically themed) blocks. Get three or more question marks lined up, and one of several random effects occurs. Slugs might pop up, flaming comets might fall from the top of the screen or they might destroy nearby blocks. The "Mushroom King" variation features six blocks that look like fungi or a wizened (part-fungus) monarch. In this version, rather than the rate of the blocks' fall speeding up, the bottom creeps up to make the play field smaller, and frogs pop up between blocks. Drop a new column of blocks atop a stack with frogs and the frogs will squish. The frogs gribbit hypnotically and displace your carefully arranged blocks. Sometimes unexpected rows align, eliminating groups of blocks. Other times, the frogs just make it harder to keep track of where you meant to put that red-and-white mushroom. All of that is accompanied by music that makes you feel like you're in the middle of the grooviest swamp east of the Mississippi.
The last pre-constructed mode is called "Asylum Cubez" and features masks, spiders and similar insanity along with a musical track that puts you on edge. The two special blocks in this version are cell doors (that when lined up with other cell doors open to reveal other blocks) and jokers that can make combinations with other blocks.
Each of the five basic variants has different art and music, and all of them use a difficulty slider that controls the base speed at which blocks fall. What makes the game the most fun is the ability to combine music, art, rules and special blocks into your own custom game. If you choose, you could use the bombs from "Blok Atak," have the bottom of the field creep up like in "Mushroom King," and use the cell doors from "Asylum Cubez."
If you've been looking for a falling column game, Digital Eel brings a style and sensibility to the genre that is unique. The pre-made variations of the basic game are entertaining, but it's the customizability that makes Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox stand out. Since you can play with whatever rules you want and combine those with fun art, music and sounds of your choice, you get to play the game you want.