People don’t seem to care about Playstation Minis. Why should they? Anyone who actually takes the time to follow and ultimately fork out cash on the surplus of Mini titles now available on the PSN will tell you that the only thing consistent about PS Minis is just how inconsistent the entire experience is. Minis were envisaged as byte size app like games that would provide quirky, accessible, fun and above all else, value you for money experiences for your PSP and PS3. Minis are a platform in their own right. Unfortunately many titles are unanimously forgettable. There are really only a hand full of titles that actually deserve your time and effort, most of which have only surfaced in the last six months or so. These games have somewhat revived the validity of the platform and given it an impetus it so desperately needs. Yes, it would seem that Minis have been awoken from their static dormancy thanks to the collective efforts of the likes of Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, Age of Zombies, Young Thor, PacMan Championship Edition and Who’s That Flying?!.
Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles therefore finds itself in something of a difficult and taxing position. The aforementioned games have raised the standards………….and then some. Now more than ever, if you don’t deliver then you’ll instantaneously be dumped into the Mini landfill marked ‘forgettable’. Thankfully though, Mad Blocker Alpha can breathe a sigh of relief because developers Open Emotion Studios have created a charming, creative, addictive and downright accessible title that upholds that original Mini ethos that so many before it have failed to advocate. It’s a winner.
There’s nothing subtle about where MBA takes its inspirations. MBA is an old-school puzzler akin to Columns and Tetris and yet there’s enough alterations and adjustment to tempt you towards this tweaked adaptation. Ok, sure it’s not the most original of mechanics and you’ve seen it dozens of times before but MBA puts it to good work. If you’ve played Tetris before then you should have some essence of what is going on with MBA. You stack arrangements of different coloured blocks on top of each other, attempting to match like colours with like colours in order to remove blocks from the ‘system’ and lower your overall stack. Thrown in for effective measure is a rather interesting scheme of power ups, awarded to the player when they manage to amass a string of successful coloured block chains. Power ups help you get out of tight spots and tricky situations. It adds an additional pinch of strategic thinking to the lightning paced and quick witted mentality of the gameplay.
What’s interesting is that you can’t actually turn your blocks vertically, a ludicrous miscalculation you might think but it doesn’t actually hamper the experience. If anything by taking away this option, MBA ramps up the overall challenge represented by the title. Nobody wants to play something that’s simply too easy now do they. Horizontal orientation works for what it is and it works quite well.
Even if the game’s core gameplay mechanics have been around for some time, the game’s visual aesthetic and art direction gives it an identity all onto itself. The creative team at Open Emotion Studios have crafted a truly wonderful realm of creatures and colours, as mysterious and mute as they are genuinely creative and imaginative. It highlights just how much charm and fascination the game has in abundance, a kind of strange mystic visual lure will tempt you into the world of MBA and won’t let you out. The game’s soundtrack also deserves a mention in so much as it is probably as good a collection of sound snippets you will hear on any portable game this year. It really is that fantastic. Subtle rhythms and muffled tom beats accompany violent piano arrangements and frantic bass lines. Puzzle music shouldn’t sound this good. Presentation is where MBA is at its unrelenting best.
With 17 story stages and additional game modes in the shape of ‘Endless’ and ‘Tower’ modes, MBA packs a wealth of content. There is always something to conquer with MBA, be it your last high score of the story mode’s final ‘Boss’. Yes, that’s right……..boss.
MBA is a fantastic little title that offers so much for such a small entry price. Sure, it’s the tried and tested Tetris formula but that doesn’t hamper proceedings. It’s as playable here as it ever has been, all enclosed in the beautiful and creative world crafted for it. MBA is the first must have Mini for 2011. Do yourself a favour and get it.
TGL SCORE 9/10
Format: PSP/Playstation 3
Developer: Open Emotion Studios
Release Date: Februrary 1oth 2011