SONY PSP REVIEW: ULTIMATE BLOCK PARTY

Another Tetris rip-off? Sign me up. by Cole Smith

January 2, 2006 - If you just can't get enough of handheld puzzles games then you're my kind of gamer. I like the challenge but more than anything I like the idea of consistency which may be considered as another definition of predictability. I can count on the tenth level being a variation on the first, as well as each subsequent level to follow.

I don't fall in love with just any kind of puzzle game but when I find one that's good I tend to obsess.

Ultimate Block Party shares a lot in common with the basic principals of Tetris. It's easy to learn but difficult to master. UBP is especially difficult to master because there are so many different facets to the gameplay. It can take a few hours or a few days to memorize all of the various aspects of the rules.

Unlike Tetris this game uses colored blocks instead of geometric shapes. Also, unlike Tetris, the blocks come from the bottom and rise to the top. A cursor is moved around the group of block, it can outline four blocks. With a push of the button you can rotate this stack of four blocks in any direction. The object is to connect four blocks of the same color to make them disappear. These simple links are called PoPs. Combos are made when the original PoPs disappear causing more of the same colored blocks to fall and create another link. Combos are a great source of points. One thing that makes it easier to make combos is that the original PoP takes a few seconds to activate, giving you time to move the cursor around to create new links and combos. If you need more blocks to make more links and combos with, you can increase the rate at which the blocks appear from the bottom of the screen - but be careful not to let them reach the top.

As straightforward as the objective sounds things get a lot more complex and this is what separates this game from the average Tetris-inspired puzzler. Once you get used to it you'll want to continue to play it and show off your skills. If you can find some other fanatics, the two-player mode will offer you endless hours of competitive fun. The game is fast-paced and the more you practice the better you will get.

For every red PoP that you make your square will increase larger than four blocks. Blue will drop large blocks onto your opponent's playfield and purple ones will turn links into one solid block that can't be moved. Using or avoiding these features becomes a very important part of the gameplay. You can play defensively or offensively by trying to bury your opponent with useless blocks. A comprehensive tutorial mode will explain everything in visual detail. It's a great inclusion for a game such as this with so many variables.

Modes include a Training mode, Story mode, Arcade mode, VS. CPU mode, Multi-Player Wi-Fi mode, and the aforementioned Tutorial mode. That's a great selection. The two-player wireless mode is great but you have to find someone with another copy of the game. There isn't an online mode but considering the Japanese version didn't have a multi-player mode count your blessings.

UBP is originally from Japan and as such retains most of its intangible charm. There are overly cute and colorful characters as well as that irresistible cruiseship lounge music. There are eight playable characters that are positioned off to the side of your bin but they don't just stand there. They dance, jump around and even shoot a gun which I can assure you is a little distracting. I would have preferred a larger view of the playfield in place of the characters. But then I always was a bit of a spoilsport. The PSP screen is nice and wide and facilitates the game just fine.

With the deep and strategic gameplay, a great tutorial and a variety of modes including a two-player ad hoc wireless mode, there's no reason not to purchase UBP. You may even be able to find it at a bargain price of $25.

Features:

  • Tetris-style puzzle action - but with a twist!
  • Five Exciting Modes of Play: Arcade, Campaign, Versus CPU, Single Player, and Wi-Fi support for riveting, head-to-head action.
  • 8 Japanese Anime-style characters. Each character features advanced A.I. for even more challenge!
  • Load and save your game from the memory stick!
  • Tutorial Mode helps players get started. Player challenges offer tips and teach sneaky tricks!

By Cole Smith
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Ultimate Block Party
3.5
Graphics
The annoyingly cute characters are distracting. Other than that the game is colorful. How hard is it to draw a block?
5.0
Control
Excellent control system. Response is fast and tight.
3.1
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A little bit of pixie dust here and there with some nice arcade sound effects and music.
4.5
Play Value
Highly addictive. The gameplay is deep and if you can find another player to get your competitive juices flowing you might be in danger of drowning.
4.4
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Magic Pot/Art Dink
Pub: Crave
Release: Dec 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole Smith

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best