Successful puzzle game concepts tend to make popular fodder for the gluttonous casual game genre. Any time a catchy game idea comes along and proves its worth, it’s not long before it gets snatched up, tweaked slightly, and regurgitated en-masse onto the casual gaming market with a slightly different wrapper.
Occasionally, this can be refreshing; if you’ve long grown tired of a favorite title’s original trappings, a fresh coat of paint on the same tried-and-true gameplay is sometimes all that’s needed. Unfortunately, casual game clones are often not quite as good as the titles they’re based-on. Such is the case with UFO Interactive’s Rock Blast. Though the game puts up a mildly entertaining front about cavemen, dinosaurs, and lava – all things likely to appeal to youthful puzzle fans – the underpinnings of its design are yanked directly from the classic puzzler Bust-A-Move. It’s not a bad game to steal from, but some substantial new twists in the gameplay would have been appreciated. As far as carbon copy games go, this one contains almost all the ingredients for a good time…almost.
An attempt at working a kid-friendly story into the puzzle gameplay yields mixed results. Everything is warm and fuzzy in the presumably pre-historic land of Rockville, where cavemen live in harmony with their dinosaur pals. Like in most instances where everything is hunky-dory, tranquility and order are short-lived for the residents of Rockville. The eruption of the local volcano stirs up danger, as thunderous earthquakes crack the land and molten-hot lava begins to rise towards the village. While many of the villagers cower in fear, a few brave cavemen (a cave man and a cave woman to be precise) gather their dinosaur pals and whip out a rock launcher to try to stop the magma from wrecking their village.
Despite the humorous pre-historic theme and cute graphics, Rock Blast plays almost exactly like Bust-A-Move – only in reverse. Instead of shooting upward at a descending array of colored circles, you launch downward at the rocks rising slowly from the pit of lava. For every colored rock you fire, another randomly colored one will load into the queue. Matching three or more rocks of the same color will clear them out, earning you points and money. You’ll score extra for banking shots off the walls or taking out extra rocks of various colors attached to the main cluster.
In the main story mode, cash can be spent on raising five different dinosaur buddies who provide special help during gameplay. Once hatched, they’ll provide occasional support by pushing down the line of lava rocks, freezing time, dropping bombs, and using other beneficial skills. Each creature can be continually leveled-up by spending money you’ve earned to feed them. This boosts the effect of their powers. The dinosaur element adds an extremely thin RPG layer to the game, which could have been deepened and explored further. The main game also features intermittent changes, as new rock colors are thrown in and the walls expand and collapse. Once in a while, a small alien riding a UFO will also float around on the screen throwing dud rocks around – peg him a few times and he’ll flutter away. Most of the game’s meat lies in the main story mode, but there are also puzzle, time attack, survival, and multiplayer modes worth exploring.
The difficulty curve is very gradual and definitely geared more towards a younger audience. Each stage requires you to meet a lava rock quota, and the first few dozen of the game’s 99 levels aren’t overly tough. The ability to continue where you left off each time you lose softens the blow of biting it after working hard for tons of levels, but it also takes out much of the difficulty and sense of reward gained for your efforts. Still, the game is hard to put down simply because there’s something inherently fun about shooting colored circular objects at formations of other colored circular objects.
The upbeat, kid-friendly style is pleasing and not entirely over-the-top. A pre-historic theme is a little cheesier than necessary, but it works for what the game is going for. The music and sound effects gently accentuate the colorful presentation, though they don’t significantly add or subtract much to the equation.
Two separate control schemes offer different ways to play, depending on the situation. The stylus controls are excellently implemented and offer a greater level of speed and precision when aiming your shots. They’re preferable during normal play. Firing with touch controls is as simple as tapping and holding the stylus on the screen to move your aiming cursor before letting go to make the shot. The only downside is this setup is prone to create accidental shots, since quick taps will launch your rock munitions immediately. The slightly less wieldy button and D-pad scheme is sluggish in comparison, but it’s more manageable when playing in the car or on-the-go.
Rock Blast isn’t a decent game for its originality – it has little. It’s a good game because it successfully apes the gameplay mechanics of Bust-A-Move, Snood, and other similar titles. Those puzzle games are notoriously addictive, and it’s difficult to completely knock a game built on the same solid framework. Rock Blast follows suit, and it’s far too easy to accidentally get absorbed into whiling away an hour or so matching colored rocks floating in lava. The problem – aside from being a blatant rip-off – is the game lacks much challenge and variety. It’s definitely worth picking up for the kids, but older players looking for a puzzle fix are going to want to stick with one of the more mature puzzle games the concept is vamped from.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
The visuals are bright, colorful, and very kid-friendly. 3.9 Control
Stylus controls are spot-on, though the traditional D-pad and buttons setup is functional in a pinch. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Laid back, cheerful music and basic sound effects don’t really stand out much. 3.5
Tons of levels and reasonably addictive gameplay, but it’s more for the younger crowds. It borrows a ton from Bust-A-Move yet certainly doesn’t beat it.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.