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Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles
Score: 81%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Open Emotion Studios
Developer: Open Emotion Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Family/ Puzzle/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
PSP Minis are the gaming equivalent of an after-dinner mint, little bits of entertainment that fit into a fraction of the space most download games take up on the system. Compared to app stores like those from Apple or Nintendo, Sony's offering can feel a bit sparse, but there are some gems. Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles is certainly one of the more distinctive looking games, with an art style that looks hand drawn. There's a primitive or tribal feeling to the faces in the blocks that are the game's key items. Colorful backgrounds, also looking more illustrated than computer-generated, surround the play area and keep things interesting. In similar fashion, the music is unconventional and uncommonly good. There aren't many sound effects, but the steady thrum of several interesting tunes accompanies your play in each level.

There are several ways to play Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles, and all of them feel much like Tetris... Okay, that's a generalization, but it's obvious the creator of this game had one Russian icon in mind. And what's wrong with that? Tetris is one of the greatest game concepts... like, ever. It's been imitated a lot, and yet the original is every bit as fun to play as ever, and will be for eons to come. The magic formula is tweaked a bit for Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles, though. In this world, you don't rotate shapes to form designs. Instead, you match colors and swap the placement of three blocks as they fall from on high. The color-matching feels a bit like a nod to Match-3 games, but this one requires at least four blocks of matching color, or a wildcard. Keep the blocks from building up to the top while earning points quickly to meet the level's goal.

This pretty well describes the Campaign mode, which takes you breezily through a series of levels with simple objectives, and teaches you the basic play mechanics. There's also an option to play without time or point constraints, where you are matched only against your skill at keeping the blocks from piling up to the sky. Finally, you have Tower Mode, where the goal is exactly the opposite of your normal play. In Tower, you are trying to build to the sky, and lose if your blocks fall below a certain level. It doesn't sound that hard, but when your entire world is matching blocks to make them disappear, Tower Mode actually feels very different and challenging. Games like this have plenty of replay value, because there's always the incentive to improve one's score. The only real mechanism you have for scoring higher is to make more matches and build more elaborate combos, but there's some mileage in that for serious puzzle-game fans.

Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles builds nicely through about the first ten levels of Campaign Mode, increasing the point quota and forcing you to survive longer. Block matching is generally about the same, because there are only so many variations on color, but levels that ask you to meet some specific criteria can be hard. The first few seem easy, but when you have to find a specific number of combos, you unconsciously start stacking bigger and taking more risks. We found that this was about on par with any other game in this genre we've played. Over time, you perfect the theory and the practice of Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles, making it pretty simple to complete the main mode and start banging out big scores in Endless. The Tower option is interesting, but it grows on you. We've seen some variations recently in the Tetris remix titles, and it's always fun to see a classic deconstructed. In a perfect world, there would be more power-ups and items to create interest during a typical game of Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles, but the basic flow is right on the money.

Game Mechanics:
We like our PSP shoulder buttons, and are happy to say they end up being used to great effect in Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles. Tapping left or right to move the colored blocks around feels very natural, given the portrait orientation of the playing area. You can even push blocks all the way across to one side or another, which allows you double up colored blocks that start on opposite sides of the three-block units. Tapping (X) will drop a block quickly, once you're confident that the placement is good. Building combos requires a match of eight or more blocks, and this ends up being really hard. Once four blocks touch, they all evaporate, and the nature of the falling pieces means that you end up having to build parallel towers of the same color, to really unleash big combos. Not only is this skill set necessary to win some of the levels, it also rewards you with big points. There aren't any other controls of significance, but you do have some special blocks you'll be rewarded with upon pulling off a combo. These can be dropped to create special interaction on the field, such as exploding blocks that take out many items in an instant.

Mad Blocker Alpha: Revenge of the Fluzzles is a good game, especially considering the small investment and memory space. It takes inspiration from a true classic, and although it doesn't improve on the original, it puts a nice twist on the gameplay that makes this worth checking out.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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