StarBlox Inc. (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 06.02.2020

Review for StarBlox Inc. on Nintendo Switch

Puzzle solving and combat don't exactly go hand in hand. By design, puzzlers are almost antithetical to the average video game. Where most titles in the medium emphasize action, and some notion of violence, the puzzle genre is where audiences go to unwind, and get away from the inherent fighting that comes with the medium. Sure, puzzlers can be competitive (just look at the endlessly addicting Tetris 99), but it's not often one outright has competitors fist fight while frantically tile-matching - but that's just one way StarBlox Inc. manages to stand out from the crowd.

Between Puyo-Puyo and Tetris, the tile-matching puzzle genre isn't exactly hurting for newcomers. Any developer trying to leave their mark on this side of gaming history is going to need to break new ground considerably. StarBlox Inc. is not that game. What it is, however, is a surprisingly engaging puzzle-fighter.

Taking place in outer space (and actually dropping quite a healthy bit of trivia in-between matches), combatants take control of mechs that duke it out. Tiles fall in real time, and players need to physically grab them to then throw said tiles onto their board. Tiles come from both sides of the arena, but not necessarily in sync. Sooner or later, one will be forced to invade their opponent's side to grab a tile.

It's here where combat enters the picture. Players quite literally need to fight over tiles. Arenas even feature garbage disposal, where knocked out mechs can be thrown into. This briefly takes one out of the game, giving the thrower free reign of any tiles in play. The gameplay loop isn't as mind numbing as just whacking each other and snagging tiles, though.

Screenshot for StarBlox Inc. on Nintendo Switch

The goal of each playthrough is to meet the Resource Requirements by connecting the necessary amount of cargo blocks. There are always four cargo blocks in play: red, blue, green, and yellow, and cargo blocks always fall in random shapes with random colours. This means players can't plan their boards around pre-set patterns, instead needing to strategize in the moment.

It's entirely possible to block progress on your board by recklessly throwing a cargo block without accounting for how different coloured tiles are connected to one another. Build up a chain of blues only to drop a horizontal red tile on top of it and that entire chunk of the board's basically rendered null. It's a nice level of thought work, in what could otherwise have been a mindless beat 'em up with light puzzle elements.

The act of physically interacting with the tiles is an especially fun one. There's an inherent tension in rushing towards a tile. Even grabbing it, you then need to throw it onto your board without getting attacked by the opposition. Against a competent foe, you basically have split seconds to pick up cargo blocks and make a toss. This isn't taking into account turning the block with L and R. It's not enough to throw it, it needs to fit in place.

Screenshot for StarBlox Inc. on Nintendo Switch

Matches can get especially tricky depending on the pattern of the board. There are dozens of different patterns to choose from, all tiered into three different difficulties. The latter ones are especially restrictive. Obstructing multiple tiles on the board, forcing players to think very carefully about how they're chaining their colours and placing their cargo blocks. With players able to intercept each others' throws, matches can get frantic fast.

The actual fighting is honestly on the light side. While the element of physicality is welcome, mechs often need to take quite a bit of damage to actually drop their tiles. Movement is also fairly floaty, which doesn't lend itself half as well to combat as it does to tile tossing. Action is just too slippery to engage with beyond interceptions. Don't go in expecting to pull off any combos.

That said, it's probably for the best the combat takes as much a backseat as it does. StarBlox understands that there's longer lasting value in emphasizing its puzzle elements. Combat is an accessory to pretty up the gameplay loop, but the heart of its design lies in thinking fast and thinking strategically.

Screenshot for StarBlox Inc. on Nintendo Switch

Surprisingly, there's even a decent campaign in place with plenty of levels to dive into. The core gameplay loop is always fun, the enemy AI puts up a decent fight, and most stages have some hook to outsmart. As far as single player modes goes, this goes above and beyond what's expected for the genre.

Multiplayer has a nice assortment of options too. Everything from the timer, to the pattern of the board can be customized before a match. Items can even be enabled so that cargo blocks give certain buffs or debuffs when they're connected properly. It's very… Smash Bros., but it naturally makes for a pretty entertaining experience.

Unfortunately, multiplayer falls victim to the shared fate of all ambitiously competitive indie games; no online. No online means no real competition, and no real room for the mechanics at play to be explored in-depth. Not that there's much depth at play, granted, but it's just a shame such a thoughtful puzzler is going to fall to the wayside.

Screenshot for StarBlox Inc. on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

StarBlox Inc. is a perfectly enjoyable action puzzler that manages to balance reflex-based gameplay with on-the-fly puzzle solving. The core gameplay loop doesn't have much in the way of depth, but it's easy to pick up, and fun to play, especially in groups of four. Unfortunately, no online means that StarBlox has no real shelf life in spite of a surprisingly decent single player campaign. If nothing else, this makes for a decent couch multiplayer alternative to Puyo Puyo and Tetris.

Developer

IlluminationGames

Publisher

IlluminationGames

Genre

Party

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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