(WiiWare)

MadStone (WiiWare)

Game Review

MadStone Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Spencer McIlvaine

Is WiiWare collapsing under an avalanche of 'falling block' games?

If there’s one thing you can learn by looking at the current WiiWare release list it’s that the Wii certainly has no shortage of quick and casual puzzle games. Some might say that there are too many, but can we ever have too much of a good thing? Madstone is, literally, another falling blocks puzzle game in the vein of Tetris. Yes, we’ve been down this road before. But Madstone provides just enough new ideas to make it worth checking out.

First, let’s take a look at the gameplay. In a twist, your field of play is not empty but rather is full of blocks. Some blocks are generic, and some are the distinctive looking ‘Madstones’. The object of the game is to escort your Madstones down into the pool at the bottom of the screen, which is accomplished by breaking the regular blocks. If you do so beneath a Madstone, it will fall one slot lower. A block must be hit twice; once to weaken it and again to break it. If a block is already weakened, then when a falling Madstone lands on it, this block will break from the impact and the Madstone will continue downward like an avalanche through each subsequent weakened block. The strategy of the game is to weaken an entire column of blocks and then send a Madstone cascading down into the pool while you move on to the next Madstone.

This sounds straightforward, and to be honest, it is. An experienced player will be able to set up multiple Madstones falling through every layer of blocks in a continuous chain to the bottom, thus scoring bonus points for each additional Madstone that makes it to the bottom during this chain. Additionally, you will be rewarded with a ‘Quake’ which allows you to gently shake the Wii Remote causing your blocks to rapidly be destroyed. At the same time, the Quake will destroy some of your enemy’s Madstones before he can score any points from them. A Quake can quickly push one player into the lead, but each player will likely rack up several during a match and thus the game will likely be decided by who sets up the biggest chain reactions.

The controls are simple and easy to grasp. You hold the Wii Remote sideways and use the d-pad to point at blocks. Although some will no doubt prefer to have had an infrared pointer option, that feature is not included. Nevertheless, the d-pad works just fine, and the risk of repetitive stress injury seems much reduced this way. The only time the controls ever seem difficult is in the midst of a cascading avalanche. The game tutorial says to continue breaking blocks to further increase your combo points earned during the avalanche, but we found it difficult to do this as often we would either unintentionally select a Madstone to break (thus earning a penalty) or else the game would simply not register the order at all if we were trying to break a block that was in motion.

Compared to the myriad puzzle titles currently available on the Virtual Console, Madstone has relatively few strategies that you can employ. In other games, you set up a series of combos and are rewarded for your strategy/luck when you are able to pull off those combos. In Madstone, however, your combos are always the same: weaken some blocks, and then set them off like dominos. The game is certainly addictive and fun, but it just doesn’t seem to match the level of strategy required from some other puzzle games.

However, the simpler game play is not necessarily a bad thing. The computer opponent offers five levels of difficulty, and will truly challenge you at higher levels. And there is a local two-player option, so that the game is only as easy to beat as your opponent. Even so, the lack of variety in strategies available may leave you setting this game down in favor of a more addictive puzzler.

Like most puzzlers, there is plenty of repeat value to be found in Madstone. This game will provide an adequate platform for humiliating your friends when they visit you, although there is sadly no online play. However, even playing the single player campaign should be good for multiple playthroughs. Each level not only looks different, but it also has different victory conditions. Interestingly enough, playing through the campaign all the way to the end will reward you with ‘cheat’ codes. You can input one of these codes at the start of a game whenever you wish to alter the game experience with gimmicks such as ‘low gravity’.

As for aesthetics, the game is actually very good looking for a WiiWare game. There is a large variety of locations and themes making each session feel fresh, even if you are just doing the same thing over and over. The music, also, is enjoyable and sets the right mood.

Frankly, the whole presentation feels a bit retro, like a Super Nintendo-era puzzler but with brighter, sharper, and more colorful graphics, and in our book that is certainly a good thing. There’s even a silly short story tacked on to the single player campaign. The effect is to make Madstone feel like it fits in with classic puzzlers and with the exception of its modern graphics and its motion controls, Madstone could easily have been one.

Conclusion

With so many ‘falling block’ puzzlers available now, there’s an abundance of options available for WiiWare customers, and this makes it hard to recommend one game over another; whether you will like this game over, say, Groovin Blocks is really a question of personal preference. If you are a hardcore puzzle player, you will no doubt want to get acquainted with Madstone because of its unique twist on the genre, whereas casual puzzle players will appreciate its eye-catching graphics and quick to pick up and learn game play and tutorials. Madstone is certainly a worthwhile (if somewhat simplistic) puzzle game and we’ve got our fingers crossed that it won’t get crushed in the avalanche of puzzle games out there.

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User Comments (45)

CorbsAdmin

#1

Corbs said:

Great review Spencer. I really enjoyed this unique and charming puzzler. I just hope it doesn't get lost among the many other puzzlers released on the WiiWare service as of late.

Gitaroo_Dude

#2

Gitaroo_Dude said:

Wow, that was pretty fast.

Glad this finally came out though. Between this, Corbie's impressions along with the alternate IGN opinion from Daemeon, I think I'll pick this up. 3 reviewers have enjoyed it so far while 1 hasn't. Sounds like the kind of puzzle game I'm looking for: competitive multiplayer with a fast pace like Meteos. This and Pokemon Puzzle League should satiate whatever need I have for puzzle games from now on.

bboy2970

#4

bboy2970 said:

I thought it was a stupid choice on riverstone's part to not include pointer support. But then I thought about it and came up with the probable reason why: If you are controlling your cursor w/ the pointer and then start shaking the wiimote to activate your quake, how can you continue to move your cursor around to destroy blocks during the quake if you are shaking the wiimote? Just a thought.

Objection

#5

Objection said:

Very nice review, much more thought put into it than the IGN one. So is the single-player just beat random enemies with a lil story?

Rawk_Hawk

#8

Rawk_Hawk said:

I think if I get a puzzle game it would be this one. I would get it over Grooving Blocks and Plattchen, but maybe not over Dr. Mario because it lacks online play. Still this is a cool looking game!

Riverman_Jacob

#9

Riverman_Jacob said:

Thanks for the thoughtful review Spencer! I think your observations are right on. I'm really glad that the psuedo-retro feel came across. I grew up on NES and SNES and I try to pay homage to that in our games. In fact, if you think about our company name, you might be able to figure out just how much I like old-school games...

For those of you who've got the game and want to improve, my brother (the game's programmer) wrote a massive strategy guide for our web site.

@bboy2970
You're absolutely right! We originally designed MadStone to use the IR Pointer. The problem was that it was too hard for players to accurately aim at a single block. And, like you said, it was very disorienting to switch between pointing and shaking. Control was much, much tighter with the DPAD so we focused on getting it right with that control scheme.

deadbattery

#10

deadbattery said:

I'm gonna download this. The only other Wiiware game I have is Defend Your Castle, and I'm mulling over whether or not to get Mega Man 9 (I've never played a Mega Man game in my life.)

Twilight_Crow

#11

Twilight_Crow said:

Yes! we have a winner, after concisely think about it I've decided to DL this, it seems like a nice puzzler, that only takes 89 blocks to DL :P, still I have too wait two more weeks before getting any wiipoints.

GabboStaff

#12

Gabbo said:

Yeah, 89 blocks is actually very impressive. Makes you wonder what all those other games are doing with all that space they take up.

Wiiloveit

#13

Wiiloveit said:

I'm gonna wait for more opinions, before considering a purchase.

@Deadbattery: if you're any good at difficult games, you need MM9 in your collection. If not, it isn't really worth the points.

Jazzem

#14

Jazzem said:

Hmm the supposed lack of strategy puts me off a bit. Good review nonetheless :)

shadows262

#15

shadows262 said:

well 89 blocks is small storage indeed but it lacks a higher offline multiplayer like we would expect in tetris let alone online mulyiplayer and DLC.
If anything i`d go buy Dr. Mario RX online, or Toki Tori.

but thats just me haha.

Mario64DStyle

#16

Mario64DStyle said:

This game is really interesting =)
I'm going to buy it once my shop channel decides to be nice to me

Gitaroo_Dude

#17

Gitaroo_Dude said:

Just downloaded this and finished an hour session, and I have to say I'm really enjoying it so far. It's an awesome game.

The frantic pace does remind me a lot of Meteos in a good way; the game moves so fast that you never really have a chance to relax or fall off your guard. I think it's the shaking mechanic that really kind of gives it that visceral, for lack of a better term, feel to it that makes it so fast-paced. You're constantly trying to set up bigger combos to set up a larger quake bar, which in turn lets you use the shake powerup for a longer duration. And it never comes across as too shallow since your so tied to the screen.

Really looking forward to playing with my roommates later, because I think this game is really going to shine in multiplayer, again, much like Meteos.

And I love the aesthetics as well. The soundtrack and graphics really fit the game well.

Definitely worth the 800 points imo if you prefer a more hectic puzzle game to the slower and more relaxing paced ones.

Cthuloops

#19

Cthuloops said:

I accidentally downloaded this and I actually like the music quite a bit! Sounds very 16 bit like Riverman Jacob said and I have to say though, that even though arcade mode is over quickly, the game itself can be quite fun. The only thing I dislike is that the Quakes are a little on the cheap side. Good overall though and very impressive that the game is only 89 blocks and made by 2(or is it 3?) people!

Naturestee

#20

Naturestee said:

It looks ok, but I won't be getting it due to it's simple strategy. There just doesn't seem to be much to it, whereas in Groovin' Blocks there are different songs to unlock and learn the beat/superbeat pattern plus multiple colors. Oh and playing to the beat to get multipliers. God I'm so addicted to that game!

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Madstone looks bad, it just doesn't look that interesting beyond the pretty graphics. Which I do like the style, BTW.

XCWarrior

#22

XCWarrior said:

I would get it if not for the fact we all know Tetris Party is coming out. Maybe down the road I'll get it if I want a different puzzler.

Kenji510

#23

Kenji510 said:

Love this game, my type of game that i pretty like for myself.. small file too for 89 blocks cant beat that, haha.. but anyway, its a great cool puzzle game, been playin since i bought it yesterday lolz.

earthworm

#24

earthworm said:

I think it's fun to see these games by small independent developers appearing on the Wii lately.

I've tried the single and multi-player games now and I think both are pretty fun. The game is simple, but not as mindless as some of the casual Flash puzzle games I've seen. One of my favorite things about this game is how many different graphical themes it includes. As mentioned in the review, that really helps add variety. Endless mode is kind of odd--as far as I can tell, it really is endless, unlike most puzzle games that inevitably end when shapes reach the top of the screen or something.

I'm not sure how much I'll still be playing this a month from now, but seeing how it costs less than a single movie ticket, that's not a big concern.

bboy2970

#25

bboy2970 said:

incase riverman is still reading these comments, i have a good way to implement the pointer without the shaking getting in the way for a possible sequel: have the option to have a pointer and if so, have the nunchuck connected to handel the quake function.

Master_K

#26

Master_K said:

@ KnucklesSonic8 comment # 21: How did you not expect a 7 from WiiWare World? They always give that score. :P

Objection

#28

Objection said:

@Riverman Jacob--Just want to congratulate you guys on putting out a solid first (?) game. It's on my to-get list as soon as I scrounge up some points. Make sure to keep in contact with WWW about future games!

zombiekillr

#30

zombiekillr said:

i was thinking about getting this... but i don't know anymore...can somone tell me the ups and downs of this.. and yes i read the review.. but i like more than 1 opinion

GabboStaff

#31

Gabbo said:

@leon/zombiekillr5000

A 7 here at WWW means 'good'. That means the game is not necessarily the best thing ever, but it is recommended and most people should enjoy it. If you already wanted it to begin with, don't let this review talk you out of it. It's positive!

breaderer

#33

breaderer said:

@Riverman Jacob

I just downloaded this over Groovin' Blocks, and I have to say that my money was well spent, its a great game and I highly recommend it. Please continue to make more great games!

Nintendork

#34

Nintendork said:

@Riverman Jacob
I just downloaded this today, and this is a great start for your company. IGN doesn't know what they're talking about.

Riverman_Jacob

#35

Riverman_Jacob said:

@breaderer and Nintendork (and everyone else)
Thanks for playing! I'm really glad that you are enjoying MadStone.

Now it's time for us to go back into hiding, play some World of Goo, and work on our next project. You'll be hearing from us as soon as we have something interesting to share.

For now though, I'll give you two clues as to what we're working on:
1. It's pure old-school gaming, but in a way that's possibly only on Wii
2. It is NOT a puzzle game. Not even a little :)

Jacob

VALERHU

#40

VALERHU said:

I might get it but... I already have a few puzzle games...

edit: I got it, and its great!

Jockolantern

#42

Jockolantern said:

After going back and forth over deciding whether or not to buy this game (after all, the reviews have certainly been anything but uniform), I finally decided to go ahead and splurge $8, discarding everything else I'd heard up to that point, trying to go into it with a fresh set of eyes.

It's not the greatest puzzler ever made and the game doesn't really suck you in except for short spurts. However, I would argue it is that latter quality, which is to the game's particular benefit. What MadStone does so incredibly well can be found in its ability to mimic the kind addictive puzzler action elements which have made games like Kirby's Avalanche, Yoshi, Yoshi's Cookie, and Wario's Woods so compulsively playable in those short single-player arcade spurts or two-player, gamer ego showdowns.

I'm also quite enamored with the art style of this game; the artists at RiverMan Media created some spectacular, colorful canvasses that are incredibly appealing to look at and admire. The gameplay structure is simple, fun, rewarding (the Quake sections are especially enjoyable in all their mayhem), the music isn't anything particularly memorable but works efficicently in a classic, 16-bit era mold, and the sounds also harken back to that bygone era of gaming and do their job well enough. My primary complaint would be that the "story" seems just a bit more than half-hearted and really isn't entirely necessary for a game like this, although, in its defense, it does at least give the game and its level structure a bit of makeshift "history" and/or mythos, if that makes any sense. My overall impression of MadStone is a simple one: the sum of its parts is better than the whole; just as can be said about any of the four puzzlers I mentioned earlier in this mini-review. If that's your cup of tea, you're going to get a real kick out of this title. If you like more depth in your puzzlers, then just skip on by to something like Toki Tori or Orbient. This is an old-school puzzler made for fans of old-school puzzlers and it hits that particular nail right on the head perfectly.

While it may have been a more desirable title at a mere 500 points, I'm willing to fork out the extra few dollars to help support such a promising up-and-coming development crew. Thumbs up, RiverMan! I, for one, really enjoy MadStone in all its entertaining, block-busting simplicity and can't wait to see what you have in store for WiiWare next.

Riverman_Jacob

#43

Riverman_Jacob said:

@Jockolantern

Thank you so much for provding your thoughtful insights! The qualities you point out are exactly what we were trying to achieve with MadStone, so I'm very thrilled that they came through to you when you played.

I think it's funny you mention the "story." It's actually intended to be a tongue-in-cheek poke at the stories in those classic puzzle games you mentioned. I always thought the stories in puzzle games were kinda silly, so we threw in our own silly story just for fun.

Thanks again!
Jacob

EdEN

#44

EdEN said:

I went and downloaded the game yesterday since I had a free hour before going to bed and had decided two weeks ago I would get it, but for one reason (was bedridden for a week) or another (the work that piled up during said week) I didn't get a chance.

I started on Arcade mode in beginner to get a hang of the controls and understand the flow of the game. Took me about half an hour to finish it and I here is what I have to say:

a) I really liked the art direction as a whole and felt it was the perfect fit for a puzzle game of this nature.

b) The sound was relaxing at times and engaging at others and never felt out of place.

c) I DO think 16:9 should have been worked into the game, as well as 480p, since it has come to be expected from current generation games (as you stated in your post-mortem over at Gamasutra).

d) The price is just right and would expect your next game to match it if possible.

e) Had a great time with beginner mode and will keep going at it to try and make it by Savant mode. Who knows, I might win and get my name in the next Riverman game.

Keep up the great work. Hope the game turns a profit shortly so you can release it in Europe and others can enjoy this great game.

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