Bitfield's Blockado series has already enjoyed success on Apple's iOS devices, but now the game is looking to take on Nintendo's DSiWare service with a little sliding-block puzzle action. And while there are a few interesting new twists in Blockado: Puzzle Island, it's still basically the same gameplay idea the series has been riding for some time now and this time with a significantly higher price tag.
If you've ever played any kind of sliding-block puzzle, you've already got a fairly good idea of what to expect from Blockado. As you move around the various areas, you'll be taken to the tops of pillars where you'll be presented with a variety of puzzles to solve. To do so, you must slide the various blocks around in order to open up a clear path to slide the treasure chest to the exit stone. Since blocks will only slide length-wise, you're going to have to plan out your moves carefully in order to succeed.
There are two modes of play to choose from, although both are basically the same game. Campaign mode allows you to experience the storyline as you move around on foot and choose which levels you wish to play. In this mode, you'll have to locate keys and coloured stones in order to unlock certain levels. Of course if you want to go back and play levels without going through the story again, there's a Free Play mode for getting directly to the puzzles themselves.
The touchscreen controls work quite well and have a very intuitive feel to them. While there are a ton of puzzles to tackle, there's just not quite enough variety or new ideas to keep the experience engaging enough. The storyline and moving around on foot does add a bit of a twist to the package, but it would have been nice to have had a bit more diversity in the core gameplay to make things a bit more interesting.
Since this is a block-style puzzler, there's not a pressing need for fancy visuals, but the developers have at least done a sound job of giving the puzzle boards a clean look, making it easy to identify the various parts of the pillar top. You'll even get a decent level of variety between the areas you'll find yourself playing in, along with a display of said area on the top screen.
From a musical standpoint, there's actually not a lot to the audio effort. You'll be treated to some interesting Far Eastern music as you complete puzzles, but oddly enough, there isn't any music playing during the actual puzzle sessions — just lots of dead silence and the clicking sound of the blocks moving. Given the atmosphere of the game itself, it would seem like a blown opportunity not to include some relaxing tunes during the puzzle challenges.
It's difficult to fault Blockado too much, especially since the presentation and gameplay are all well implemented, but you can't ignore the fact that the game is still just another rendition of the classic sliding-block puzzle idea that's been making its rounds for decades now. If you're a fan of these types of puzzles, you're likely to find enough enjoyment to warrant the $5 price tag, but gamers expecting something a tad more unique and fresh might find this release a bit too "been there, done that" for their liking.