If you've ever harboured the desire to create your own block-falling games, Block Factory might just be what you've been looking for. Through its editor you can build new games in the puzzle sub-genre with ease, but in doing so you'll have to look past the bland presentation, and it soon becomes clear that there's a reason there are only so many variations of this type of puzzle game on the market.
There are four pre-built games included in the package, so if you're not really into the whole creation side then you can enjoy adequate versions of games similar to Tetris and Columns; for £3.60 / US $3.99, it's not a dreadful deal if you don't mind only the subtlest use of 3D and the same, albeit pleasant, in-game music track playing continuously. The real focus is clearly on the build-a-block workshop, however, where you can try to make the game of your square-filled dreams.
Tap one of the 28 empty slots and you're faced with a series of menus that define your game's characteristics, from the background and icon types to the core parameters. How many colours and block types do you want? Do you want your bricks to be turnable, and would you like to rotate them ad infinitum even after they've hit the floor? Would you prefer to create blocks with multiple colours that can be swapped around, Columns-style? What's your win condition; clear lines, match colours, chain together seven diagonal blocks of the same shade? How fast do you want the bottom to fill with new lines, if at all? There's also a range of block formations that frankly stretches beyond practical use – we're not sure anybody is ever going to use a square piece with a hole in the middle, but it's there if you want it.
The creator's easy to use, with helpful question marks that can be tapped to reveal most options' purpose, but there's not a whole lot of life to it; the only time you get a real indication of how your game is going to play is once you've clicked that save button. It would have been great to have been able to play preview builds as you went along, so that you could see how each different alteration changed the game and adjust accordingly. This is also important when you consider that it's possible to create completely broken games, such as ones that clear blocks with nary a touch, or hang stray blocks impossibly in the air thanks to awkward win conditions.
Once finalised you can, of course, play your game, but more interestingly you can export your creations to share with others via QR codes or StreetPass. We've not yet received anything when wandering about town, but scanning QR codes to import them into your game is a cinch. Play Coins are also integrated; you can unlock new backgrounds or block icons at a cool 10 coins a piece.
Block Factory restricts your creativity by only allowing you to use built-in assets in your games, however, and this – perhaps even more so than the restriction to a single puzzle sub-genre – limits its appeal. There would be far more incentive to craft and share games if you could draw your own backgrounds and icons, create unique themes, maybe even record sound effects. With only a relatively small selection of elements to use, games begin to look overly similar too quickly. A five character limit for each slot's name hurts, too; it's barely enough room for a descriptive title.
Perhaps the main problem with Block Factory as a whole is its lack of scope. You can create all the block games you could ever want, but the reality is that most of the best concepts have probably already been created or experimented with before; something proven by the included pre-built games being clones of existing titles. You'll undoubtedly be able to make the odd gem, but its appeal would have been greater if it had been expanded to include the construction of custom match-3-style games, or let you set up puzzle stages to solve rather than just endless score-attacks.
Block Factory is an attempt to do something different, and it manages it competently while using some of 3DS' functionality well. However, more than anything it's a greatest hits package of some existing block-dropping games with creation options that feel limited. With more fleshed out customisation, even on a stylistic level alone, it could have been something much bigger than it is.