Have you ever said to yourself, "I would like a game that combines elements of Street Fighter, Space Invaders and Puyo Puyo"? If you have, then you are going to love Blockara.
Blockara is a puzzle game first and foremost, but it borrows plenty of successful mechanics from other games. The result of all that borrowing, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. It's a one-on-one competitive puzzle game in which each player commands a portion of a shared puzzle window; in each match a player and their opponent must fire their blocks at one another to break a complete line through the other's puzzle and fire one final shot through the newly opened passage. Once a player gets a shot all the way through the opponent's puzzle, they win.
There are three blocks in Blockara: earth, wind and fire. Earth beats water, water beats fire, and fire beats earth. To destroy your opponent's block you must fire at least two blocks of an opposing type. The way in which you move those blocks is what makes Blockara interesting. At the start of each match, each player gets a group of blocks that is eight blocks wide by five blocks tall. You can move each row individually by highlighting the desired row with the D-pad and pushing the L button to move left, or the R button to move right. Conversely, you can keep your entire puzzle on the move by shifting it left or right with either ZL or ZR respectively.
Of course, your opponents have this capability as well, which lends a bit of an interesting element to the game. In our experience, the AI-controlled opponents weren't particularly adept at making the most of these capabilities, but with another player it can be interesting.
Nearly every mode in the game follows these basic rules. There's quick play for individual matches, a story mode that's very reminiscent of a '90s arcade fighter, an endless mode in which you see how long you can survive, and training mode where you can battle opponents that don't fight back.
Before playing a round in each mode, you must select a character. There are 10 in total and we didn't care much for any of them. Picking a character is just a matter of selecting whichever you think looks or sounds best, as there are no mechanical differences between them. The character art is a bit simple, and ultimately they feel a bit unnecessary. The voice acting is bad, and not just from an acting standpoint - the audio quality is quite poor; it sounds as though the lines were recorded at a desk microphone as opposed to in a studio. The character stories are similarly disappointing, and even though they can sometimes evoke a bit of that '90s Street Fighter feel, we found them to be a flaw for the overall game.
Like many games of its ilk, Blockara doesn't make any special use of the Wii U GamePad's functionality; games are mirrored to the handheld's screen, but that's about it. It runs well, despite frequent pre- and post-match loading; load times are generally short. Given how fun the game is in local multiplayer, we would have loved to see an online mode.
Blockara is a fun concept, but it's dragged down by its presentation. Unlikable characters, poor voice acting and music and art that don't do it any favours are all negative points, but aren't enough to completely obfuscate the fun that can be had here. Blockara won't be fondly remembered, but if you have a friend that's good at puzzle games and you can put up with the rest of it, there's some enjoyment to be found.