One of a growing number of indie titles appearing on the Wii U eShop, Breezeblox is a block-rolling puzzle game from début developer Brennan Maddox that, on first glance, seems to owe more than a little to mobigame's cube-based classic EDGE. Beyond the minimalist aesthetic and Cartesian conceit, however, they're very different games, and Breezeblox is a blast in its own right - stylish and fun, it's definitely worth a look for any puzzle fan.
Your goal in Breezeblox is simple: using either the D-Pad or analogue stick you'll move a 2x2x1 assembly of cubes across gridded, isometric planes, guiding it from the green starting point of each puzzle to the red finish line at the end. It sounds straightforward, but the journey's made significantly more challenging by the fact that your block is a square, rather than a cube; you move by tumbling edge over edge, which means you'll alternate between laying flat and standing on edge with each successive flop. It's a unique form of movement, and - combined with the fact that your block will burst if any part of it ever extends over the edge - makes for surprisingly intricate path puzzles.
Compared to EDGE, it's a much more methodical brand of block flopping - rather than testing your reflexes or platforming ability, Breezeblox is all about advance planning and spatial logic. It's easy enough to see where you want to end up, and even how you want to get there, but it's always a challenge to wrap your head around a specific sequence of movements, backtracks, and turnarounds that will have you both where you need to be and in the correct orientation. It has the compulsive, 'one more try' quality of the best puzzlers, and on several occasions after playing we returned to the Wii U's Home menu expecting the icons to move and behave like Breezeblox's cube - the sure sign of a truly engrossing puzzle game.
Breezeblox packs 150 puzzles in total, split into three 'Chapters' of 50 levels apiece. You'll need to progress linearly through each chapter, but you can jump between the three whenever you like, which helps keep things from getting frustrating when you're stuck on a particularly difficult puzzle. And make no mistake, it'll happen sooner or later - while trial and error can pull you through early stages, the later level design becomes tremendously tricky. Hazards like switches, disappearing floors and teleporters are gradually introduced, adding layers of complexity and making figuring out the solution to each stage all the more satisfying. Thankfully, the controls are both simple and solid - after an initial moment of adjustment to the isometric perspective, rolling your block around the levels becomes second nature.
With no time limits, lives, or scores to worry about, you'll have all the time you need to work through each level, which gives the game a relatively relaxed feel. Of course, that means there's also much less replay value than there would be otherwise - Breezeblox's puzzles would lend themselves perfectly to either time- or move-based scoring, and it's a shame there's no incentivized reason to return to puzzles you've already completed. Leaderboards (even local-only) or simply a separate time or score attack mode would have gone a long way towards giving the game legs.
The minimalism displayed in Breezeblox's feature set is mirrored in its presentation, but here the effect is deliberate and well done. The graphics use a clean, crisp, futuristic style that reminds us of Nintendo's Art Style games, with multicoloured mosaic backgrounds that provide a nice visual context for the isometric puzzles, and a colour palette that looks great on both the GamePad and the big screen. The animation is also impressively endearing - our half-cube hero reminded us of Wii Fit's personable on-screen Balance Board, squishing and bending as it flopped around each stage. The music is limited to a single, sunny reggae track featuring pizzicato strings and steady percussion - it's catchy without being obtrusive, and holds up well.
Simple and small but full of fun, Breezeblox combines immensely satisfying spatial puzzles with a pleasant presentation, smooth control and clever level design. A lack of leaderboards and extras - especially given its comparatively premium price point - limits replay value, but there are plenty of puzzles to work through, and the joy of solving them will be more than enough for fans of the genre. A lovely game.