Blockland – PC
Publisher: Blockland LLC
Release Date (NA): November, 2004 (freeware), December 16, 2013 (Steam)
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
Blockland is an open-world construction game with no set goals, allowing its players considerable freedom to create their own unique structures and environments. The game also features objects which can spawn NPCs and play music – to name just a couple – and includes destructible vehicles (for racing and other blocky mayhem), a selection of weapons (for deathmatch and zombie survival maps, naturally) and a trigger-and-event-based system, so players can create interactive objects limited only by their imagination and the game’s mechanics. Players can also enjoy prefab (and create their own) mini-games.
I’ll freely admit I’ve barely scratched the surface of this intriguing concept, having only tried the freebuild and MotE Mansion maps. What I’ve seen, though is impressive – in a blocky sort of way…
Blockland utilizes both the keyboard and mouse to control your little “Blockhead” character. You move with W, A, S, and D and can equip Tools with Q and Paint cans (gotta love virtual painting) with E. Although the game provides you with dozens of prefab block configurations and other items, you can isolate ten of these as “favorites” for a particular project and enter building mode by tapping the number keys across the top of the keyboard.
The numeral pad on the right serves to move your block into position and NumPad Enter cements it into place. If you make a mistake you can remove blocks with Ctrl-Z. The mouse and left button are used to look around, aim/fire your weapon, use a tool, or paint (if equipped) as well as dropping blocks into their initial location on the screen. The space bar makes your Blockhead jump, while the right mouse button activates rockets in your feet, allowing you to fly around the map if you choose.
**Note** If you fly really high up to get a screen shot of the Block Lake you’re building and then just cut the thrust, your ass is as dead as fried chicken.
Blockland allows you to customize your character by choosing the color of various parts of the body, substituting little peg legs and hooks for feet and hands, and even picking from some prefab faces on its little blocky head.
You can plant Special blocks either to set a mood or to activate spawns for various NPCs (called Holes). I think I’ll put some Block Sharks in my lake, just in case…
In addition to Sharks, you can spawn Blockheads or Zombies, depending on what kind of map you are creating.
You can choose basic Blocks in varying sizes, Base Plates that take up a lot of area but have little height, and round blocks that can be used to create pillars, etc. There are also prefab fence blocks, ramps, roads, etc. Between the variety of blocks and the ability to paint them, you can create pretty much any little (or very large) 3D world you want. I’ve included some screenshots throughout the review to show what some enterprising Blockheads have done with the game.
The graphics in Blockland are, well, blocky, but that adds to the charm. The blocks strongly resemble those from a well-known, wildly successful franchise of building toys created by a company in Denmark, and the Blockheads look quite a bit like the little people that company markets as well. Players should have no problem rendering Blockland well using a very mild discrete GPU or even an APU. Heck, even Intel integrated graphics would probably work for single player sessions, but once you’ve tasked the system with keeping track of all the other little Blockheads trying to kill you, I think you’d be better off with a “true” gaming setup. The POS held high 40’s to low 50’s in FPS at 1440 X 900 lines.
The music in the game is another matter. Blockland has very basic sound effects, and although you can import and play music files, it seems there’s a pretty strict limit on size (1MB), so the best you can hope for is loops of your favorite tunes.
The Bottom Line
Blockland is a ton of fun – a great way to kill some time and exercise your imagination. I think what I like most about this game is the same aspect I always enjoyed as a kid playing around with Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys and yes, Legos. Unlike a lot of toys (i.e. action figures, etc.), there were no TV shows or movies around to “tell” you what the toys were “supposed” to do. You could just build structures, vehicles, and other simple machines. The only limit was how long you had to play and how many pieces you had in your toy set.
That’s what makes Blockland so cool, I think. You never have to worry about running out of blocks, or lacking the proper color or size to make your dreams into reality. As evinced by the included screenshots, there are some dedicated and imaginative people out there making really cool stuff with their blocks.
The fact that the game has no set goals makes it attractive as well; with virtually all titles out there pushing you to level, grab that gear and make it to the end, it’s nice to find this type of diversion. You can kick back and build stuff, or wander around someone else’s creation to get ideas for additions to your own little world.
Do make sure you’ve set aside some time, though because it takes a while to get your creations into shape. The game has a build macro feature, but I can’t get it to do anything but repeat the very last build action I completed, which is no better than just placing the blocks manually.
I also wish the game did a slightly better job of letting you know where your next block will go, maybe with some sort of reticule. As it is, you have a good general idea, but that doesn’t eliminate the need to adjust individual blocks as you put them in place. For instance, if you are going to build a wall out of little bricks, you have to manually set the courses. There’s no command for the game to simply follow a pattern you’ve started, or if there is it’s not made clear in the very limited tutorial. I guess with absolute freedom comes the need to get hands on with your blocks, and that’s OK, just don’t deceive yourself into thinking you can throw together a Medieval castle or Gothic mansion in ten minutes. You’ll be at it for a considerably longer period of time.
The game allows you to save your work for others to see and use, so you may find your design has been expanded upon by others. Don’t worry, though, your original file will still be intact.
Replay value in Blockland is really infinite. With the ability to join others in deathmatch, survival, etc., the capacity to build whatever you can dream, a game engine that let’s you create all manner of cool events and effects, and the ability to put it down and resume your creation whenever, there’s really no limit to the potential enjoyment you can realize.
From my brief experience with the game, Blockland has definitely met my expectations. It’s a fun, relaxing way to get creative and share your vision with others without worrying about time constraints, the pressures of whatever tasks a specific game has set before you, or anything else for that matter. If you want to run around blasting Blockheads or zombies, cool. If you just want to wander around a map and explore, OK. If you just want to settle in and find out what you can make the engine do, fine. And if you feel the urge to take a step back in time and build something silly just because, Blockland is your game.
It’s just this kind of free-form entertainment that’s a pleasurable way to immerse oneself and forget the pressures of the outside world, without taking on the stress of most goal-oriented games.
Now, if you want realistic graphics, fast action, and gore galore, Blockland is not for you.
I heartily endorse Blockland and look forward to seeing what I can create. If you like the idea of working to create something uniquely yours that you can also share with others, check it out. Blockland is available at http://blockland.us/ or on Steam now.
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