Developer: Paul Schnepf
Publisher: Future Friends Games
Website: The Block (futurefriendsgames.com)
Genre(s): City Builder, Sandbox
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 16/12/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
The trailer for The Block immediately caught my interest with its sandbox genre, showing the ability to bring civilization to a blank piece of land. It looked simple but cozy and right up my street! Paul Schnepf, developer of The Ramp too, actually describes The Block as more of a digital, tiny toy, hence the tiny price tag.
But did The Block build a place in my heart, or should I block it out of my memory? Find out in this Rapid Review!
The Block follows an easy-to-grasp concept; choose from a small, medium, large or extra-large piece of land. The land appears floating on a coloured background, ready for you to start building! There are a few different themes of building materials, such as church-like steeples and varying-sized towers; these different themes can’t be used on the same level. These can also come in different colours, and so can the land as well as the background. If you’re not happy with the building materials or colour choices, you can press ‘R’ to reset until you’re pleased.
The aim is to fill each square of the grid on the piece of land, but you can only place items in the squares next to where you’ve placed something. So, you can’t place something just anywhere on the grid, and rather build outwards starting from the centre. Once every square is filled, the level is complete, and you’re rewarded with a 360 view of your creation as it pans around.
The items that you can put down are not just buildings but trees, lampposts, stalls, and even just a blank space. I didn’t realize it at first, but you can rotate through these by right-clicking, giving you more control over your creation. The controls can be found by clicking ‘H,’ offering you diagrams rather than words, keeping with the minimalist style of The Block. This is why I wasn’t quite sure what right-click meant initially from the image alone, and I tried right-clicking on already-placed buildings thinking it would change it.
As well as placing and switching through items, you can rotate the land to view it from all four sides. Though this is handy, I would have liked to view it from any angle as sometimes squares could be hidden from view if you had towers around them for example. This meant I couldn’t see what I was putting down properly.
Also, there were a couple of times I accidentally pressed ‘R’ when rotating my creation since it was fairly close to the rotate buttons (‘Q’ and ‘E’). This resets the entire thing, and you can’t get it back! Maybe a message screen asking, ‘Are you sure you want to reset?’ would be useful here, as it would be pretty heartbreaking to accidentally reset towards the end of an extra large creation. Note as well that once you’ve placed down something, you can’t undo. The perfectionist in me cries, but it satisfies the game’s purpose; no pressure to create something perfect, just go with the flow.
Though there was a nice little variety of colours, it would be cool to see a wider range of themed items. Imagine different-sized skyscrapers, roads, and cars for a city build or different types of trees and rivers for a forest build. There’s a world of opportunity for this little city builder.
However, a reminder that this is not the intention of the game. Adding more would increase the price and move it away from the digital toy aspect. It’s meant to be a chill experience for maybe up to half an hour at a time, if not less if you’re struggling for time.
Though more variety would keep me engaged for longer, I can’t help but think of all the possibilities The Block’s mechanics hold.
A Hint of Nostalgia
The Block features low res graphics, so everything appears a little grainy. This retro vibe makes it feel nostalgic, offering a sense of calm as it transports you back to childhood. It’s perhaps a surprising design choice, but I think it works well here. It doesn’t require high-definition graphics in order for it to be enjoyable.
There’s one instrumental track that plays, which rotates through different pitched xylophone-type beats. It’s relaxing, but since it’s quite repetitive, it suits the short bursts of playtime. There are also ambient sounds of people chattering, almost like busy city noise, which works well for the building genre. There’s satisfying sounds and clicks when rotating and placing, for example, and a nice jingle when completing a creation.
Less Than A Slice of Pizza
For such a low price, you honestly can’t complain about what The Block provides, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. There’s no pressure of fighting enemies, mind-melding puzzles, or even going for high scores. It’s simply a fun toy to unwind with at the end of the day.
Having a wider range of themes, colours and items would keep me playing for longer. However, as mentioned previously, it isn’t The Block’s intention to be a game you spend hours on. So if you’re looking to destress at a price of ‘less than a slice of pizza,’ look no further.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.