PSN Review: Blokus


A PS3 version of the Mattel strategic puzzler, Blokus might not have quite the same household-name cachet that Uno or Tetris do, but the game itself isn’t much less fiendishly clever and addictive. Gameloft’s new downloadable version brings all the fun of the game to the PlayStation Network with no risk of lost pieces, choking hazards or that awkward and volatile post-loss moment when someone flips over the board, storms off and begins to plot the grisly demise of the victorious players. Board games are a deceptively deadly pastime.

With a board divided up into a 20×20 grid of single-square slots, players are equipped with a stack of Tetris-style blocks and, starting from their designated corner, must lay down as many of their pieces as they can, one per turn, blocking their opponent’s ability to do the same in the process. The one caveat is that each block you lay down must touch another of your pieces, but only at the corners – no two same-coloured blocks are allowed to meet at any side. Getting all your tiles onto the board nets you a 15 point bonus, and the player with the most laid down wins.
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That might elicit a resounding “Huh?”, but the rules are really simple to grasp in practice once you’ve spend a few rounds wrapping the old grey matter around them, and what starts out as a fun, clever little board game becomes a brain-taxing bit of addictive strategy once you begin to use each tile to a specific advantage, finding the most opportune gap to slot your piece into (ooh-err). Careless planning can leave you out of options before you’ve laid down half your pieces, while the smaller blocks can often prove essential as a way of freeing up new paths.

Gameloft’s PSN interpretation is a slick, colourful, rock-solid translation of the game, free from any overly gimmicky attempts to reinvent the wheel, which is pretty much the perfect approach for a board game which has, until now, lacked a definitive console version. The core game mechanics are perfectly ported with finesse (even if the Move motion controls are a rather wasted opportunity best left ignored in favour of the trusty DualShock controller), and there’s an impressive variety of single-player modes and multiplayer options.
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The ‘Classic’ mode offers the standard 20×20 grid, one-player-per-corner experience, ‘Classic 2′ pits two players against each other, each taking two corners and two stacks of tiles, ‘DUO’ plays out between two players on a smaller 14×14 board, while ‘Classic Team’ mode has you joining forces with the another player to take down the opposing duo. A lengthy single-player tournament offers a progressively tricky series of rounds sampling the above modes, Quick Play provides a versatile array of game choices, difficulty and timer options for you to hone your skills and there’s the obligatory online deathmatches, along with local multiplayer for up to four controllers or a ‘Hot Seat’-style pass-the-controller mode. There’s even a surprisingly customisable little Mii-style avatar for you to mould in your image.

The PlayStation Network has been flush with great titles over the past several weeks, and though I’ve played and loved a great deal of them, Blokus has shockingly been the one to demand the most of my time. While waiting for anything new to download, I’ll always be lured in for a quick game and eventually pull myself away a few hours later. It’s an incredibly addictive, perfectly presented pick-up-and-play puzzler, and since you could pick it up with the change found in your sofa, it’s a no-brainer purchase for a fiendish brain-teaser.

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Blokus is available to buy on Playstation Network now priced £3.99/$4.99.