Mash ups, or a combinations of styles and attributes, have long been the mainstay of conversations. How many times have you heard someone describe a film as “Well it’s a mixture of The Matrix and The Notebook”? Or how people have imagined a wish list for the ultimate fighting animal – one with the head of a lion, the body of a rhino and the brain of a dolphin?
In games, the rules are not that different as we constantly try to combine the best elements of popular genres into one mighty beast of a new game. NeuroBloxs has taken two mammoths of the game industry – “Space Invaders” and “Tetris” – and tried to tame them both by blending them into the ultimate arcade game. But does it work? Or is it a mess like that baby creature at the end of Alien 4?
NeuroBloxs hasn’t any story to speak of, or any cutscenes found to be delivering a narrative arc which we need to evaluate or analyse. In fact, that’s quite a blessing in this story heavy season of games that we seem to be constantly enduring. Instead NeuroBloxs has a very simple and unique concept, mixing arcade shooter and puzzler to leave you trying to drop coloured blocks into patterns. The gameplay situations are just as simple, taking us through a survival mode, and then a ‘Levels’ mission option; things are the same with just some tiny differences across both boards.
It all plays out by putting you in charge of a little spaceship; one that is very much in line with the “space invaders” theme, just without the protective barriers. You have a very small area to move around in, and two lethal barriers that will destroy you if you go too far left or too far right on the screen. Things fall from the sky, like aliens and spaceships, which you can shoot for points, however if they reach your base before you obliterate them, then you get precious points taken away. To make things difficult, those barriers get in your way, however you can leap over them by doing a thrust jump, whilst later on in, teleport devices that take you to hard to reach areas are introduced. All the shooting works well and there is plenty of fun to be had taking down the multiple enemies on screen. The restrictive play area however does begin to grate after a while, especially as the levels get harder; it isn’t as if there isn’t enough going on in this game… and I haven’t even talked about the Tetris-styled, block-matching elements yet.
See, whilst you are shooting these foes, coloured blocks also fall down alongside the alien enemy ships. These blocks collect in stacks at the bottom of the screen, like any other block matcher and it is your job to put them into the right matching coloured sets so that they score points and disappear. Unless you missed some of the most major bits of gaming in the last thirty years, you know the drill. In the mission mode, you have the task of collating, for example, six of these combinations and when you do you’ve completed the task and move on to another level.
The thing is, you can’t rotate the shape of the blocks, as they are all one shape, but you can shoot the ones you don’t want to land or stack up. The gameplay really does test the dexterity of your fingers and your mind at the same time, and it takes multi-tasking to a whole new level. I initially loved the chaos and the ingenuity of all that NeuroBloxs on Xbox One is able to offer, but after a while, you’ll feel fatigued by the madness and concentration levels you have to adopt. The kicker here is that when you lose all your lives you have to start again from scratch. Old school sadists will be rubbing their hands in delight at that prospect, but wimps like me will constantly be longing for a checkpoint or two.
NeuroBloxs looks pretty nice, what with its solid presentation and vivid use of colour and sharpness. It can at times come across as an onslaught of visual fireworks, but the developers have managed to get a decent handle on this via the game mechanics. The soundtrack and effects all work well within the arcade shooter genre and do everything that is expected of them, drawing you in when need be.
If you are after a game that will prove to be a great distraction between the big open world triple-A games, then NeuroBloxs is for you. It has that fun old-school arcade playability that is so easy to dive into, letting you waste ten or so minutes at a time. It’s available at a nice price as well, one that isn’t too much of a gamble. That said, it does tire quite quickly – with that linked to your skill levels and preoccupation in achievement hunting – however if you have longed for that block-matching/Tetris/Space Invader mash up we have all dreamt of, then you won’t go much wrong with NeuroBloxs.