Better late than never, eh? Released back in February 2020, when COVID peeped over the horizon, Drop It: Block Paradise has finally plopped onto our doormat for a review. Let’s call it a third-year anniversary of its release, and get you a verdict.
We should get the caveat in early: Drop It: Block Paradise is one of those budget titles where the £2.49 (discounted to £1.29) isn’t enough to cover achievements. At least, while it comes with its own set of Drop It-specific achievements, they don’t actually generate you Gamerscore. Factor that in if your New Year’s Resolution is to add to your tally.
What you do get for your cash is a unique puzzle game that’s absolutely stuffed to the rafters with levels for you to play. We’ve played enough of these budget, no-achievement titles to know that you rarely get more than an hour out of them, but Drop It: Block Paradise bucks that trend. It comes with 150 levels, and – should you manage to complete them all – then you’d probably have lost four or five hours to it.
We haven’t played something quite like it. Cut the Rope is probably the closest, but even that leaves us some way off. What it amounts to is a stack of blocks on a game screen. Physics and gravity are at play here, so they tend to be stacked neatly, waiting for you to get involved. Your task is to get the star, teetering at the top of the tower of blocks, to the base of the level, without it falling into any of the level’s holes. Once your star is securely placed with two of its prongs (we’re now questioning what you’d call them: points?) flat to the floor, the level is won and a score is yours.
Getting the star to the floor is the difficult bit. You have the ability to delete any block on the screen. Manhandle your cursor over to a block and press A on it, and it will disappear, leaving your star to obey the rules set down by Isaac Newton, and pachinko itself down until it rests somewhere.
In the first levels, this is thuddingly easy. Delete the block below the star, and the star will hit the bottom of the level. Ta-dah! Have no achievements. But the more levels progress, the more complicated this becomes.
Initially, it will mean tinkering with the rules of physics. You will need to create slopes to roll the star down, or tumble a tower in such a way that the star crumples onto a platform. But then the big guns arrive – the special blocks – and you have to start thinking about when you remove a block.
Special blocks include balloons, which slowly levitate the star and its surrounding blocks. Bombs can be tapped once to start a countdown, or double-tapped for an immediate explosion. Lazer blocks immediately destroy anything that passes through it, and rope blocks attach to blocks and create a convenient swing if you destroy just one of them.
This is where things get inordinately hard. We’ve dropped to our knees, frothing at the mouth, after failing to get a bomb to blow up in exactly the right way, so that the star gets propelled over a laser and stands, proudly, on the bottom of the arena. Drop It: Block Paradise gets devious quickly, and knowing what to do is about one-tenth of the issue. Actually pulling it off is the other nine-tenths.
To give you a bit of a leg up, there’s a queuing function that allows you to number the blocks, so that you can delete them in sequence at speed. Snap the tether on the bomb, blow up the bomb, snap the tether on the star and watch the star catapult to the other end of the arena. None of that would be possible without the queueing.
And By Jove there’s a lot of levels to work through. When you consider that each one can trip you up for fifteen minutes, there’s the potential to play Drop It: Block Paradise for the best part of a week. Add on a Level Editor, including the levels that the community create (in reality, only a couple of decent creators seem to be out there), then you’re getting more value for money than a bag of Five Guys chips. As a package, it’s astonishing. ZeNfA Productions should take a bow.
But but but. We wish it was otherwise, but you can have too much of a bad thing. While ZeNfA Productions have done an exemplary job of generating content, it’s the gameplay that doesn’t really work for us.
Most of that is down to the physics and gravity. It’s perfectly possible to touch no buttons at all, and have the star topple to the left on one go, and to the right on the other. Physics is inherently unpredictable, and that’s a frustrating reality for solving a puzzle. Try something once, and it might come off completely differently the second time. So, you’re at the whims of Ian Malcolm and Chaos Theory, and that’s rarely enjoyable.
Then there’s the precision that Drop It: Block Paradise demands. A lot of the levels require a chain reaction, and you’re in control of every link in that chain. You’re queuing up commands, and the timing of them has to be perfect. This bomb nudges that swinging block which topples the star. It’s too exact, and when it’s paired up with the unreliable physics, then – gaah, nnng, waah! – it’s a little on the infuriating side.
Let’s not diminish what’s been done here. For £2.49 (and we keep coming back to that ridiculously cheap price), you get one of the most overstuffed indie games in recent memory. Okay, you don’t get any Gamerscore, but there’s 150 levels and a fully featured level editor. If every game came this well supported, we’d probably only get through a few games this year.
But you can’t have cartfuls of content without a good game at the heart of it. Drop It: Block Paradise is too finicky, too capricious in its reliance on a physics engine, to be a satisfying puzzler.
We hate-played Drop It: Block Paradise, mainly because the developers put in so much work. It was the least we could do. But, by golly, do we feel bruised from doing it.
You can buy Drop It: Block Paradise from the Xbox Store