Title Blockout Game Type Puzzle Company California Dreams Players 1 Compatibility All (some gfx garbage with system-default font larger than topaz 8; crashes often on exit with later kickstarts) HD Installable Yes (manual-lookup copy-protection) Submission Hidehiko Ogata Profiled Reviewer (firstname.lastname@example.org) Review The world has never been the same since the advent of Tetris in '87. While us players were busy playing the monumental game, some publishers started catfights over contracts, and many others tried to jump on the bandwagon with so many clones, to various degree of success. One of the better results was Blockout released in '89. It is a logical 3D-extrapolation of Tetris - the basic rule remains the same (*), but now the "pit" and blocks are in full 3D, rendered in perspective, as if you were looking down into the pit (a la Tempest). A filled "horizontal" (monitor face) layer will disappear. Most importantly, blocks can be moved around in the horizontal plane, in eight directions, and can be rotated around three cardinal axes, both clockwise and counter-clockwise. (One might say it's like Welltris - the official sequel of Tetris - but not having played that game myself, I can't tell.) And that's about it - no help tokens, color schemes, and such - but it IS a lot to swallow (which is perhaps why most other Tetris derivatives have shied away from 3-dimensional freedom.) Just the number of essential keys has grown almost fourfold, from Tetris' 4 to a whopping 15! (or 6 keys AND a mouse.) While I considered myself as a seasoned Tetris player by then (who didn't?), my first reaction to Blockout was: "Now THIS is TOO MUCH". I couldn't have been more wrong. The designers clearly recognized the steep learning curve, and went to great lengths to ease the player into the game. The complexity of the blocks can be set to lower levels; the practice mode let you fumble with blocks until you drop them deliberately; the surprisingly competent demo mode shows you unexpected ways to make ends meet. Slowly yet steadily, my pattern-recognition skill was brought up into the higher dimension. I was hooked! And beyond that initial high threshold lies surprisingly rich variety in gameplay, thanks to the adjustable pit width/height/depth and the block complexity. A narrow, deep pit and complex blocks make a short, challenging game of reflex; or a broad, shallow pit and "flat" blocks turn into almost jigsaw-puzzle-like game of logic, for example. Reasonably enough, every combination of parameters has its own highscore table, complete with names and datestamps. Such thoughtfulness pervades the implementation: Control by mouse and/or keyboard is intuitive; the colours are delightful yet not distracting. I particularly like the way the blocks do not jump, but gradually slide/rotate between steps, unlike most other puzzle games... I think it helps perspective recognition. There's decent amount of "Amiganess" for what seems like a PC port - neat copper effect gives the illusion of depth, and filled layers disappear with satisfying "ZING!" sound. Except for occasional jingles, there's no background music nor pictures, but I consider this a plus - it's just you, the pit, and the falling blocks. An abstract bliss. In short: If you have outgrown Tetris, yet still appreciate the elegance of its simplicity, give Blockout a try. The necessary geometrical dexterity may be daunting, but don't be surprised if the game starts to grow on you... (Trivia: the game makes a cameo appearance in "Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice", a definitive reference book in the field.) Notes: * PZK Co. Development Group, who were responsible for the game, say the theorem of the "Soma Cube" was their inspiration. While the theorem - of irregular arrangements of 3-4 cubes (the "basic set" of blocks in the game) that fit into a larger 3x3 cube - is indeed highly interesting, I have to wonder if it was their precaution against another Tetris lawsuit 8).