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 (

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

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.)

* 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

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