The game's bizarre presentation is destined to split opinion, but it also gives the game personality beyond its simplistic mechanics.
We hope we're not the only ones that found SEGA's gem-matching puzzle title, Columns, a little bit frightening. Something about that game's haunting soundtrack scared the hell out of us, which is bonkers when you consider that Columns is a simple puzzle game with very basic graphics and mechanics.
Mad Blocker Alpha is a kooky PlayStation Mini that invokes very similar emotions to Columns. The game's blend of plodding audio and grumpy visuals come together in an equally fascinating fashion. The Gargoyle-like Fluzzles that replace Columns' traditional gems are defined by their haunting expressions. The pink block, with its bright eyes and rosy cheeks, contrast heavily with the emotions of the furious red block's crunched up features. These Fluzzles hail from the fictional outpost of Machu Popya, a world invaded by the evil industrialists known as Mokes. Using their unique shape-shifting capabilities, the Fluzzles hitch a plan to resurrect the dormant Great Bumbha, a mythical being capable of rejuvenating lands and terminating the Mokes' rain.
It's heavy exposition for a puzzle game, but it's what sets Mad Blocker Alpha aside. Combined with the game's pastel hand-drawn visual style, it creates a refreshing mood in a familiar genre. Indeed, Mad Blocker Alpha's gameplay is less ambitious than its narrative: slot together sets of four similarly coloured blocks to earn points. Similarly to Columns, you can't rotate blocks, merely manipulate their order. The crux is to construct combos of blocks that evaporate in satisfying chains. You'll often happen upon these chains in a fortuitous manner, but it's no less satisfying watching the number of on-screen blocks dwindle whether you've panned ahead or not.
There's three primary game modes on offer: Story, Endless and Tower. Story sets you very specific challenges to overcome, such as meeting a specific score target or clearing a set number of blocks, while the endless mode is pretty much exactly what you'd expect. Tower is less well defined but revolves around the objective of keeping your tower above a specific target line without accidentally clearing blocks and dipping beneath it. That mode's much harder than it sounds actually, and forces you to retrain the way you approach the game.
Mad Blocker Alpha might not possess the most inventive gameplay, but its art-style and audio make it something entirely original. While it won't appeal to everyone's personal tastes, we really enjoy Mad Blocker's imaginative looks. With solid puzzling and a bizarre visual style, Mad Blocker might be worth a punt if you're up for something familiar and yet extraordinarily different at the same time.