What the hell is NeuroBloxs? Well, picture the love-child of both Tetris and Space Invaders, and you’ve got a close idea as to what the concept is within. The end result makes for a confusing blend, but it’s a blend that proves to have some decent qualities nevertheless. That said, it’s a very, very tough game. I’ve put a number of hours into NeuroBloxs so far, and despite the game being a very short affair, I lose far more often than I win. No doubt this one will go down much better with those that enjoy the comparisons outlined above.
I’m not usually one to talk too deeply about Xbox Live Achievements, but I feel like it’s my duty to point out that if you favor a balanced Gamerscore, or indeed indie games that dish out easy Gamerscore, NeuroBloxs might not be for you. Though, that’s not what we’re here for, so let’s take this from the top. Booting up the game will take you straight to the game’s menu. Here, you’ve a choice of two modes to dive on; Survival and Levels. Both of these modes can indeed be enjoyed across a total of three difficulties; Easy, Normal, and Hard.
There’s not much of a difference between each mode on a mechanical level. Structurally speaking however, there’s a few alterations to make note of. Survival mode is self explanatory, whereas level mode sees you moving through a collection of levels of varying designs and complexities. Still, the aim of the game remains the same regardless as to where you go. Players will take on the role of a small ship that’s situated on a flat 2D surface, one that’s tasked with blasting anything that falls from the top of the screen, down.
Shooting to the side, the ship’s capabilities will vary based on what mode you go into. If you go into level mode, your ship can jump to the left and to the right. If, however, you’re in survival mode, your ship swaps those capabilities for left and right teleportation. There’s no differences outside of that. The aim of the game is relatively simple, it’s the execution that’s going to test your skills here. Each mode, wave and level remains the same; blast as much of what falls from the top of the screen as you can, at the same time as making tris.
Tris? I hear you asking. Well, this is exactly what led me to my comparison of Tetris and Space Invaders. You see, falling from the top of the screen is a collection of both colored blocks and aliens. Your ship is situated on a flat surface between the top and bottom of the screen. The general idea of the game is to blast the aliens and allow the colored blocks to fall below your platform and onto the bottom of the screen. If you line up three or more of the same colored blocks, they’ll wipe from the bottom of the screen (a tris) and grant points.
You can indeed choose to blast both the aliens and the blocks and just allow your points to constantly rise. Though, skilled players will be able to manipulate what blocks fall where by paying attention to the colored blocks that they need to land beneath the platform; blasting blocks of other colors until they see the block of choice. It’s a simple and straightforward concept, but a damn tough one all the same. Despite the game not being very deep nor varied, I do have one major gripe with how it decides to scale its three difficulties.
If you select the hard difficulty, your platform will be situated just three blocks north of the bottom of the screen. Whereas if you select the easiest difficulty, your platform sits perfectly midway between the top of the screen and the bottom of the screen. That sounds fair on paper, but in practice, it’s anything but. Playing on the hard difficulty means that you have less room for error, being that you only have a three block-height below the platform. Should the blocks stack higher than your platform, you’ll lose one of your few lives.
Losing all of your lives means a game over and complete restart. Though, the kicker here is that in hard mode, you have a much greater reaction time due to the amount of space between your low platform and the top of the screen. Flip this around to easy mode, in which your platform is situated midway between the top of the screen and the bottom, and your reaction time is cut in half; despite having more block space to play with beneath you. It’s a confusing design choice that doesn’t really make the game any easier nor harder.
If anything, it just makes certain aspects of play harder at the same time as making other aspects of play easier. In any case, you’ll blast away at aliens and allow colored blocks of your choice to fall until you’ve hit a highscore (or met a required tris target) or had enough. There’s a few twists thrown into the mix too, to spice things up. If you allow aliens to hit your platform, you’ll lose some points. If white blocks fall beneath your platform, there’s no way to get rid of them, not even if you match them with other white blocks later on.
There’s a fair bit of replay value to be had here, especially if you’re chasing achievements or keeping track of your stats. These both encourage you to play both of the game’s modes across all three of its difficulties, going so far as to tasking you to achieve specific goals across each mode and difficulty. It’s a shame that this wasn’t incorporated directly into the game through a challenge screen of some sort, but when all is said and done, and taking its price into account, it’s fairly easy to overlook. It helps, in all of this, that the controls are fluid.
There’s the odd occasion in which timing a jump can be a bit tedious, but outside of that, your ship will move, teleport, jump and shoot with pinpoint accuracy. I especially enjoyed some of the elements that the level mode threw at me, such as spikes that will cost a life if touched, or teleporter pads that carry you across the screen. I’ll also commend its decent retro visuals and the funky soundtrack that comes along with. The bottom line in all of this is that NeuroBloxs is a fun, passable game, if indeed repetitive and frustrating in the long run.
Sitting between the concepts of both Tetris and Space Invaders, NeuroBloxs is a surprisingly decent game, if indeed one that proves to be overly frustrating and somewhat repetitive in the long run. There’s some baffling design choices as far as its difficulty variation is concerned, but if you can overlook that, a well rounded puzzle-action shooter awaits.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.