Space Block Buster is a fun, highly addictive and sometimes frustrating game of racket and ball, that sees you hitting a ball towards a wall of perishable blocks, trying to smash your way through and clear them all as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next stage, with each stage being slightly different and more challenging than the one before. It is a tried and tested gameplay formula, reminiscent of retro games such as 'Breakout' but for the modern age, and this one is played with 2 rackets, which sometimes turn into baseball bats or guns via power-ups making for an exceptionally fun and often hectic little game which will sometimes test your reaction speed to the full. Here's my full review.
Launching in the holiday season, the edition of Space Block Buster that I played was Christmas themed, or at least the main lobby is, which is where you enter the game for the first time. I was greeted by a snowman who was dancing to the tune of Jingle Bells, and I have to admit that it instantly put a smile on my face, giving me a really good feeling for the game, and I found myself rocking along with the snowman. To add to the Christmas theme there was also a lit Christmas tree and some slow falling snow giving it a charming festive feel. There were other things too such as a robot showing off his skills with bat and ball, and also some huge planets and stars in the background, making it an interesting and lively lobby to say the least. This is also where you find all the options for the game such as the different game modes, of which there seems to be two - Campaign mode, which is the one that I played, and then there's a Challenge mode, which I have not yet tried beyond a very quick look, which showed me that the currently available challenge is an endless mode where I assume you compete for high scores by lasting as long as you can on the 3 given lives. This sounds fun, and I look forward to taking on the 'challenge' to see how long I can last but I really wanted to give the campaign a try in order to reach one of the end of level bosses which I'd seen on the images and trailer and which looked a lot of fun, so that's where I headed first.
Clicking on the campaign mode shows that the game is divided up in to 3 chapters, with 10 levels per chapter, the tenth level being the boss level and the one I wanted to get to, so I chose level 1 (the rest are locked) and I quickly found myself in the play area, 2 huge bats in my hands and as the doors opened in front of me, there at the back of the play area were the first set of blocks that I'd need to destroy with my ball. Not sure why they are called blocks, as they are more like balls, as they are round, and they each have a little animated face on them, like little robot / alien faces just waiting for you to smash the ball their way, which, as the ball slowly materialised in front of me, I was able to do.
As I hit the ball and it floated off towards the blocks I realised then that the game is played in zero gravity, which was a nice surprise but one I should have expected as we are in space. This really gave the gameplay a nice feel to it, and although the ball moved slightly slower than I was expecting to start with, you soon realise that any faster and the game would be incredibly difficult, as the blocks are fairly close, and your view is often obscured by power-up capsules that sometimes float towards you, in multiple numbers, making it extremely hard to keep track of where the ball is, and this was often the cause of a missed ball, and therefore a loss of a life, which you get 3 of. This could be extremely frustrating at times, especially if you were down to your last life, and it's not helped by the fact that the default colour of the ball is blue, the same as the background you are hitting it towards. However, apart from these minor quibbles, the difficulty of the game overall felt spot-on to me, in the first chapter at least, and I soon found myself clearing all 9 levels fairly easily to eventually reach my first boss on level 10.
The boss was like one of the blocks, but much much bigger and he also had a body, and he floated around behind the wall of blocks, taking cover from the balls you hit his way, and producing more blocks occasionally to try and block your shots.
I really loved the animation of the boss, and the sound effects he made, and although I didn't dispatch of him too quickly as he had a fairly long health bar that needed depleting, I do feel he could have offered up a bit more of a challenge, as I never really felt in danger of losing a life whilst fighting against him.
I let my son play the second chapter, and although he struggled for a very long time trying to get past level 9, once he had done so he found the boss lacked any challenge whatsoever, which left him a little disappointed, especially after the struggle he had getting there. I watched him play and I totally see why he was left slightly bemused at the lack of challenge at the end. The boss did throw up a wall of smoke to obscure his view of the ball at one point, which was great to see, but it really didn't make the challenge any tougher and so there is definitely some tweaking needed to up the challenge on those boss fights in order to make it more memorable and fun.
The game has a handy leaderboard that sits on the screen as you play and shows you your position after each game, which adds a nice competitive edge to it all as you try and edge your way up the pack. I managed to get to around number 10 on the leaderboard after about an hours play, which tells me that there can't be that many players yet, which is a great shame as it is an extremely fun game and one worthy of being in everyone's collection. I'm really hoping more people snap the game up during Early Access in order to support this dev as it is definitely one of the better quality games out there right now, and most of all I find it to be one of the most playable titles that really is easy to pick up and extremely hard to put down.
The graphics were great throughout, and I really loved the clean crisp look of the game with its vibrant colours and shiny clean environments. From the fun lobby, to the shiny scifi gameplay areas, everything is really well done with a lot of polish. The bats look good too, and all the different ball effects are really really cool.
Sound is good, with all the zips, zooms, and laser type sounds you would expect from a game like this, and the background music is fairly decent too, doing the game justice in the audio department.
This is where the game really shines as it is extremely easy to pick up and play yet gets very addictive, always compelling you to keep pushing on to complete each level and see what the next one brings in the way of a challenge. One thing I was worried about was the amount of space the game might require, as my space is very limited, and games like this, and sword swingers in particular are often out of bounds for me for fear of hitting the furniture and breaking something, however, this game has the hugely helpful feature of telescoptic rackets that extend when you pull the trigger on the controller, eliminating the need for lots of room and allowing you to remain on the spot throughout the game, with no need to reach out more than arms length, which was a great relief.
Lots of replay value here, as you try to complete the different stages and better your score each time. Then there is also the Challenge mode with more to come, and I also believe multiplayer is planned.
At time of writing the game is priced around Â£7.00 which I think is about right, and if the devs deliver more content then this will be a bargain.
I've always wanted a bat and ball game as I enjoy them in real life, but found most of them require a good sized play area which I don't have, so I have always felt I've been missing out. This game has changed all that however with its ingenius telescopic bats, making me a very happy gamer indeed. One of the most fun and playable games that I have experienced recently, and one that I will no doubt put a lot more time into over the coming months. Highly Recommended 7 out of 10.