Puzzle games are a dime a dozen on Android, but few are as good as graBLOX, an endearing and fun free title by MobilityWare. With a clever concept, challenging levels, and charming presentation, the game’s only major shortcoming is that it ends too soon — although new levels are on the way…
The core mechanic involves tapping on one of the smiley-faced white blocks (or BLOX, as the game insists on calling them) scattered around the grid. Hands extend outward in four directions (up, down, left, right), with each one grabbing the first BLOX it hits and dragging it in beside the tapped-on BLOX. Your goal is to connect three or more BLOX. Doing so removes them from the play area. Clear all of the BLOX to complete the level. Simple, right?
The block-grabbing concept is easy to grasp.
Well, not exactly. The puzzles get complicated, and you’ll often be left with just one or two BLOX remaining — forcing a restart. You can undo a move (or several moves) with no penalty. GraBLOX records every move you make, counting them at the top of the screen. To undo a move, just tap on that number. There’s also a reset button on the top right corner. You’re likely to be using both buttons a lot while playing.
You encounter eight different kinds of BLOX. A raindrop-shaped one falls in the direction of its bulbous end (even if that is upward), but gets held in place by other BLOX. Neither this type nor the grey cloud-like BLOX do anything when tapped. A multicolored BLOX automatically extends its arms out after being grabbed, causing chain reactions, but is similarly unaffected by direct taps. The rough-edged circular blue-and-white BLOX zap everything in the same row or column when you tap on them, while the soft-edged blue-and-white BLOX pop out of existence.
There’s also a clump of four grey BLOX that expands in all directions when activated, and a square-brackets-with-eyes BLOX that reminds me of Clippy.
You need to think carefully about how the different types of BLOX interact.
These are introduced in a drip-feed fashion — a new one every half dozen levels. The puzzle design consequently ebbs and flows in complexity, easing off whenever you need to learn how to use a BLOX-type then ramping back up.
Puzzle fans will love the mix of spatial and mechanical problem solving required, although more casual gamers may struggle at times with the limited direction the game offers. Tutorials are few and far between, and there’s no hint system whatsoever. The game strikes a good balance between challenge and frustration, though, so this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
I found most levels gave me pause to think, and they typically took two or three attempts to pass, but my progress was never hampered for more than a few minutes. Turning on the grid helps with figuring out the spatial relationships between BLOX when you get stuck.
No BLOX left behind; be prepared for trial and error on the more complicated levels.
Every level can be brute-forced by methodically trying different combinations and orders of moves. Don’t be intimidated if you’re faced with a near screen-full of BLOX or if you fail a few times; a bit of patience and some lateral thinking should be all you need. (If that’s still not enough, a short break or some fresh eyes will usually do the trick.)
GraBLOX invites you to tap on things and see what happens right from the moment you start it up. The crinkled paper background, the lo-fi hand-drawn graphics, the ceaseless optimism of the square white blocks who await their end, the cartoony arm extension when they grab their comrades — it all feels lighthearted and is designed to make you smile.
Your tutorial at the beginning of the game and as new mechanics are introduced is a simple storyboard showing cause and effect for your possible actions. It’s refreshing to not have your hand held by a game, especially when the mechanics and goals are so intuitive. GraBLOX encourages you to experiment, and it’s that playful spirit that hooks you.
The tutorials show cause and effect in four or five simple steps, and pop up automatically when a new concept is introduced. Tapping the question mark button on the bottom left brings it back on screen.
GraBLOX is a free ad-supported app. Every few level attempts you’ll be interrupted with a full-screen ad for one of MobilityWare’s other titles. I found this less irritating than a banner ad at the top or bottom, but it still pulled me out of the game every time it happened. An option to permanently remove all ads with an in-app purchase would be a welcome addition.
Over Too Fast
My only real complaint, such as it is, is that graBLOX ends. Four worlds and one hundred puzzles took only a few hours to complete, and I was left wanting more. Puzzle games tend to get old and stale after a while, as you learn their tricks and master their mechanics. GraBLOX has yet to succumb to that. It’s challenging and clever, but never too much so, from Level 1 all the way through to Level 100. I hope the five upcoming worlds are as good as the first four, because it’s already one of my favorite Android games.