1 player, horizontal game
Atari Corp. for the Atari Lynx
Based on the original computer game by California Dreams, BLOCKOUT for the Atari Lynx is clearly inspired by TETRIS. As in TETRIS, the object is to rotate and position oddly-shaped blocks into a pit, dropping them so that the pieces interlock. When a level is filled, the blocks in it are removed, giving more space for more pieces. The longer the game lasts, the faster pieces fall, until there's no room left to maneuver.
BLOCKOUT differs from TETRIS, though, by using all three dimensions. Pieces can be rotated around all three axes, the pit can be of variable size and depth, and the pieces can come in very strange shapes. Naturally, all these features add to the complexity and challenge.
As in the original BLOCKOUT, emphasis is placed on gameplay over frills. The game screen is non-nonsense, showing the pit, its contents, and the current piece to be placed. A level indicator color-matches the layers in the pit, and shows the depth of the current piece. Your score, the high score for the current setup, the game settings and difficulty are also shown. Points are scored based on the shape of the pieces and the height they're dropped from.
BLOCKOUT is very friendly and playable, one of those games that takes 30 seconds to learn and a long time to put down. The only hitch is in the controls; X and Y rotations can be done in any direction, but Z rotations can only be counterclockwise. Still, this is a minor nuisance, and the game is still fun regardless.
Several options let you customize the game. The pit size and rotation speed of the pieces are selectable, and sounds can be toggled. Blocks can be either flat, simple 3D, or a manic extended collection. Finally, you can start playing from any of 10 speeds, though the longer you play, the faster it gets. A practice mode, game demo and controls screen makes learning painless.
Graphics in BLOCKOUT are appealing, though minimal. The colors and graphics are distinctive enough to let you know what's happening at a glance, and watching the wire-frame pieces rotate is nice. Except for a little music between games, the sound may as well be turned off.
This is a nice, addictive, no-nonsense strategy game. Without any patterns to memorize and several options to choose from, BLOCKOUT will keep its freshness for quite some time. If you thought TETRIS was too simple, give this title a try.
GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 7.5 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 8