Japanese studio Intelligent Systems are no doubt proud of having given birth to one of the most refreshing and unique puzzlers for Nintendo 3DS. The "Blox" series consists of Pullblox (or Pushmo as it's called in some quarters), and Fallblox, and they each explore the three-dimensional nature of the hardware in a relaxed, intelligent and addictive fashion. Now the third entry, Fullblox, has arrived on eShop - but something is most certainly different.
Fullblox is made up of different attractions that form an amusement park. Each represents a different game mode, with each sporting different types of puzzles. The presentation is so cute and and friendly that after the tutorial we almost didn't realise the characters were trying to sell us tickets that need to be bought with real money. It was not until seeing the eShop page that we were made fully aware of it. Yes, Fullblox is a 'freemium' title, complete with microtransactions that unlock each of these modes, although you can buy a complete package for £8.99 which saves some money compared to purchasing the modes individually.
Despite this introduction of micro-payments - a common practice today and one that's forever linked with controversy and debate - the value and content that Fullblox offers is very complete in each of its modes. And it's well signposted so that each player will know how to tweak their purchase to fit his or her tastes. Put it this way, it's hard to imagine the setup leaving any players feeling like they've paid too much.
The different modes include one called Mallo's Playtime Plaza which has 100 puzzles of all kinds and that offer increasing difficulty. Another mode - Poppy's Sculpture Square - has 50 puzzles shaped liked things including animals, plants and objects. There's an extreme mode - Corin's Fortress of Fun - with 50 challenging puzzles full of enemies. Lastly there's the retro mode with 50 medium to high difficulty puzzles based around classic NES characters, Papa Blox's NES Expo.
Those who are familiar with the series will benefit from their previous experience when first tackling Fullblox. Each puzzle consists of different pieces that can be pulled to build new platforms or expose a path to the ultimate goal. You have to push and pull these blocks to create a path to the finish, but it gets increasingly difficult with new elements such as flaps transporting the protagonist between different parts of the puzzle, or in one mode even enemies are introduced that you need to avoid.
These elements were already established in previous games, but what makes Fullblox different? Its sense of three-dimensionality. Intelligent Systems have added a twist to the system by allowing you to pull the pieces from the sides and from behind. This allows three-dimensional navigation across the puzzles that, up until now, had not been possible. To help the player the L and R buttons come into play to rotate the camera in angles of 90°, also with the help of the circle pad to adjust the zoom. There's also the option of going back in time to amend minor errors. Spacial awareness is something that takes time to learn, and it's really challenging and fun to complete a puzzle after having had to think long and hard about its solution. All this adds to the trademark "Blox" experience, and will surely delight fans of brain teasers.
Finally there is a feature that unlocks for free if you buy any of the Fullblox modes: the studio. This is definitely something that will give a lot of additional fun, as it allows players to create and share their own puzzles and challenges via QR codes. It's the kind of tool that in the hands of the community can multiply the number of hours you can enjoy the game almost infinitely. The editor itself is really great, very complete and intuitive, this despite how difficult it may seem to create a level.
In short, Fullblox is an experience that is totally worth getting for one or all of its modes. Each player can find the mix that fits them the best; a more relaxed experience or perhaps something more intense with a more difficult challenge. Then of course, there's the editor as well, which should flesh things out in the longterm. If you're wary of the 'horror' of in-app purchases, it should be said that the model is well applied in this game. Fullblox offers the option to buy as much or as little as you want; you can grab just one mode and the editor, or you can enjoy the complete package for a fairly reasonable price.