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Block Factory - 3DS Download Review

Game Info
Block Factory

3DS Download | Enjoy Gaming | 1 Player | Out Now | $3.99 / £3.60 | Play Coins Support
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26th April 2012; By Patrick

Including such titles as
WarioWare D.I.Y. for the Nintendo DS, many games have offered players toolsets to create their own games. The idea of creating a game by itself is very appealing to most, requiring little work while granting players a ton of choice; having an approachable and non-daunting user interface; as well as being cheap and readily accessible are the three major components to a successful 'game creator' game. But what happens when a game only accomplishes one of these?

    Block Factory is Enjoy Gaming's latest game on the Nintendo eShop, following the success of their first game, Pyramids. The premise of Block Factory is to create your own falling block games. Sure, one can instantly imagine all of the inevitable Tetris clones that this game will spawn, but in theory, that is not all that the game will let you create. Several major flaws impair not only the creation of Tetris clones, but of all games.

    The first major problem is seen right when you launch into the game. After showing you the opening credit screen, you are launched directly into a Main Menu screen that offers absolutely no indication of what to do. However, explanations can be found in the digital manual included with many Nintendo 3DS games, right? Even the manual only has one section about the game ("Getting Started"), which is full of incredibly broken English. It seems that the developer did a literal translation of the original French and called it done, yet it is insulting that explanations that can literally cause you to believe something has the opposite function than it does can get through Nintendo's quality control. I suppose that it was a deliberate decision for the menus to feel blocky, rigid, and lifeless in such a game, but that does not make them any more enjoyable to maneuver around. Once you meander around for a bit, you make your way into the eight-step process to create your own game. That's right; you can make your own game in just eight steps! That's a good thing, right?

The entire game creation process will be overseen by a seemingly-random scientist. While playing in 2D, it appears to be a 3D character model. However, when you turn the 3D on, the only effect that it has on the game is to push the screen further away from you, which can make it eye-straining to read the text that does not move either way. The first step is to create your game's background theme. Once chosen, you may select the type of blocks that you wish to use, including diamonds, flowers, gears, and more. It's worth noting that for both blocks and backgrounds, you can unlock additional designs by spending Play Coins. The first problem is that every design for both of them costs a full 10 Play Coins, but the main problem is that you cannot even view what you are purchasing before you spend the valuable Coins.

    Once that is done, you progress to the third step: selecting the colours of the block. You can use anywhere from one to eight colours, while you have eight different selections. This means that you can use them all, only one of them, or anywhere inbetween. The fourth step is where things really get confusing. You must choose only eight possible block patterns by scrolling through a list of them. First, it is not stated that you can scroll; I found it by chance while sliding the bar that contains the blocks. Second, I refuse to believe that the developers were limited to only allowing eight blocks when designing the toolset. The limit of eight seems incredibly arbitrary, and to be honest, it really impairs a lot of possible creations. Some of the block patterns are really quite weird, and I have no idea how any of them could be used to construct a good game.

The fifth step allows you to edit the controls of the game. What they
really mean is that you can edit some of the rules surrounding the controls, not the control themselves. The five rules are labeled so vaguely that they are literally "Turn", "Swap", "Drop", "Gravity", and "Trick". You can select a "?" icon for "informations" [sic] about the change you would be making, but these are once again in broken English that is of little to no help. The sixth step is to show the matching conditions in the game. The conditions here are how many have to be matched in a row, and how they are allowed to be connected. This does reveal one nasty truth about all the games created in the program, however: the basic gameplay of all of them is identical -- to make matches. With this one design choice, the total variations on the gameplay are so few and so similar to each other that I can only see a few different games coming from players that know what they are doing.

    The seventh step is to set the "objective" (how many matches until you go up a level) and when to set speed increases. The eighth and final step is to set which blocks, if any, are present at the start, and to select if blocks rise from the bottom and how frequently. After "creating" your game, you may name it. When naming, a five character limit is present, since the developer seems to absolutely love limits. Once a title is selected, you then save it.

Once games are saved and done, they may be shared by StreetPass or QR codes. Once you have a game available, the games can be played. This brings forth the biggest flaw in the entire package. Other than a very short, un-detailed animation on the Main Menu while hovering over a game,
Block Factory does not tell you anything about the game you are going to be playing, including, you know, how to play it. Your first few times playing the games (which will likely be with the four pre-installed games that come to show you the "wide variety" that you can create) will mostly be simply trial and error.

    Unfortunately, when you cannot easily create a game or a variety of games, the program can only be seen as bad. The menus are a pain in the rear to navigate through with unresponsive buttons and hideous UI; the English and instructions are flat-out broken; and playing the games themselves is far more difficult and frustrating than easy, fun, and enjoyable.

    As previously stated, when designing a 'game creator' game, it is necessary to focus on three aspects: making it easy to create a wide variety of games, being easily approachable, and being cheap and readily accessible. But like a triangle with only a base, if only one of these three aspects is included in a package, you can't even really consider it a "triangle". You can call it a failed attempt, however, and that is exactly what
Block Factory is: a failed attempt that held a ton of promise.

05/30 - Simply Awful

Gameplay 2/10 - No game explanations, difficult to create a game, tools extremely limited, variety of games not possible, block patterns seem out of place
Presentation 2/10 - Clunky UI, all explanations in broken English, 3D can hurt eyes, menus not clear at all, unresponsive buttons
Enjoyment 0/5 - None to be had, monotonous and boring to play variations on the same gameplay, games do not even feel like your own
Extra Content 1/5 - Four pre-made games that are almost identical, StreetPass sharing, QR code generation and scanning

Equivalent to a score of 17% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by Patrick

Block Factory
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