Fallblox, for all its candy floss colour and cheerful denizens, is a puzzle game filled with cruel horrors. Not graphic frights: Intelligent Systems’ art wouldn’t look out of place decorating the walls of a well-to-do suburban nursery. Not thematic stress: the creepily trapped children of forebear Pullblox are gone, replaced by a lighter form of hostage – birds. Rather, Fallblox is a game of logical terrors, spatial conundrums that will drive the would-be solver to silent madness on the daily commute, and knotted ideas to foil the most experienced Layton graduate or Tetris aficionado.
As with Pullblox, the aim is to rearrange a series of blocky structures in order to create a staircase up to a summit, where a brightly coloured bird awaits capture. The game’s grand invention – and in a puzzle game’s finely balanced machinery, any such change has a big effect – is the introduction of gravity to the equation. Now structures will fall to the ground (or onto your squat character’s resilient head) when any supporting set of blocks is manoeuvred away. Challenge is derived from the set of relationships between the blocks onscreen as you push and pull them, flipping the camera around in order to make sense of the 3D space and rearranging levels in search of the solitary solution.
It is, as with the previous game, an ingenious premise backed by smart puzzle designs – 100, all told. Nevertheless, there’s a sense that Intelligent Systems is struggling to keep a firm hand on the possibility space. In Fallblox’s earliest stages, it’s straightforward to plot the required movements to clear a stage. Even if you can’t perceive exactly what to do right from the off, a little trial and error will soon make the way clear. But the learning curve takes a sharp incline after the first 20 levels (dubbed ‘Lessons’) are completed. It’s a fact acknowledged by the in-game tutor. He apologises for the jump, and suggests that if you find yourself stuck, you simply move on to the next puzzle, or (patronisingly) head to ‘Training’, which is another series of levels at a reduced difficulty level.
The issues in the difficulty curve are made all the more pertinent because, outside of its light tutorials, the game offers little in the way of true training or lessons, instead taking a hands-off approach and hoping that you will learn by doing. For tenacious players and those inclined towards the genre, Fallblox could prove an irresistible draw, with clearing its parade of cryptic conundrums a delicious prospect. For others, the game’s difficulty, and its visual and thematic linearity, will prove tiresome, their enthusiasm for its self-evident ingenuity petering out before each of its challenges has fallen.