Blockhead 1 logo

Andy Smith and the word Blockhead together in the same sentence? Surely some mistake...

We like puzzle games on Amiga Format. They generally give good value for money because you can take ages to finish them and if they're done well you can find yourself thinking of nothing else as you try to work out how to get past the part that's currently got you completely stumped.

Thankfully, Blockhead is a goodie. It's not a greatie, for reasons i'll go into later, but it's a goodie all right. It's about manipulating blocks. Moving them from one place to another in order to pen the exit and go to the next level. Ala Sokoban and the rest.

Well paced
Applaud have, quite rightly, made much of the fact that the game's got a well-paced difficulty level. New tricks and treats are introduced gradually and in such a way as to leave you in little doubt what you should be doing with them. Nice one, Applaud.

You're this little chap viewed from above (very Valhalla) who trundles around the screen. There are green and red (at least, we haven't got far enough to find anymore though...) blocks which can be either pushed or pulled and there are brown blocks which are immovable.
These brown blocks, or some of them at least, can be destroyed on later levels by dropping sticks of dynamite next to them.

The idea's to pull the moveable blocks around the immovable ones and drop them into their colour-coded IN holes. This is never as easy as it may seem because you're limited to how you can push and pull exactly.

You might have two lines of brown blocks with only enough room for one coloured block between. That's not so bad when you just want to move between 'em but when you want to push at 90 degrees to the immovable blocks you're probably going to find you don't have enough room to manoeuvre.

Many's the time you're going to push a block somewhere, leave it and then wander round the maze of immovable blocks until you can come at your coloured block from a different side. And that's part of the fun. Working out where you need to be not only now, but when you've made two or three direction changes. Challenging stuff sometimes.

To really put the screws on Applaud have put you up against a time limit. On the right of the screen a large weight descends over an icon of your character. It only drops slowly but sure enough when it hits your little chap you've lost a life and have to re-start the level.

When you've lost all your lives you're dumped back at the title screen. Fortunately, there's a level code entry system so you don't have to go through the motions of doing the early levels over and over and over again, though the code isn't made as clear as should be because it's the level name that's the code and is easy to miss.

And so all the other bits: you're not only attempting to solve each level, there are bonus points to be collected by picking up items around the screen. There are even secret bonus points icons to be uncovered by walking across 'em but at the end of the day it's the solving of the levels that's important.

On ice
Let's take a typical level for example. Level 7 sees the introduction of Ice. Now this ice only allows you to travel across it in the direction you first stepped on it. Unless you're wearing the ice skates which have to be collected from behind a wall of destructible brown blocks. And the dynamite to destroy the blocks is in another part of the level where the ice makes it very difficult to get at.

Solving the puzzle involves sticking something in the way on the ice so that when you step onto the ice from another direction, you'll stop when you hit the object. You'll then be able to turn and go and get the dynamite which, in turn, will allow yo to get the skates.

By this time though, you will have realised that you should have moved another block somewhere else before going to get your skates. It's that kind of game.

Although most of the levels are well thought out and varied you don't get the feeling that something truly special is required to solve it. Some would argue that's good because the game is at least playing fairly. But with a game like this the odd curve-ball can make all the difference.

Good and solid
It doesn't look that great, the sound is so-so and it's hardly got knuckle-whitening, adrenaline-pumping gameplay but it's a jolly good, solid puzzle game. Derivative but well put together and certainly worth a look if your grey matter is in need of a work out.

Blockhead 1 logo

Price: £14.99 Publisher: Applaud Software 01283 31720

Remember Rubix cubes? Those boxes made up of millions of little coloured cubes that you ahd to manipulate until they all matched. If you do, you were probably one of two types: either you kept twiddling about with it in the hope that, by some fluke, you'd get all the colours to match up and when you couldn't, threw it in the bin (category A) or (category B) you logically worked out the best way to do it through trial and error.

Category A types can leave the room now. Category B types however will love this new top-down view puzzle game from Applaud. Based on a grid system, the basic aim of each level is simple: controlling your little man with your joystick you've got to work out the best way to get the coloured blocks to their relevant homes before time turns out and your little bruv is squashed by the falling weight.

There are forty odd levels to complete with as you can imagine get harder as the game progresses. So what starts off as a relatively simple exercise becomes increasingly difficult as there are more and more puzzles to solve and copious amounts of obstacles to contend with.

Sounds tricky? Believe me it is. You've got to do a lot of forward planning to get anywhere in this game. Thankfully, there is the usual assortment of fruit available as pick ups along with bombs, health boosts and other bonuses.

Applaud have pitched the learning curve more realistically for this game than their earlier puzzle game DNA which was way to hard to even play. Unlike DNA, Blockhead also has a password system so it's a lot less frustrating and so much more playable. However, there are some levels which I still found infuriatingly difficult and the occasionally blip in joystick control didn't help much either.

Puzzle fans will enjoy this game for certain as there is quite a bit of variety in each level. I found it challenging and got a sense of achievement when I managed to work out the best way through a level. The graphics could have been better though and it does have a public domain feel to it. However, if you feel in the mood for a brainteasing session then get this.