Get Your Blocks Off (Part Two)

Denki Blocks!, Game | 9 uncanny comments

See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me

So where was I? Oh yeah…

For the iPhone Denki Blocks! audio-visual style it felt right to return to Puzzle Island. But rather than resurrect the whole GBA back-story, characters and all that malarkey, we focussed on some of the more pertinent elements from the theme and reworked those. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about the puzzles.

Solving puzzles to complete a picture always felt better than just working through a string of puzzles to no avail, so that’s the way it is again – although with more of an advent calendar vibe. There’s also something nice about having a choice of puzzles, especially if you get stuck on one.

As you can see below, we did try a moodier, more serious look. But that didn’t last long. We ditched it on the grounds that it just didn’t feel… Denki. The shadows cast by the blocks were retained because they give the toys a lovely solidity, but that was about it.

For a while Denki Blocks! was a horizontal affair but it quickly became clear that a one-handed experience was more desirable, so we settled on an upright approach.

The GBA audio has always been a favourite (not to mention the most effective) so it made sense to bring that up to date. Colin cleaned up the effects and redid some of the more appropriate pieces of music, as you can hear here. (Which reminds me: we really ought to sort out some lyrics for the theme.)

Ah, the joy of control systems on iPhone…

Rather than give players a choice of controls I prefer to settle on one system and make that work as well as possible. With Denki Blocks! the main thing is to ensure absolute control over a single block movement, otherwise play becomes untrustworthy and frustrating.

I’d always visualised Denki Blocks! as a board you tilted to slide blocks around, so the first thing to try on iPhone was using tilting to slide blocks around. Meh. We tried and tried until we cried (and almost died) but we just couldn’t make this work. The trouble with tilt control is that it turns Denki Blocks! into more of a finger-twitching game than a brain-itching one, which is simply inappropriate and conflicts with one of the Denki Blocks! “Guiding Lights.”

Next it was the turn of a virtual control pad – obvious buttons on screen to press. This had a tendency to leave you feeling strangely disconnected from play, probably due to the lack of physicality. So instead we ‘naturalised’ this input method and changed it to tapping the edges of the board.

Nope. No joy there either.

Then we turned to stroking… (Stop smirking at the back.) Ah. This immediately felt better – more immediate and direct. This success led to experimentation with a more analogue stroking control, which was a hit with some players (like me) but not most. Those who liked it (ME! ME!) felt they had more control. Those who hated it (pretty much everyone else) felt they had less control – that it was too touchy.

So we ended up with something more digital. Now small strokes move the blocks in obvious steps and longer strokes slide the blocks. Reassuringly, everyone here and all our test subjects so far feel in control with this system.

Get Your Blocks Off (Final Part)

Get Your Blocks Off (Part One)

9 uncanny comments

Ste Pickford says:

I still get my GBA Denki Blocks cart out from time to time, as I never finished it. In fact, I think it’s about the only game I’ve got that every member of the family has played – even the missus!

Looking forward to this. Hope it’s not too hard…

Dave T says:

Dear Gaz,

Please be to reveal the Guiding Lights behind Denki Blocks!? I’m secretly hoping that nary a single one reads ‘Keep making Dave feel stupid when he plays this game’…


Berbank says:

Strokable sweets now. Sticky, delicious strokable fun. Lord knows what new temptation awaits us in the final, mouth watering hit…

Gary says:

Ste and Dave, you should both be pleased to hear that Denki Blocks! Guiding Light #4 is:
“Feel Smarter
“The majority of puzzles are straightforward (and supplemented by tricky secondary challenges) rather than rock-hard one-trick ponies to make you sad.
“Enjoy celebrated minor victories.
“Feel clever and feel noticed.”

Dave T says:

Sweet – I’ll let you know just how straightforward I find the puzzles then…

But what are the others? Come on, you can tell us :-)

[...] Released: Often better than AAA Denki would like you to Get Your Blocks Off / Part Two. How to make interesting games by accident, from Sophie [...]

Gary says:

Confession Time, Dave… I, ah, haven’t finished the Denki Blocks! Guiding Lights. I sketched out five but only finalised three to get moving (which I felt was enough).

#1 More brain-itching than finger-twitching
It’s less of an action game and more about using shrewd moves to figure out how to solve puzzles.

#3 Multilayered puzzles
Every puzzle has at least one secondary challenge, such as a special shape to make.

The other two (and any more that might spring to mind) will be revealed when they are more… concrete.

IanK says:

There’s something about the new version of the DB theme, it just lacks the oomph of the GBA one. Not as compressed and clipped I guess, it loses some of the punch.

Really enjoying these write-ups and looking forward to the game though.

Quick question: I understand that a swipe action makes the most sense, but one nice DB moment was when you were on the home straight and could push your blocks all the way across the screen to finish (ie holding the d-pad to mash everything together against the side of the board). Did you guys try any sort of swipe-and-hold to allow for continuous movement, or it is always just one swipe=one move?

Gary says:

I know what you mean about the music, Ian. It’s the lack of GBA grit that does it. The cleaner sound feels fine in context though.

You can hold a stroke for continuous movement. (Curiously, most novices I watch play tend to repeatedly stroke rather than stroke and hold. No idea why.)

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