Block Fortress certainly isn't the first game to take Minecraft as its base inspiration, but as long as a title can deliver something genuinely refreshing alongside the classic sandbox gameplay, we think it's fair to say that Mojang has created a genre for other developers to work in. In this instance, that means combining tower-defense gameplay with sandbox construction - and a little slice of first-person shooting action on the side.
There are a number of different gameplay styles to get stuck into, but in each case the action is split into two stages. First, you'll need to actually construct your fortress and ensure that it's adequately defended before the horde attack in waves. With limited cash and blocks, you'll need to very carefully choose your base position, set up assault turrets, build walls, cap mine-shafts to gather precious resources, and also make sure there's enough power to keep the energy flowing all round. It's a delicate balancing act, and the game's been well-tuned to keep you thinking every step of the way.
Once you're satisfied that your barracks are secure, you can tap on the mini-map to start the invasion itself. It's at this point that you drop into FPS mode, and while in the early days this isn't a particularly exciting experience, as you play second-fiddle to your more powerful defenses, there are a huge number of weapons to unlock and a generous assortment of enemy types to deal with.
We mentioned a number of playstyles available in Block Fortress. The core mode is Survival, where you level up more quickly as you alternately work through planning and defensive stages. Quickstart, on the other hand, simply gives you one chance to build your fortress before an endless assault begins. Sandbox mode is great for the newcomer, as resources are unlimited, and enemy assaults can be paused at will.
All three are enjoyable enough, but the real draw of the game comes from the delicious upgrades that are available as you level up, gather special mineral resources from different maps, and enter the crafting system, where the goodies you cook up persist through future matches. There are a huge number of different objects and weapons to unlock as you level up, from spotlight systems that keep your turrets tracking enemies even in the dead of night, to plasma guns that melt through an enemy's armor, to orbital lasers. The temptation to have just one more go, and unlock just one more juicy upgrade, is very strong in this game.
The only real drawback we experienced during our time with Block Fortress - and it's a problem that blights even the mighty Minecraft - is that the movement controls can be a little clumsy. To actually move around the landscape, rather than rotate the screen, you need to make a very firm press down and then move your finger - and it doesn't always have the desired effect. It's less of a problem when you're down on the ground in FPS mode, but can be frustrating when you're putting your initial base together.
With that said, we expect Block Fortress to be extremely successful on the App Store. It's a very clever blend of genres, and the upgrade system will sink its hooks deep into every gamer. The FPS component of the game may not be thrilling in the early stages of the game, but the scope for experimentation in defenses make this a very compelling purchase from the very start.Download Block Fortress (iOS)
What's Hot:An intriguing blend of genres that offers up a different experience every time.
What's Not:Certain areas of the game controls are sluggish and frustrating.