Blockstorm, the latest title from Gameshark, is a title for which I was delighted to receive the chance to test out the alpha version. The premise sounded very intriguing and the demo video looked good.
I have a 7-year-old girl who loves both Minecraft and that well known first-person-shooting franchise that she’s 11 years too young to buy, so the idea of a game that allowed both creativity and mindless bloodlust and wanton destruction sounded like exactly what the daughter ordered.
A quick download and the game was installed and the first thing we looked at was the character editor. While you can design a skin for Minecraft in an offline editor and upload, they are relatively simplistic The character editing in Blockstorm is the character editing that Minecraft would have if they ever did a second generation of the title. Because the characters are built of a great many more smaller blocks you can design your look in a lot more detail, even adding and taking away blocks, rather than simply being able to wrap a skin round the existing shape. My daughter issued a cry of glee and was keen to set to work.
Alas, the editor itself could do with some refinement. She quickly became frustrated trying to rotate the body parts, and unable to find an obvious intuitive way to do so. The small image of the entire body can be rotated and skewed with the mouse so why not just have the large selected body part mirror that action. If a seven-year-old says that’s how it should work, that’s how it should probably work. A bit more exploration and she’d finally worked out how to move around, realising that it’s you who moves around the body part and not the body part that rotates and then spent a happy hour or so playing around with the editor. If the developers instigate the body part movement mirroring the full figure rotation, this would be a fantastic tool and great fun.
The map editor, used for creating your own levels, is quite extensive and allows you to create small, medium and large levels with vary levels of landscape complexity to which you can then add various objects. The only limit would be your imagination and surely some enterprising soul will at some point create replicas of maps from that well known franchise.
Blockstorm Teaser Trailer
And so, finally on to gameplay. 1920×1080 was a no go. Frame rate was dreadfully slow, which we expected. 7-year-olds generally don’t have high-spec gaming rigs and, more often that not, have a budget-level machine or an older one they have inherited as the family machine is replaced. On a modest Acer all-in-one dual core machine with onbboard ATI chipset and 4GB of RAM, the best we could hope for was 800×600, the lowest resolution offered, and it ran acceptably well at that level.
Sadly, our initial few plays were limited to exploring the various online maps available solo as we never found a single server with anyone else on it. Admittedly, this was the day after the game was available on Steam and, a couple of weeks later, though still very sparsely populated, we did find a server with other players on. The gameplay itself was pretty much as expected and standard PVP fare, and Minecraft itself has many mods that allow for similar types of gaming, There’s a thousand and one such games out there and to stand out a game needs a USP. Blockstorm’s is the creative potential at the fingertips of its players. To be able to design your own maps and levels is something kids would really enjoy. I’ve seen my daughter and friends do so on things like Disney Infinity and have a great time doing so. The maps available online were varied and well designed and there’s a community server just launched which will feature some of the best user generated maps submitted to GameShark.
The game, even at this stage, shows some great potential but it will remain to be seen how it fares in an increasingly saturated market. Marketing, price point and a attracting and holding onto a community of players will play a huge part.
My scores are below, but my 7-year-old girl gamer’s summary – It’s good. I wish it would come out on Xbox though.
Graphics – 7/10 Don’t expect anything more than Minecraft style but that’s exactly the beauty of this game.
Audio – 4/10 Pretty basic but hopefully this will improve in later versions.
Gameplay – 7/10 – There’s nothing you haven’t seen before here probably but the novelty of designing your own character in detail and easy and detailed map creation will no doubt be a big attraction.
Potential – 8/10 – Given the right refinement and marketing.
Note that the video is a general example of gameplay and not my video.
Get Blockstorm on Steam here.
Blockstorm – Example Gameplay
- Publisher: Gameshark
- Players: 1-multiplayer