Blocksworld has been out a week now. I covered the launch on August 1st, but as I don’t have a iPad, I’m stuck with pining for its possible appearance as an Android app in order to review it myself (even though I haven’t got an Android tablet either *cough*).
This leaves me reliant upon reviews posted elsewhere. So, as with the early appearance of Creatorverse, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Lab’s press page and waiting for a number of reviews to pop-up there. It’s not an ideal way of doing things, but as the likes of 148apps and Kotaku do generally appear in the listings, I decided to see what comes up as well as Googling for reviews.
Overall, and allowing for it being early days, the reactions of reviewers seem favourable. Rob Rich over at 148apps gives Blocksworld a solid four (out of five) stars, noting that the interface is easy to grasp, building is relatively quick and easy to learn, and that the ability to create and build with blocks is something kids the world over can identify with. However, he also notes that there are some inherent weaknesses in the app: vehicles can be difficult to drive, and connecting blocks to build things is limited (you can only connect blocks face-on). As such, he notes that it is fun to play with, but in terms of using it as a form of a game, it’s not so much fun to play.
Mike Fahey over at Kotaku has a fair amount of experience in reviewing the Lab’s products. His reviews are always informative and also lighthearted at times, making them a fun read. It’s actually his reviews I turned to in order to get a handle on both Patterns and Creatorverse before I had access to either. In reviewing Blocksworld he notes that:
Linden Lab is all about creating, or at least they have been since Rod Humble took charge, transforming the company behind Second Life into a company that creates creativity. It was as if Linden Lab only made doughnuts before he arrived, and now they’re making a wide variety of pastries. The delicious, sexy, wildly deviant doughnuts are still there, but then so is Creatorverse and Patterns and Blocksworld and maybe, if we’re very good, some scones.
Like Rob Rich, he comments on the overall simplicity of design and that the UI is very easy to grasp. He also delves more into the mechanics of the app, noting that using it can be approached in a number of ways, from “dive in a build” through to using the supplied “kits” to learn how to build specific items and use specific capabilities.
Interestingly, both reviews touch upon a fact hitherto unmentioned here: that the number of blocks you can use is limited. If you run out, you have to either “win” more or purchase more.
“Winning” additional blocks is a case of using the in-built kits, each of which includes a puzzle / challenge. Build the kit, complete the challenge and your reward is more blocks.
Fahey also picks-up on the fact that the controls aren’t overly precise, commenting:
You can create many things in Blocksworld’s blockscape — planes, cars, boats, animals, lawyers, large rocks. You can animate them, add controls, establish behaviors and such. None of them control perfectly, but well enough for a virtual thing you create with a few taps of your majestic fingertips.
This quibble aside, it’s clear that Fahey considers Blocksworld to have potential.
An official video which demonstrates some of the control issues. Keep an eye on the poor bugger in the chariot at around 20-25 secs into the video!
However, so far it appears to be only Sam Denver at PadGadget who has put Blocksworld to the real acid test, commenting:
I interrupted my eight year old twins playing Infinity Blade II, installed Blocksworld, and let them loose with it. The first bit of good news is that they didn’t close it immediately which would have made this post quite short and instead they found it engaging. After 30 minutes of playing, one of them even came over to me and said thanks for the new game.
Denver’s opinion is that the puzzles / challenges built-in to Blocksworld are perhaps the most engaging part of the app, and that they appeared to be ideally aimed at the age group in which his twins sit. He also noted that the ability to share creations with other users also engaged his kids.
In writing about Blocksworld’s launch, I voiced reservations about how parents might feel about it being freemium – you get the basic app free, but if your kids want to start doing really cool things, then there will come a need to shell-out for the add-on packs. Sam Denver’s review went some way towards allying fears on this score, noting:
Since Blocksworld is also based on a freemium money model, I was interested in how long it would take before I was asked if they could spend money on additional block sets. It did eventually come but the puzzles provided enough reward that they were kept interested without additional purchases. By the time they wanted something I felt comfortable spending a couple dollars because it was more than mindless play and they were not only learning things like basic physics but also exercising their problem solving skills.
This is actually a valid point, and one I hadn’t, to be honest, considered. Serve me right for not reading the parental FAQ on the Blocksworld website. Whether it means Blocksworld will remain engaging enough over time for kids to keep on using it or – more intriguingly – what it may mean by way of future updates for the app as time goes on – will be interesting to chart.
Obviously, one week from release is far too early to use as a benchmark as to whether Blocksworld is gaining real traction – and Creatorverse showed that even with a solid start in life, things can quickly fall into the doldrums. Nevertheless, the feedback in these reviews does help provide some insight both into Blocksworld for those of us not blessed (or cursed, depending on one’s view of Apple, I guess) with an iPad.
- Blocksworld website
- Blocksworld in the Apple App Store
- BlocksWorld HD Review – Rob Rich, 148apps
- We’d Be Happier People If We Lived In This Colorful, Blocky Paradise – Mike Fahey, Kotaku
- Second Life Developers Roll Out New Blocks Building iPad Game for Kids – Sam Denver, PadGadget
- Blocksworld coverage in this blog