Alexey and Markus are game developers who have built a robot instead. When they are kidnapped, their new robot has to drill its way to their captor’s bedroom to save them. Sorry, but your princess is in another castle, so you’ll be rescuing a couple of geeks instead. Let’s be clear: the cutesy story -which serves mostly as a bow to inspirations, respectively, Pajitnov (of Tetris fame) and Persson (Minecraft’s Notch, natch)- is not what you came for. You came for the puzzles.
Thankfully, this is where BTM shines. Blocks That Matter is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer currently available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and XBLA, and it’s great. Using the block mining and re-purposing of Minecraft and the tetromino shape restrictions of Tetris (four squares placed so that each square shares at least one side with another), developer Swing Swing Submarine has unearthed something original, yet feels decidedly old-fashioned. In the good way.
The puzzles work by having you collect blocks (by jumping into them from below or drilling from the side) one at a time, but you can only place them in groups of four, in orientations with which anyone who has played Tetris -that is to say, anyone- will be immediately familiar. To spice things up, the type of matter (sand, stone, wood, diamond, etc) of the block determines how it can be used and how it will react to other elements of the level -for example: wood burns, sand falls when unsupported, and diamond won’t budge until the drill gets upgraded.
The “Adventure Mode” of BTM finds a great balance with puzzles that will require players to stop and think, but shouldn’t stump them to the point of frustration. New features and block types are introduced gradually over these forty puzzles and always feel welcome -never overwhelming. For players looking for a bit more of a noodle-scratcher, each of these levels also has bonus objectives: collect a hard-to-reach “Block That Matters,” or carry as many blocks as possible to the exit. In both cases you’ll need to plan your moves efficiently. The aforementioned drill upgrades come into play here, as you’ll need to revisit earlier levels once powered up in order to collect everything.
The collectibles (aside from being nods to other games -indies or classics, anything that inspired the dev team) unlock challenge maps which can really show off the complexity available with such a simple core mechanic, and often require a bit more outside-the-box thinking -or tight platforming skills- to complete. And even if you manage to clear all of these, a virtually unlimited supply of ranked and sorted player-created puzzles awaits thanks to the inclusion of a user-friendly editor.
An easy recommendation for anyone who remembers Lode Runner. If you’ve never played Lode Runner but you enjoy getting jumping in your puzzles or puzzles in your jumping, check it out.