Review: Customize your own puzzler in Block Factory

Have you ever been mid-level in a game of Columns or Bejeweled and thought, “This would look so much better with skulls and a pirate ship?” Ever wished you could slow down the rate at which those pesky bottom row blocks appear — or speed them up?

Block Factory, a new $3.99 eShop download, has arrived to drop some fun customization into the puzzle block genre. It probably won’t replace Bejeweled or Dr. Mario in players’ hearts, but it does offer a solid, highly-tweakable 3D block-dropper with a pleasing, easy-going atmosphere.

The game starts you off with four ready-made games, each showcasing different styles and rules. Once you’re ready to create your own puzzler (which can be shared with friends), you can pick a blank file and get to work.

The game walks you through a series of choices, allowing you to pick background, block theme, piece shapes and colors. You then — through an series of easy toggle switches — set your own rules regarding swapping, rotation, gravity, and the requirement for clearing blocks from the field. Once you’ve named and saved the final product, it’s time to take your creation for a test run. My initial attempt resulted in a frustrating mess that was entirely my own fault, but a few tweaks later I had a very playable, enjoyable custom game up and running. A great deal of this game’s appeal, in fact, comes from that very learning process.

As a complete package, Block Factory is a polished, enjoyable outing that doesn’t quite knock it out of the ballpark. On the plus side, the animated 3D backgrounds are charming. Extra themes can be unlocked if you’re willing to delay saving your “Find Mii” monarch and spend some 3DS coins. The blocks themselves are a matter of taste; personally, I found the flowers, skulls, etc. too tiny for my old eyes, and I ended up sticking with the solid, basic squares, which look just fine.

The music’s a problem; it never changes. The gameplay theme is pleasant enough, but quickly grows monotonous.

Block factory does suffer from an issue that most other create-your-own games share; its flexibility limits its core gameplay. You won’t find flashy combos and complex rules here, nor any real depth, goals or multiplayer. This is designed to be an easy-to-customize, basic puzzler, and in that respect it succeeds as a fun, pleasant diversion. For anyone who found Warioware Inc.’s amazing toolset a bit too intimidating, this is a much quicker plug-and-play dabble into the realm of game creation.

Although the lack of interesting goals could make this a short-term ride for many buyers, Block Factory is a lot of fun for quick puzzle sessions, and its cute 3D backgrounds are very well designed. Pick this one up if you’re in the mood to create your own special twist on the falling block genre.