The Blockheads iPhone Review

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Starting with the obvious, The Blockheads is an awful lot like Minecraft in many ways. You enter a randomly-generated world that's stuffed to the brim with chippable blocks. Every block is a potential ingredient that can be used to build within - or more efficiently destroy - the world. You'll need various crafting tables to make these new objects too, and this blocky world is sporadically enlivened with gentle music as it passes through its day and night cycle. Even the main character of the game bears more than a passing resemblance to Minecraft's.

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So with that mild warning out of the way for anyone who can't even bear the thought of another Minecraft-esque sandbox experience, the great news is that what's left is a remarkably absorbing mobile game. Once you've warped into the world, you receive only the simplest of instructions from the game's tutorial system - just a gentle nudge to start tapping away at different blocks, gather different materials, and just generally explore the world.

Once you've gathered up a handful of raw materials, you can build yourself a series of workbenches that make different types of tools. The workbench allows you to build campfires that brighten up the night-time, as well as different sorts of crafting tables. Once you have a tool-bench, for example, you can make spades that dig through soil more cleanly, axes to take down trees, or pickaxes to get at the chunkier stone of the land. All of the workbenches can be upgraded too, so you can create even more powerful equipment in due course.

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Every destructible object in the land has an ideal tool associated with it. If you select a tool and tap on a block that becomes outlined in red, that means your tool choice is inefficient and it will blunt much more quickly, forcing you to create a new one. If, on the other hand, you get a green outline then you're very much using the right tool for the right job.

These sorts of games aren't just about destruction of course. You're free to create whatever outlandish structures, buildings and - if Minecraft is any indication - homages to retro gaming's finest moments from the dirt, gravel and stone that you collect. You can even join a world with a second player, and explore, craft, destroy and create overground and underground with one of your friends.

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The cuboid nature of the world is as crisp and minimalist as The Blockhead's most obvious inspiration, although there is one area where the game falls down and it's the fiddly nature of the inventory interface. The game cries out for an option for iPad owners to adjust the size of the tiny inventory boxes that you need to flick through in order to grab the right tool for the right job. You'll get used to it after a while, but an update that introduces an inventory system that scales with the world as you zoom in and out would be a grand addition to The Blockheads.

Depending on your own feelings about freemium gaming, you might also be a little put off by the gem system used in the game. Crafting takes time, and you can hurry things up by spending a handful of the gems you're given at the start of a game. Anyone planning to spend more than a fleeting session with The Blockheads will almost certainly end up dipping into the Double-Time upgrade, which speeds up crafting time in every world you play in, for a one-off cash fee.

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As we reported earlier this week, Minecraft Pocket Edition sold a staggering number of copies in 2012, and so it's no surprise to see a handful of imitators pop up on the App Store in 2013. The Blockheads might lean just a little too heavily on the grandfather of sandbox world-building for its own mechanics, but it's also got enough charm and obsessiveness of its own to make it an essential download.

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Download The Blockheads (iOS)

What's Hot:A very absorbing sandbox world, with endless exploration and crafting opportunities.

What's Not:It takes its influences from Minecraft without any shame at all, and the interface is a fiddly affair. You will almost certainly end up spending real money on this free game.

4.0/5