Developer: BitCaper
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Very few of the games I’ve tried have left me as disappointed as Tetris did. As a longtime fan, it was heartbreaking to realize just how limited EA Games’ port was.

Enter Block Knights, the gallant game that made me quickly forget my broken heart.

Block Knights is more than I could have dreamed of in any Tetris port. While the iPhone adaptation of Tetris is merely mediocre, Block Knights is an ingeniously executed spin on the falling-blocks formula. But it’s really not fair to Block Knights to compare it to classic Tetris, because this is a game of its own: a game with its own merits, and a game with its own blend of addicting gameplay.

Block Knights utilizes falling blocks, true, but there are some very significant changes. Most drastically, gravity is a thing of the past. Tilting the iPhone directs blocks to any side of the screen, while tapping rotates a block. Your goal, of course, is to create solid rows or columns, which clear upon completion; place a block within the central red square, and you’re dead. Think of it as four-walled Tetris and it’ll make more sense. It’s a fun idea, and it’s perfectly suited to the iPhone.

There’s an initial learning curve that might come as a surprise to some longtime Tetris aficionados. When you clear a line, blocks don’t fall—there’s no gravity! Prepare to toss all of your old strategies out the window. Block Knights is hard, and you can’t plan ahead; there’s no “next” column, and no hold function. Those Tetris mainstays would have felt out of place within Block Knights, I think, but it still makes for a more difficult game. Thankfully, you’ll get a bomb from time to time, which will cause nearby pieces to explode—getting a bomb can often be a matter of life and death. Also, the blocks are different: gone are the days of easy-to-assemble tetrominos. Instead, blocks range from a three-unit narrow strip to convoluted five-unit blocks. There’s no simple square piece. The new blocks generally fit together well, and they certainly inject some new flavor into the game, but they’re often challenging to assemble until you become accustomed to them. The end result is well worth the effort, though.

Happily, Block Knights includes four different play modes. Arcadia and Guillotine are both timed; Arcadia gives you limited time to clear a line, while Guillotine gives you a (very!) limited time to place a piece. Both take a lot of skill, Guillotine especially; if you want nerve-wracking puzzle action, this is it. By contrast, Infinitas just lets you play the game, no strings attached: clear lines, don’t die, and the game keeps going. Quest mode, though, is one of the more interesting modes. Here’s where the second half of the title comes into play. You’re charged with defeating Mobs, which are represented by special blocks scattered across the level. Include a Mob in a complete line, and it’s cleared from the board. Besides the extra, slightly-less-stressful dimension of fun provided by Quest mode, the different backgrounds presented by each stage are little short of fantastic, with the ninja-esque knights fending off all manner of terrible creatures.

Block Knights isn’t perfect. Sometimes, the controls are less than accurate, and being forced to keep your iPhone flat can be inconvenient at times. Getting blocks to stick to the sides can be tricky, the bombs are sometimes slow to detonate (a killer in the timed modes) and you can’t perform fancy T-spins here. But the controls are excellent on the whole; tilting felt perfectly natural, even if I had a few problems.

Those criticisms aside, I thought that Block Knights was a great offering. At $4.99, it may be a bit steeply priced for some, but this is a complete game. Any gamer should find something to suit their style with the four modes, and it’s undoubtedly a better value than EA Games’ Tetris. Block Knights manages to successfully blend familiar, beloved gameplay with entirely new elements, and if you love Tetris—go for this one.

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