Developer: GLOWDOT PRODUCTIONS
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

There’s a moment when you first start playing mentalBlock when you feel as if you’ve slipped into The Outer Limits, where the game developers have taken control of not only the horizontal and vertical, but also the clarity of your mind and your thinking. mentalBlock does everything a good puzzle game should do within a theme that is distinctly original and captivating. If you find yourself thinking about these puzzles and this game long after you’ve closed the app, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

At its core, mentalBlock is a physics-based game. Each item on the screen has distinct physical characteristics and a specific gravity assigned to it. The object of the game is to clear the screen of the blocks that need to be cleared (indicated by color and/or arrows identifying the direction of gravity affecting them) while leaving other blocks intact on-screen. There’s a bit of a learning curve when first playing, but the developers have wisely made the first few levels fairly easy to serve as tutorials.

The active metaphor in the game is that clearing a screen is akin to clearing your mind, and while this may seem a little heavy-handed at first, the immersive impact of the visual, aural and gameplay environments combine to do just that. Or perhaps it’s just that the normal mental clutter of the day is replaced by the intense desire to figure out how to clear the next screen. Either way, the psychological result is impressive.

Graphically, the game is simple – basic but colorful geometric shapes on a black screen. But this is a case where the graphics suit the gameplay perfectly. Sounds are nicely developed throughout the game, from the initial television static to the ambient “music” to the sounds made when removing blocks. All contribute to the theme and serve to pull a player fully into this puzzler.

There are over 50 levels included in this release, and the developer promises even more in future updates. Glowdot has also incorporated a level editor into the game so players can create their own puzzles. The editor is rich, but it is disappointing that currently there is no way to share user-created puzzles with the internet at large. There is, however, an option to upload your user-created levels to the developer with the possibility of having your level included in a forthcoming update.

There are plenty of puzzle games already available for the iPad, but there are few with the style, sophistication and customization options of mentalBlock. Meditation has never been so frustrating, and that’s a good thing.


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