Reviews// Koloomn (PSP)

Blocks! Why did there have to be blocks?

Posted 11 Mar 2006 16:07 by
To many people the natural enemy of the game-player is time, we don't have time to play all the games we want to. For others it's the lawyers, trying to get our pastime banned, limited or otherwise neutered. Still more point to repetitive strain injuries and the poorly designed controllers that cause them. However, all true gamers know the horror that is the real scourge of players everywhere, we are talking, of course, about the implacable enemies that are blocks and crates.

Ever since Soko-ban trapped us in a warehouse with the only hope of escape lying in re-arranging block-like crates, we have feared their mute menace, their sharp edges and corners and we have delighted in destroying them in the many and varied ways they are susceptible to. We have blown them up in FPS games, we have smashed them for treasure in adventure games and platformers, we have fitted them together and watched them dissolve, but most of all we have made use of the critical mass of like-coloured blocks and watched them annihilate themselves. Puzzle game players have selflessly led the charge against the eternal enemy, from Tetris and Puzznic to Hexic and Lumines they have destroyed so many blocks, crates and, lately, crystals that the world would surely otherwise have been crushed under their combined weight by now.

Today we are looking at a recently-opened front in the war against the cuboid invaders, Koloomn on PSP, created by Cyber Front and published by 505 GameStreet. Curiously, in Japan the game is called Kollon and in the US it's known as "Ultimate Block Party" - a truly awful name, but one that makes more sense than Koloomn. What the heck is a Koloomn anyway? The game isn't inherently interested in columns since any shape can be used to remove blocks, so the name makes no sense in an overtly cool mis-spelled way, but we digress.

The blocks here are destroyed by the time-honoured technique of grouping like-coloured blocks, in this case four or more are required to start the process of removal. Blocks are brought next to each other by rotating groups of them, initially four blocks in a 2x2 group will be rotated, later you may have to deal with larger groups. It takes some time in order for the blocks to be removed from the playing field, in that time you can continue to place more blocks of the same colour next to them and increase the number of blocks removed at once.
Remaining blocks will fall into the area cleared by your destruction, causing chain reactions when they fall next to more blocks of the same colour. Causing a chain reaction is usually rewarded by the appearance of a "magic" block. When destroyed, these blocks will cause other blocks around them to be re-coloured and included in the destruction. The effects of magic blocks can even be combined by tactical (or lucky) placement.

While the play techniques in Koloomn are similar to many other games, such as Hexic, the twist here is that new blocks are continually pushed up into the play area from the bottom, not dropped from the top to fill gaps. You can even instigate this process to speed things up a little if you wish. The upshot of this is that when a pile of blocks reaches the top of the play area, it's game over and the blocks have won another battle.
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