Hands On With Blokus Portable

blokushandson.jpgI had never actually played the board game Blokus, but after my hands-on time with a preview build of Majesco's Blokus Portable: Steambot Championship for the PSP I might have to pick it up. Basically the game involves four players, each with a similar set of differently shaped blocks takes turns placing them on a grid. Each piece has to have a corner touching the corner of another, and no sides may touch. It starts off simple enough, but when the board starts getting crowded and other players start purposefully blocking off your corners the strategy element really kicks into high gear.

What Majesco has done is merged this intriguing gameplay with characters from the Steambot Chronicles universe in an attempt to add a recognised name to a new game, though unless some changes are made to the game options the merger of properties might end up doing more harm than good.

You create a character, either male or female, enter in your name, create a business card, and you are dropped into a hotel that serves as the main hub for the game. Different rooms in the hotel host different events. Depending on the difficulty level of the opponents, entering each room costs a certain amount of game money, with payouts for winning matches. Money can then be used to buy clothing and new hairstyles to help personalize your avatar. While most of the rooms consist of four-player Blokus, there are rooms dedicated to the two-player travel version of the game for those looking for a quick fix. There are also three special rooms - the basement tutorial, the online room for connecting to other players, and your own room, where you can personalise your avatar and look through trophies you have won.

My only real complaint about Blokus Portable: Steambot Championship is the Steambot portion of the game. You play against characters from the Steambot universe who start and end ever turn with inane prattle about characters and going-ons in the game universe. Every time they place a piece say things like, "I learned everything I know about music from Rosemary" or "I wonder how I ended up getting washed up on that beach?" For those of you unfamiliar with the Steambot universe, this makes absolutely no sense. I found no options to turn this chatter off either, so players who buy the game just for the Blokus name are going to be very confused.

According to Majesco's press release, Blokus has sold over three million copies worldwide, and is the most acclaimed board game of the century. I'd say they'd be better off catering to those three million people than trying to appease a small group of fans at the risk of alienating the larger audience. If they slip in an option to turn off the chatter, I'd be completely sold on the game.

If you're interested in Blokus, head over to http://www.blokus.com for product information, rules, news, and even an online flash version of the game that pits you against players from around the world. Nifty!


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