For over two years now, Minecraft has been a continuing obsession of mine. I’ll regularly jump onto the server Rik and I share and lose hours building some pointless structure. Despite absolutely loving the desktop version, I’ve never managed to get into the pocket edition… It’s a great technical achievement but the touchscreen controls don’t work as well as a keyboard and mouse, and I find myself constantly wanting for blocks which only exist in the desktop version. So along comes this game, which takes the Minecraft format, and places you in more of a 3rd person position, issuing commands as you would in a strategy game to create a much more mobile friendly experience.
The Blockheads is new release from Majic Jungle Software, the Minecraft inspiration is clear from the outset, but this game feels like a very different thing. Instead of full 3D the game opts for a 2D, side-scrolling world and first person control is replaced with a touch-based command system.
You begin with nothing but a portal, through this you summon in your first blockhead and create a crafting table. From here on you’re free to do as you please, explore the world, dig to the core of the world or build a huge castle, the choice is yours! The 2D world is packed with different landscapes, plants and animals, it’s a connected world too – so continually travelling left will eventually lead you back around. Amusingly silly achievements will encourage you to reach the edge of space, cross the equator(twice) and climb the tallest mountain.
Controls are simple, tap a block and your chosen blockhead(you can have up to three per world) will head over to it and perform the required action, mining, digging or gathering automatically. This system really lends itself well to mobile play as you can queue up tons of actions for your character to complete, and the simple tap interface means the game isn’t always demanding your attention.
Crafting is a matter of collecting the correct ingredients then using the crafting table – no crafting grid or anything here. Each style of item has its own specific bench too – woodworking, tools, crafting, tailoring – all separate, so be prepared to build a nice big house to keep them all in! The crafting process is however painfully slow, and only progresses while the app is active, so smelting a bunch of ore can’t be done while the app runs in the background and your character can’t do anything else which is a bit of a pain, if you craft in small lots it doesn’t generally ruin the fun though.
As with most free games these days, there’s an in-app currency in play – in this case, Time Crystals – these can be used to immediately complete crafting, give you a raw material boost or even warp in another blockhead for help. You can purchase crystals in exchange for your hard-earned cash, or find them deep beneath the surface of your in-game world – the higher quality pick you mine them with, the more crystals you’ll get!
While the blocky style is clearly reminiscent of Notch’s great success, but The Blockheads sets itself apart thanks to the interesting controls and varied crafting system. It’s free with in-app purchases available, but not necessary – if you enjoy the game I’d recommend getting the “Double time” upgrade to cut crafting time by 50%. There’s also a multiplayer function, but I haven’t played around with that yet.