Slam Bolt Scrappers review: Picking up the pieces

blocks!

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning, you may remember our first hands-on experience with Slam Bolt Scrappers back at last year’s PAX East. Shortly afterwards, I had an interview with CEO of Fire Hose Games, Eitan Gleinert, and at the time he was unsure of which platform it would land on. Well a lot has changed since then, and their first title launched on PSN this week.

Tetris, the classic shape-dropping puzzler has been a staple in any solid gamer’s diet for nearly a quarter century. Sure we’ve seen some altered experiences of it with titles like Dr. Mario on the original Nintendo or Super Puzzle Fighter, but not much in terms of innovation. It wasn’t until my hands on experience with SBS a year ago that I began to take notice of this game.

Fire Hose has decided to take the proven Tetris formula and modify it for a new generation of multitaskers. Why just drop blocks to form a consistent line when you can use them to build turrets of destruction? Further adding to the frenzy are the devious minions from above who are a constant bother, as they attack not only you, but your blocks as well. Upon their doom, they drop blocks of their own that players then use to build their own defenses. Despite all of this, your goal remains the same: destroy your opponents blocks while maintaining your own. Sure it sounds simple enough, but when you combine everything Fire Hose has thrown in the mix, you have a recipe for a great time. I found myself constantly at odds with building and maintaining the most powerful turrets I could come across, while simultaneously pestering my opponent and his blocks.

Combining different colors of blocks yielded varying results, both offensive and defensive: Green blocks fired slow-moving drills at enemy blocks that performed damage over time, while purple blocks provided concentrated damage to one small area. On the defensive side of things, yellow, or paddle blocks, played ping-pong with enemy weapons and fired them back, while blue ones provided much-needed cover to others within the vicinity. In addition, power-ups occasionally came my way that allowed for increased damage, speed, and the ability to steal an opponent’s turret.

The brilliant display of colors combined with the charismatic characters and enemies will draw your gaze toward the screen. The backgrounds are lush with arresting 3D environments, none of which distract players from all the action up front. What is distracting, however, is the fact that your character blends in with all of the other elements on-screen, thus creating confusion, frequently requiring me to take a moment to gain my bearings. I appreciate full use of the color palette, but would have welcomed something to allow my character to stand out from the rest. If it sounds like a lot is thrown at you at once, that is because there is.

On one hand, I credit SBS for being easily approachable and providing entertainment to a group of non-gamers on a Friday evening, but on the other hand, it is a bit overwhelming.  Further adding to the confusion, my character often obstructed my view of  where I could place my blocks, thereby leading to a misaligned mess. My final complaint is the fact that there is no online multiplayer. Slam Bolt Scrappers is the type of game that begs to be played with others, however the game is limited to 4-player local play. While the single-player campaign, despite clocking in at under three hours, does offer loads of replayability in the form of unlocking new items, a time trial mode, and trophies, it is the key factor of missing online multiplayer that I believe is this title’s greatest shortcoming.

Could this be the PSN title that finally allows the platform’s exclusives to compete with Xbox Live’s offerings? I suppose only time will tell. Judging from my experience with it, I’d say it’s a very good example of what PSN is capable of in regards to a single-player experience, but the lack of online multiplayer is a broken cog in this already damaged machine we call PSN.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Slam Bolt Scrappers was provided for review by Firehose Games. It is available now on PSN for $15

Posted on by Dave Voyles in PSN, PSN Reviews, Reviews

About Dave Voyles

Dave is located in Philadelphia, and works as a Tech Evangelist at Microsoft. He's coordinated the Indie Games Uprisings on Xbox Live, wrote the UnrealScript Game Programming Cookbook, Made an XBLIG game, and is currently doing JS / HTML5 dev for browser base games. You can follow him on Twitter, at @DaveVoyles