Aloof is a real hidden gem of a puzzle fighter game that doesn’t reveal its secrets immediately. This unassuming looking puzzle game which has blocks moving into spaces ala Tetris and plenty of other games of the ilk looks like another one in the crowd. Yet after several hours, I felt I was only just getting to grips with how strategic and clever the unique twist of Aloof was. Read on…
Unlike most other games in this genre, you are matching blocks of five or more of the same colour but it’s the shape you make them connect that matters most. You receive two blocks at a time but they don’t descend down the screen, instead, you choose when and where they drop. There is also nothing to stop you from sticking blocks into the side of other blocks too like stickle bricks. What’s more crazy is you can flip your playing area and have a totally fresh area to play with. Indeed building up chains of five or more blocks on either side of your playing area is key to the game. Initially, this sounds strange but it all makes sense when you play.
You see each character has HP and you send a wave of damage over to your enemy when you match five or more same coloured blocks together. The problem is that the HP is guarded by a shield that your first attack will disable for only about three seconds. You need to chain up your second attack immediately afterwards to really cause any damage. This is where the shape of your match comes into play. In the sky are constellations which if you match, you can take over. These stars form a building that slowly fills up and so long as you are in control of the building when its full, you take over that building. Buildings bring more HP points and also a way to heal yourself if you match the same pattern again. The counterbalance is that if your opponent now makes that shape, the shape does you more damage beyond just taking down your shield.
How this works in practice is that you aim to take over tricky patterns to gain HP points and avoid the simpler shapes where possible. This is because your enemy will then make several of them in a row, send them over and potentially KO you. Some matches can be won by owning all the buildings in a landslide victory too. This is why you choose when to drop blocks, which side of your playing area you want to use and so on. Timing is critical to success. If you mess up you can flush all your blocks out and start again with the only penalty being time.
Where Aloof comes into its own though is when you start playing with other players. 1v1 is fine – although both players need to understand the rules to get a good game going. It’s when it is 2 players versus the AI or 2 other players though where Aloof shines brightest. This is because you must work together as a team to send combos across. One player will do the initial blow and then you can have your teammate send a power devastating shape across when the defences are down. If you don’t work together, most of your moves won’t be timed for when the shield is down. It is a genuinely unique and frantic experience.
You can play 1-4 players locally and online in 1v1 or 2v2 games. Matchmaking runs in the background so you can get some practice against AI if you want to. The online mode ran well although the player base is very small at the moment. Story mode can be played in single-player or co-op too which is a great addition. My only mild complaint is that my friends and I found Aloof’s depressed graphical and sound vibe marmite. Some adored the melancholy midi piano and thunder sounds. Others wanted something that evoked drama and passion. It is a personal taste thing but it’s different to the norm for sure.
Ultimately Aloof stands tall and proud by doing puzzle fighter games differently. It is engrossing to play, takes a while to really perfect and keeps giving over and over from battle to battle. I very much recommend it – especially for co-op battles.
Review code provided by publisher.
Hidden tactics and nifty tricks are hidden with this gem of a block puzzler.
Unique twists on the usual block puzzle battle mechanics.
Highly strategic and timing based gameplay ensures skill wins far more than luck.
Online and offline multiplayer should keep you busy.
Absolutely superb in co-op battles.
Its drab end of days setting feels somewhat at odds with the gameplay.
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