Billed as the world’s smallest city builder, The Block is not quite a game, more of a fidgety digital toy. It’s a very niche experience (what else do you expect from me) but the idea is one of designing within limitations and boundaries. As a creative person, The Block scratched a very unusual itch, but its certainly not for everyone.
Each game in The Block starts you off with a blank block. The smallest is a 3×3 square block up to the largest block like a 10×10 and each block is divided up into squares. You start from the centre and begin to drop down randomly generated pieces of a city block. It could be trees, houses, chapels, lights, stalls or bare ground. Everything comes in different patterns and heights and using the mouse wheel you can rotate the square round before placing it. If you don’t like what’s being given to you, right click and try what comes next. Place down something in every square in the block and then it gloriously spins around. That’s it. That’s the game.
For something small in scope and with a price point to match, The Block is a novel oddity. I found myself building blocks with a random trigger finger spam, blocks where I carefully placed everything to create patterns or mini districts or very specific designs or rows. It’s satisfying to see your block build up so quickly overly time and because small blocks take literally seconds and larger ones just a few minutes, The Block is a perfect palette cleanser between games. I also found myself setting design challenges like don’t swap anything out or you can only use X type of block. As the game is quite narrow in scope, it was a fun design challenge to try.
There are a few things to warn about though. Firstly, the amount of pieces that are generated are quick small and so design options are limited. More annoying though is the lack of an undo button. I found myself trying to build symmetrical designs and one wrong move ruins your work. I also ran into issues where the camera position wouldn’t let me click into an empty space as I’d built tall things around an empty block. When this happens it renders the block incompletable and so your design goes in the bin. Essentially, that’s where all your designs go though. Alongside an undo button, the other key feature missing here is saving blocks to show them off. I’d recommend screenshotting them to share through Steam if you are interested.
My parting words are to help you decide if this is for you. If you are looking for happy accidents in quick town building toys for fun, I’d recommend Townscaper over this instead. If you want a micro town builder where you can place every block exactly how you want it however, The Block may be more to your liking.
Review copy was provided from the developer. The Block will be out on Steam 16th December 2022.
Its niche scope will not appeal to many, but if you enjoy a quick fire design challenge The Block will scratch an unusual itch.
Instant results in a few seconds.
Oddly satisfying when you see your block build out over time.
Perfect for a 2 or 3 minute design dump.
Camera sometimes obscures clickable square points rendering blocks unfinishable.
Lack of undo button can really frustrate.
Every block is ephemeral meaning you'll have no long lasting catalogue of your work.
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