Nov 12, 2012
Martian Mansions may be based on a classic game, but a few seconds spent on the game and you’ll realize it’s not as easy as Tetris. For starters, the environment of falling blocks is in 3D, and blocks are lined up to form a cylinder instead of a straight wall, making the game harder than usual.
Although the execution differs from the classic Tetris game, Martian Mansions‘ game objective remains faithful to its predecessor — which is basically piling blocks without leaving gaps to clear them out and prevent falling blocks to accumulate on top. But there’s more to playing the game than one might think.
Blocks are shaped to form a cylinder instead of a straight wall. To ensure that the first block layer is filled, one must rotate the platform to avoid dropping blocks on the same spot. As in Tetris, individual falling blocks can be rotated on midair to fit the gaps made by other blocks. Once a layer has all areas filled, it disappears, giving more room for incoming blocks. If the blocks are getting crowded and there is an urgent need to clear lower blocks, two “filler” blocks are available to tap on (located on the upper left corner of the screen). These blocks can fill in little or big gaps at the time when they’re badly needed. However, the number of special blocks one can use for this is limited, so one has to use them wisely.
After playing the game for a few days, I realized that game control buttons might be the reason that I have a hard time clearing blocks. The left/right buttons for rotations are on opposite ends of the screen, and in the middle is the rotate button for falling blocks. This setup caused me to rotate blocks when I meant to rotate the platform to the left. With other games, the left/right buttons are next to each other, while the shoot/jump/do-whatever button sits on its own on the opposite side.
Graphics are fairly good, and the alien-themed design certainly puts a modern spin on a classic game. Performance is also great, as there are no lags or delays in animations or responses to touch. This is not a problem at all, and at times I wished it was especially when I make bad brick drops and it’s too late to adjust them.
One interesting thing about Martian Mansions is that there is no way to check how many worlds or levels are left to be completed. The game just shows a simple animation, and tapping the play button immediately starts the game. I haven’t gone too far into the levels, so there is really no telling what kind of re-play value one can expect from this game.
Martian Mansions is a fresh and interesting way to play an old and forgotten game. However, it might need a bit of improvement in terms of game controls and overall navigational design. Having played the game, I can say it’s off to a good start, although it has plenty of room for improvement to make it more player-friendly.