Block Block Review: An Arcade Classic No One Played!

With Capcom being one of my all time favorite game companies, I had thought I knew all of their games, especially their arcade games. The release of Capcom Classic Collection Volume 2 proved me wrong, as it was through this compilation that I would learn about the existence of games like Speed Rumbler, Side Arms and Block Block, the latter of which really intrigued me at the time. How seemingly obscure is Block Block? As of this writing (November 2018) it doesn't even have a freakin' Wikipedia page! According to one of my high school friends who is a big guru about everything arcade related, Block Block was distributed in extremely limited quantities in 1991 which is why seemingly no one -- bar the most obsessive Capcom fan -- has ever heard of it. Furthermore, the Video Arcade Preservation Society only has 12 dedicated Block Block cabinets registered on it.

Gameplay

Even before I played it, I guessed from the title that Block Block was gonna be some kinda block puzzle game like Tetris or Panel de Pon. And I was right. Block Block is what you would call a "Breakout clone" similar to Arkanoid by Taito for Capcom's Mitchell hardware and was originally made with dial controls. The supporting materials say some silliness about how the game "is a test from the gods for mortals to unlock wisdom" I'm only mildly exaggerating here. You boot up the game and are greeted by some cute fairies prancing about on the title screen. But I'm not looking for a yarn, I'm here to bash some blocks!

There's two game modes: Beginner Course and Normal Course. Beginner Course is a good warm up if you've never played a Breakout type game, but the meat of the game is the Normal Course, of course. The early stages borrow heavily from Breakout and it's imitators, but clever layouts, power-ups and obstacles keep things interesting. Even the classic Capcom Yashichi makes a cameo! Every time the ball rebounds, your paddle degrades. This makes the game both hectic and surprisingly strategic. This is all good because there's 50 stages in the Normal Course campaign and we don't want things to get boring. I've done a few full playthroughs of Block Block and they've all totaled over an hour.

When I play Block Block, using my PS1 ASCII arcade stick feels... almost right. It's about as close to the dial controls I can get. Sadly, I haven’t had the privilege of playing the real McCoy but I’ve played a custom (not original) cabinet of Block Block with dial controls made by a hobbyist and those felt the best. For best results, play this game co-op. Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your kid-brother, whichever, whoever. Easily the most fun multiplayer experience I've had with a Breakout clone. Come to think of it, are there any other Breakout clones with co-op play?

Conclusion

Block Block is surprisingly lengthy and substantial for what could easily be dismissed as a mere retread of a 70's arcade game. It suffered terribly from coming out way too late, Street Fighter II came out earlier that year and from so few cabinets being made. Or maybe Capcom wanted it to be an oddity and everything went according to plan. Who knows? There's barely any info on this game out there in the ether. For me, I think it's one of their most underappreciated games and it's my favorite Breakout clone.

If you want to try Block Block yourself but aren't willing to track down an obscure as hell arcade cabinet, it can be played on Capcom Classics Collection Volume 2 for PlayStation 2 and Xbox and was also included in Capcom Classics Collection Remixed for PSP. Though I found the PSP version to be the least playable.

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