There’s this game that came out a few years ago where you stack interlocking blocks together to make complete lines. Yeah, it’s Tetris. Most people have played it at some point in their life and, for most of THOSE people, the game is just about perfect. How do you improve perfection? Well Fire Hose Games have decided to take a shot at it with Slam Bolt Scrappers, a game that combines Tetris’ block stacking with an exciting amalgamation of tower defense and beat-em up. Is it really possible to improve on an already amazing foundation? Let’s find out.
The game starts you out with a simple, yet completely necessary tutorial. There’s a lot going on in Slam Bolt, so you’ll want to sit through the two different levels at least once. Basically, your chosen character is tasked with both defending/building your tower as well as fighting your opponent and various monsters. For the sake of making this make sense, we’ll break it up into 2 pieces.
First, the blocks: There are several different block types, each with their own effect. Red blocks are missile turrets, blue are shields, purple are lasers, etc… there are a ton. The bigger your block, the more powerful the weapon will be. A 2×2 red block will shoot missiles just fine, but a 10×10 red block will decimate the enemy. You’ll have to balance these different block types as you build to make the best use of your limited space, and to get the best mix of artillery.
This would be challenge enough as is, but you’ll also have to go toe-to-toe with the enemy. Basic melee, combos, and power ups all make the task more doable, but it gets tough. Not only are you competing with an enemy turret builder, but also dozens of minions who are constantly taking shots at your blocks.
So, you’re strategically building towers, fighting off minions, and making sure your opponent can’t take his time building up his own tower. Yeah, there’s a lot going on. I’d like to say that it isn’t all a bit overwhelming, but it is. It can be hard to focus on any objective, let alone all of them at once. Your opponent(s) will kill you at the most inconvenient times, and they somehow manage to always have the right blocks at the right time. It’s not fair to write this off as a flaw in the game; that definitely isn’t the case, but it is extremely difficult at times and playing on harder difficulty levels can be comparable to punching yourself in the face.
The campaign takes you through a series of locales featuring the obligatory lava, ice, city, and island themes, each with multiple levels, and bosses mixed in. The bosses are the highlight. Each boss fight is truly unique, and each requires you to rethink your strategy and approach it from a different angle, as if the game needs MORE variety.
The real fun in Slam Bolt comes in the co-op. Playing through the campaign with a buddy is really a great time, and it alleviates quite a bit of the pressure. An oppressive game becomes infinitely easier when one player can build and the other can protect. But with more players, comes a higher emphasis on strategy: communication is key. If you’ve got a plan in mind to build up a hige cannon tower, it sucks when your partner drops a blue block on top. Sadly, I wasn’t able to try the 4-player co-op as the game doesn’t support online multiplayer. With both co-op, and competitive multiplayer and team-heavy gameplay, Slam Bolt Scrappers is perfect for online support but the feature just wasn’t included.
It’s apparent that Fire Hose put a lot of heart into their product, and they’ve definitely taken the age-old Tetris gameplay to the next level. What they’ve created with Slam Bolt Scrappers really is something special, but the lack of online functionality and often daunting difficulty level keep it from reaching block-stacking perfection. What it does though, it does extremely well. There’s no reason to pass this one up.
Final Score: [starreview tpl=16]