App of the Day: Block Rogue

Roll with it.

Version tested iPad

You're trapped in a dungeon and you have amnesia: Block Rogue's set-up doesn't promise too many surprises, but beneath the rather traditional façade lurks a wonderfully quirky adventure. Buzz Monkey's iOS and Android charmer takes elements from the basic Roguelike format (there are a series of caverns for you to explore: how deep can you go?) and throws in the kind of game mechanics that would be more at home in a Sokoban block-dragging puzzler.

Each new room you encounter contains a series of stone slabs and pressure-plates. Guess the drill? You've got it: use the former to weigh down the latter, and then the path opens up for the next room. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The puzzles are wonderfully playful, the simplest involving nothing more than pushing blocks around and occasionally thinking about the best way to tackle a corner, while the more complicated challenges throw in boulders - they will roll until they hit something - switches, and even deadly laser beams. There's a room reset button as well as the option to unpick only your last move, while the game's smallish screens ensure that things never get truly mind-bending in the first place.

This is a game to enjoy in short bursts: a level here at a bus stop, another while you're waiting in the queue at Tescos - although other queues may also be available, of course. Play it the right way, and Block Rogue can be your trusted companion for months on end. It's how mobile gaming should be.

Astonishingly, all of the puzzles in Block Rogue are randomly-generated, which may explain why they're often complicated but rarely truly ingenious. It's still a wonderful feat of programming, though, and I've yet to see a room that was in any way broken.

Meanwhile, although the dungeon's only 25 levels deep, each chamber has one entrance and two exits, meaning that the game map takes the form of an inverted triangle - Dan Brown would be pleased - and you're encouraged to replay your entire crawl, from the bottom to the top and back again, until you've scoured all 325 challenges for the lore pages that paste together the game's rather intricate backstory.

It's clever stuff, then, and it's also rather loveable. Ilbin, the game's stumpy little hero, closely resembles a very early-era Charles Schulz character, and although the animation's pretty limited, it's a joy to see him heaving blocks around, or cupping his chin in open-mouthed wonder as he stares into each room's magic mirror - getting a little more narrative each time he does so, via the game's light-handed plotting. He's a hero you'll be happy to spend time with, in other words, while the game's suite of gentle puzzles ensure you can pick Block Rogue up again after months, even years away from it. Give it a go, I reckon.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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