In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure how to address The Block, as there’s nothing quite like it. Sure, there are other city builders out there, and you could argue that the closest comparison would be Tinytopia, BUT… There aren’t any objectives in the game. Is it even a game?
From the same creative juices as the superb The Ramp and published by Future Friends (Omno and Exo One), Paul Schnepf’s ickle art installation also focuses on minimalism and how to successfully chill when sitting at your desk. Perhaps it has those same goals of picking it up at any point, building a digital diorama, then good back to your essay, spreadsheet or NSFW memes. That’s certainly how it felt for me.
In The Block, you choose one of five tilesets (XS to XL). The first square will be occupied, then you simply scroll through some random buildings or vegetation, then arrange them in the most aesthetically pleasing manner. There’s no right or wrong. Don’t think, feel. Cheers, Bruce. Seriously though, that’s all there is to it.
Returning to the minimalist element, there’s a toggle for a mini toolkit that will remind you of the options, i.e. how to rotate a piece and whatnot. There aren’t any modifiers or scores to keep track of, nor are there any daily challenges. That might seem aimless, but that’s the concept. Almost to humour the review at first, I steamed through a few maps, making some pretty nice scenes, but for the early experiences, I was a bit dismissive. However, with repeat plays, I found myself going deeper down the rabbit hole and taking my time with my ‘builds’, often screenshotting my work of art for future reference.
I can’t sugarcoat The Block and say it’ll replace your mindfulness course on Udemy or take the place of that bubble wrap under your desk, but it will chill you out and perhaps realign your day/evening a bit better without having to stress about boss battles, RPG errands or asking your folks for their credit card as you need to buy some loot to catch up with your mates. Everything is there for you from the outset, and you’re free to create. There isn’t the most extensive library of trees, churches and snowmen, but for what’s on offer? Check out this pocket city builder if you fancy something different from the typical triple-A title.