Block Survival: Legend of the Lost Islands is an adventure, survival game with many familiar elements from various game genres but somehow puts them together in a way that is entirely unique. That in itself is a noteworthy achievement since so many newly released games have me thinking that developers are running out of fresh ideas. Block Survival offers an FPS view, although it's not a typical First Person Shooter, it's got many RPG elements but nor is it a classic Role Playing Game. It also borrows plenty from Minecraft but it's definitely not that either. It's a bit of everything, and also none of it.
Get yourself Block Survival from Steam for only $9.99.
At the start, you find yourself on a plane, no doubt on your way to some fancy vacation spot or high-class business trip. The comic style storybook then tells the story of how things went wrong and how you find yourself stranded on an island as the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash. Behind you is the flaming carcass that used to be aisles A to M and before you is a perilous jungle filled with monstrosities you can scarcely imagine. The plane offers no hope so into the jungle you go.
Sure, the storyline isn't unique by any measure. Throw in a white volleyball and you'll soon imagine yourself sitting around a fire arguing with Wilson, but the game uses this cliche story to send you on a fantastic journey into the unknown.
The gameplay is fairly standard and easy to grasp, but an easy to follow tutorial is included just in case you get lost. Similar to another well-known pixel art game, your first order of business is to walk to the nearest tree and punch your fists bloody until a block of wood pops out, like a giant zit. After collecting your first few blocks, you proceed to your crafting menu to craft your first weapon. Wood alone will give you a club but add some stone and you can put together a nifty machete.
You soon find, to your relief that you are not alone on the island. Unfortunately, the locals do not appreciate strangers and immediately turn hostile. Lucky for you, you now own a club and a machete and no tribal man will get the best of you. Sure they've lived on this island for hundreds, if not thousands of years, surviving in the harshest climates and fending off ferocious animals, but you have a rocky blade and a can-do attitude.
From there the story becomes a bit vague. Occasional pop-ups inform you to either continue exploring or tell you when a specific enemy is in dire need of killing. When you've done all that was asked of you, you come to a floating map which sends you to another island, and oh goody, this one too is filled with homicidal maniacs.
As mentioned, the gameplay is easy enough to grasp and the idea behind the game is apparent from the get-go. Basically, collect all the raw materials you can so you can create better weapons with which you shoot, slice and bash anything that dares to invade your personal space.
This is not an open world game as you might expect. Rather it has a vast landscape with carefully placed structures and cliffs that force you to go into the planned direction. This helps keep you close to your objectives instead of wandering around aimlessly in search of yet more raw materials.
Also, the raw materials are not that plentiful. Any tree can be cut down to provide a block of wood and the remainder of the materials are mostly found within giant rock piles. It's difficult to discern from the rocks what you'll get when you destroy it but generally it's some form of rock or metal. As you may have guessed by now, these materials are then used to craft additional weapons, but nothing else. That's right, there's no home or castle building here, and since you're meant to keep traveling to different islands, I suspect building a home would just be an unnecessary waste of time.
The raw materials are rather ambiguous though. There's wood, dark wood, hardened wood and dark, hardened wood. There's also stone and dark stone, metal and dark metal, iron and dark iron… You get the idea. There are a few others but these are the main items you'll be dabbling with. Since the items are so much alike, it's difficult to know what you'll need to create your next weapon and as such you find yourself spending a lot of time just browsing through your crafting list to check if you have the needed materials to create your latest recipes. The recipes are found all around the islands but aren't needed to create a new item. However, since the recipes don't really make any sense, it's near impossible to accidentally create something without knowing what's needed. That said, at least they didn't wait until version 1.12 to include a recipe book, I'm looking at you Mojang.
The majority of raw materials you find are of the wood and rock variety. The others are pretty rare and since some recipes require up to 15 or more pieces or dark iron for example, some items will take quite a while to craft. Luckily for you, the islands are filled with old Chinese gentlemen who've set up shop in the middle of nowhere. They offer you anything from recipes to raw materials, to a variety of additional items like grenades, food, and fighting chickens. The currency used is gold, which you collect every time you slay an enemy. You can also upgrade each of your weapons here a maximum of 4 times. Each upgrade becomes exponentially more expensive and improves your ammo supply, accuracy or fire rate etc.
There is a problem however. While there are numerous ranged weapons available in Block Survival, the gameplay does seem to focus more on using melee weapons. Melee weapons do much, much more damage than most firearms. My trusty axe could do up to 150 damage points with a single swing while a hit from an AK47 would do as little as 15. Ammo is also rather scarce which has you always playing conservatively and saving your better firearms for only the strongest opponents.
It also has to be said that actually hitting your target, regardless of the size or its distance from you, is no walk in the park. Most of the weapons are highly inaccurate to start with, and you can see the bullets flying way past your cursor, but on top of that, this mechanic is also frustratingly buggy. I've emptied entire clips on giants right in front of me and done no damage at all even though I see the bullets go right into it.
Like Minecraft, the graphics in Block Survival go back to the days of old and offer its players some fantastic pixely goodness. Also like Minecraft this is also what forms part of the charm. Block Survival doesn't try to take itself seriously and makes it clear that no one else should either. This game is meant to be fun above all else, and it is.
The range of enemies is truly incredible. In less than 10 hours of gameplay I've come across modern soldiers, South-American like guerrilla forces, ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman soldiers, Aztec Jaguar Warriors, Vikings and even biped robots. Wait till the sun sets and suddenly zombies and skeletal warriors start spawning and don't forget the vast amount of wild animals ranging from bears to wolves to tigers.
In addition, the range of weapons at your disposal is staggering. Melee weapons include the above-mentioned club and machete but there's also a katana, axe, pick and even a "light saber". Ranged weapons include a number of bows and various firearms such as dual pistols, WW2 Luger, AK47, AK74, flamethrower, uzi, cubegun, M16, and many more. Despite the basic graphics, each one of the items and units look distinctly different and I applaud the designers for what they've achieved here.
However, while the arts and crafts department has done an outstanding job, the developers leave a little to be desired. There may be vastly different enemies available but they all act exactly the same. Essentially it feels like they've created the same unit and just clothed them differently. Even the boss battles all feel the same as the one before. There is one cool thing I'd like to mention though and that's the slow motion effect you get when killing a few enemies which has you standing in awe as your fallen foe flies through the air after being impaled by one of your blades.
Block Survival has a good number of flaws in both design and gameplay, the most notable of which is the difficulty in using ranged weaponry. However, it has so much personality it's difficult to stay mad at it for long.
You quickly realize that the target audience here is children. Sure, adults will find some entertainment but the simplistic gameplay will grow stale after a while. The tragedy, in my opinion, is that with a few small tweaks this game could have been a classic for all age groups, not just those in pre-puberty. That said, this is a fantastic game for those with snot noses and buck teeth, it's good fun and while it includes action, it doesn't fall into the realm of grotesque violence.
I'd recommend this game to every parent out there, and when you've put your bundle of joy to bed, launch it yourself and have a few laughs.