Thanks to Zenfa Productions for the Wii U review code
Title: Drop It! Block Paradise
System: Wii U (eShop)/Steam
Release Date: 12/25/2019 (Wii U), 02/13/2023 (Steam)
This review is coming out at a very tricky time, with no good excuse on my end: I completely fumbled priorities in the original plan to review the Wii U version in the earliest part of 2020. Queue positions shifted, free time slipped due to the impending world situation, and I had put this and the last 3DS game I got for review in a small pocket of the review queue, off to the side as I focused on the shiny, newer stuff…
Well, with the impending Wii U shutdown coming in mere weeks, it’s better late than never to finally review the final Wii U eShop game for Seafoam Gaming. Luckily, this was also just in time for a recent steam release, which I purchased of my own accord to compare and contrast with the Wii U edition. Nine years later, the system that started my reviewer journey comes to a close, with a game pretty similar to one of the first indies I played on it!
Both versions of the game use the same art style, which is cartoony and fun, providing bright colors and variety throughout the worlds. You have two characters that serve as the mascots giving advice throughout the adventure, and the background music are average up-beat melodies that fit just fine for the type of game this is. And hey, unlike prior Block puzzlers on Wii U, this one uses sound effects pretty darn well.
Of course, being a game originally meant for the Wii U in mind, it has a touch focus, and on Wii U both the TV and gamepad display the same image, which looks fine. The blocks and stars look to have an arts and crafts theme to them, so each stage almost feels like you’re peering into a decorative construction box. The Steam version does polish up a lot of these aspects, from differences in the UI (such as the world maps being split into pages) and some visual touch-ups in spots, along with the addition of seventy brand new bonus levels to offer even more to the package, but neither version looks bad.
You’ve almost certainly seen a ton of variations of this sort of game already; remove blocks from an unstable formation to guide an object to stable ground, and get up to three stars per stage for doing it in as few moves as possible. That ironically was also the foundation for some very simple Wii U games in a series known as BLOK DROP U, and Block Paradise ends up using that gameplay as well, but with a lot more polish than those earlier Wii U efforts.
Right from the onset the Wii U version of Block Paradise definitely has one edge over the recent rereleases thanks to the Wii U gamepad screen being much friendlier for this kind of game than other devices, especially with that big screen and comfortable stylus. Since all you do is just touch the objects you want to interact with, doing so on a dedicated tablet is much snappier than say, my Steam Deck, which works decently well, but the touch capabilities of the Deck are far more picky than that of the Wii U, just by sheer nature. Thankfully you can use the trackpad for better results and use a cursor to point and emulate a left mouse click (and you can even map keyboard keys to just number blocks in a sequence, and then delete them in that order with a key press) but the Wii U version has it beat in comfortability.
With that said, the recent ports do include some extra bonuses, with the Steam one at least having a handy level editor and online community of stages to play with, along with a section of seventy bonus stages, completely absent from the Wii U version. Both versions still have the four main worlds to play through however, which play as your typical balance puzzler affair, introducing more gimmicks as the worlds go on, from varying hazards that can outright destroy your star, to items such as bombs and balloons to impact their momentum.
The stages mostly play one after the other, so you can pretty much marathon these in your play sessions, which really helps the game be a quick pick up and play puzzler. Thankfully the game does offer a few aspects of leeway in case you get stuck on a tricky level, with branching paths on the world map and a limited amount of level skips you can use to focus on other levels. There’s also the fact that the online stages in the Steam version are another outlet of playing stages after you’re sick of the main ones, but unfortunately I didn’t find too many that particularly wowed me at the time of recording, with the bonus levels being the far more interesting batch of stages exclusive to the newer version.
In conclusion, Block Paradise may seem like yet another one of several hundred casual block puzzle games that came and went on the Wii U, and in most regards that’s indeed what Block Paradise is. Yet even with a simple concept, Block Paradise manages to control comfortably, be super affordable, and is quick and easy to play, with levels I found far more cleverly designed than the ones of the Blok Drop U variety; especially when it comes to the Steam version’s bonus levels. The presentation is colorful and very charming, and the Steam version’s level editor gives that port a very enticing way to play this simple puzzler for far longer than the decent in-game levels can provide, and ultimately as a Wii U game, it’s a fitting swan song for not just the final SFG Wii U review, but really as being one of the final notable US Wii U eShop games in general. It seemed to originally have a Miiverse focus and the level editor from the steam release planned, but both of those features got cut when Block Paradise finally dropped on Wii U in the US, so the Steam version picks up that slack plus brings along a little more polish, even if the Wii U gamepad is just flat-out a better control method.
Sure, the recent ports definitely enter a fiercer market than the small and friendlier Wii U ecosystem, but to be blunt, this is still a very solid puzzler game for $3, and manages to maintain a high fun factor despite some limitations, even if you give this a spin on an inferior touch screen like the Steam Deck or use a mouse on a desktop to click the blocks away. If you want snappy touch controls, go Wii U. If you want a Level Editor and more polish/content, then go with any of the modern reissues; What you see is what you get, but as a fitting end to the Wii U eShop reviews, I feel Block Paradise is a good afternoon of puzzling action regardless of where you play it, and definitely worth spending that last bit of eShop cash.
I give Drop It! Block Paradise a 7 out of 10.