The game I decided to play for my first critique blog is Bloxorz. The main motivation for this decision was mainly nostalgic reasons. I played a lot of miniclip games during my childhood and Bloxorz is published on miniclip.com so I thought why not?
It is developed by coolmathgames. The platform is PC/Web browser (Flash) and you need internet to play the game online. The game is listed as a problem solving/puzzle game related to spatial awareness.
The big list of games mentions Bloxorz’s learning objective as problem solving specifically in spatial awareness. Although there is no official documentation that explicitly says the learning objectives of the game is “problem solving”, I can see how the game relates to it. The game is actually classed as a puzzle game in the publisher’s websites. Coolmathgames on the other hand suggests that you will get a mental workout by solving the challenges in their game.
While playing Bloxorz, I did feel the game gets challenging as you progress through it but I’m not entirely sure as to how it was helping my spatial awareness if at all.
The game incorporates very simple mechanics and dynamics. The mechanics involve using the W,A,S,D keys as well as the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the solid block.
The dynamics of the game are straightforward, you have to move a rectangular block into a rectangular hole. The catch is; If you fall off the edges you have to restart. So you can only move the block on its edges in specific orientations. There are pressure pads (X and O), on which if you land, the tile may change.
There are also different types of tiles which behave differently based on the orientation of your block.
By following all these guidelines, you have to move your block with the right combination of movements to fall through the hole and proceed to the next stage. There are 33 stages in total which get challenging as the levels progress. The number of moves you take till you complete the level are also tracked which can challenge you to solve the stages more time-efficiently. I thought this was a nice way of using gameplay to challenge the players.
One of the learning principles that is relevant to this game is pretraining.
From an educational perspective, pretraining is basically providing exposure to key concepts before the actual lesson to help you retain information better.
In Bloxorz, pretraining is used right in the beginning of the game to introduce you to the game’s mechanics and dynamics before you can go ahead and play.
It is presented in the form of 9 pages of instructions right before you enter the game.
One issue for me was this bombardment of all the information right at the beginning into 9 pages of instructions.
I couldn’t recall everything from every slide so I just went with the flow of the game and figured it out. I think the game could have used this learning principle to support its learning objective in a better way. For example, it could have presented only the relevant information for the initial stage and presented the other information in a staggered manner as you progressed through the game.
I think Bloxorz definitely succeeds as a game. The mechanics are very simple and support the dynamics very well. It has no bugs, is easy to run and play and I do get a sense of satisfaction from completing the different stages of the game. I can see how people would enjoy this game to kill time or just challenge themselves for some mental workout.
There is definitely problem solving happening in each of the 33 stages of the game as it’s a puzzle. Nonetheless, I fail to understand how the game helps me develop my spatial awareness so it’s use as an educational game may be a stretch in my opinion.