Mining and Crafting with The Blockheads

blockheadsThe Blockheads is a free-to-play iPad and Android game, in which players explore a sandbox-style, procedurally-generated world, where they can build with with blocks. The game has a strong resemblance to another, very popular game full of, um, mining and crafting, if you know what I’m saying.

Only Blockheads is cuter, and offers a better UI. (In the time it took me to quit walking into things and punching trees in Minecraft, I had a Blockheads house and garden going.) The world is surprisingly pretty, considering almost everything is a cube, and includes distinct biomes to explore. Or just raid for resources, I’m not judging. The world cycles through seasons and times of day, creating lovely sunrises and snowfalls on my blocky domain.

Players can customize and name their Blockhead avatar, allowing for much more personality than Minecraft’s default Steve, without complex modding. Avatars can be female too, to the great excitement of several Minecraft-ing ladies I know. I love mining and exploring even more if I can do it with pretty hair.

Unfortunately, Blockheads also resembles Minecraft with some of the tedious inventory management. Does anyone enjoy this? Does opening trunks and baskets add anything to gameplay at all? (Is it for realism, after I just hit a tree with a shovel until it became cubes of wood?)

Blockheads can be a big world for a little avatar, so warp in a second, playable Blockhead, play a local game with a friend, or join multiplayer games through GameCenter. Most of my local, multiplayer game experience was Civ marathons in college, which usually involved about an hour of network troubleshooting before a game could start, and so I’m still amazed when it only takes a couple of seconds to send a Blockhead into a friend’s world.

Like most free-to-play games, Blockheads offers real money options to speed up game progress, Players can either buy time crystals to spend on speeding specific actions or buy a speeding powerup for everything. And, like most free-to-play games, Blockheads slows down game progress enough to make those in-app purchases tempting. My complaint is not with Blockheads itself — this charming game is well worth a much higher price point — but with the common monetization model of demanding payment to correct game balance in freemium games. It’s sad that floods of freemium games make it harder for iOs developers to just set a price for a game, and there’s something particularly soul-crushing in suckifying a game and then charging to unsuck it.

boat blockheadsBlockheads offers the addictive gameplay of exploring a randomized world, and uncovering treasure-filled caves, growing a sweet little garden, making and dyeing clothes, building homes (but why build a house when you can build greenhouses and igloos and underwater palaces?), making furniture and decor, and generally creative gaming. Blockheads further encourages imaginative play by giving achievements for everything from the obvious to the ridiculous, from the exciting entrance to the iron age or the discovery of the North Pole, to the ridiculous creation of a tin-foil hat.

I will spare you the detailed descriptions of all my blocky building adventures, but I’m pretty pleased with my indoor plumbing, secret treasure room, multi-biome greenhouse, and of course the Blockheads version of my favorite outfit.

Oh, and you don’t need a wifi connection for single player, making the Blockheads world an ideal escape from wherever you’re stuck.

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