One of the most addictive puzzlers on handhelds

Blek is a puzzle game, released in December 2013, and has been addicting and frustrating players in equal measure ever since. Developed by two brothers, it is quite a unique proposition, with mechanics that few games have used before or since. Essentially, the game is made up of sixty levels, each containing a number of colored circles. You must draw a single line on the screen, which will then repeat itself until it either hits the top or the bottom, or a black circle. Think of it like a heart-rate monitor in a hospital. You draw a triangle, for example, and it will then repeat across the screen so that you have a jagged line stretching all the way. The game is entirely two dimensional, and has been produced in a calligraphic and simple style.

This is not a game for the undetermined. There is no tutorial whatsoever to explain the huge variety of lines that you can draw. The first time you play, it is hard to get to grips with just what it is that you are able to do - you will try just flinging a single, straight line at the dots, or just drawing between them with your finger. In fact, you have to draw your line well away from the colored dots and allow it to repeat itself around the screen until it hits all the others. The early levels do help get you up to speed, but it is well worth using a guide or watching some videos to see what else you are able to do - you won't have tried everything without seeing how other people play the game.

As the level number increases, so does the difficulty, and every so often you will find one that stumps you completely. The beauty of Blek, however, is that there are always multiple ways to complete each challenge. Two people will likely find entirely different tactics for passing the same level, and this also means that the more you experiment with the game, the more you will be rewarded. Persistence generally will end with you finding a solution to the puzzle, but you also have to be very resolute not to cheat and look up the answer if you don't want the game to be tarnished. Sometimes a puzzle will seem completely impossible, and often you have to look at it from a completely different angle to find the answer.

The game begins with just a few colored circles to hit with your line, but by the end there will also be ones that rotate and, when they are hit, they shoot out a missile which may be used to hit other circles. Also, some are protected by a black ring, which must be hit with a missile before you get the colored one within. Apparently, in developing the game, the developers worked backwards to ensure that every puzzle is possible to complete. While it may not seem like it at times, you will be able to make it to the end of the game with enough perseverance.

Blek is a paid-for game, costing a few dollars on the App Store. For the amount of time and interest you will get out of it, this is definitely a reasonable price. The sixty levels will keep you busy for hours and it is a great game to show to family and friends to see their attempts at passing the levels. You can also go back through the levels so that if you are stuck, you can replay some to hone your skills. Graphically it is a very clean proposition, and the audio is fine. For a puzzle game it has a refined feel to it, and at times looks like a work of modern art.

What stops Blek from being added to the list of iconic puzzlers is its lack of willingness to accommodate those less-determined players mentioned earlier. It desperately needs a tutorial to teach you the variety of moves on offer - it is unusual for a premium game to be so light on help and options. A hint system wouldn't go amiss, and you can't help but feel the developers have missed an opportunity to make it more compelling - giving players lives (perhaps a free version where you are limited in your attempts would go down well) and structuring it in some way. You can't play it for too long without finding it quite repetitive and frustrating. As it stands, Blek is a list of levels, very intelligently designed and using an innovative mechanic, but a little short in a few areas.
4.3 / 5.0
review by MongooseGeneral | Sep 8th 2014

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