After the huge disappointment of 3D Brick Breaker Revolution from Digital Chocolate, I wasn’t exactly eager to play any more of their games. That title sported an awful 3D graphics engine, poor controls, and overly difficult gameplay and Achievements. Surprisingly, Digital Chocolate’s other Xbox Live title, Tower Bloxx: New York is far less offensive. It’s still nothing special, but fans of casual games may enjoy it.

Climb the stairs past the break for our full review.

For people who like stacking things

While Xbox Live puzzler Implode! is all about destroying buildings, most of Tower Bloxx: New York’s gameplay revolves around building them. Square pieces of buildings (each representing one floor) swing back and forth from a crane. Tapping the screen makes the piece drop. If it’s the base, it can land anywhere on the ground, but every subsequent piece must connect successfully to the one below it.

Perfectly aligned pieces create a more stable building and start a combo timer, with each following perfect awarding multiplied points. You might expect that planting the base in the center of the screen would be the key to building a steady building. Actually, planting the building all the way on the right side of the screen works better. It’s much easier to judge when the hanging piece is at its right-most point than when it’s perfectly centered.

Blocks can land fairly far from the center of the one below them, but you get less points and the building starts to sway. This makes it much tougher to land the next pieces well. If a falling block strikes the very edge of another block, it knocks both of them off the building. Failing to land pieces like that either costs players lives or time, depending on the mode.

Sliding blocks

A secondary gameplay style pops up in several of Tower Bloxx’s modes: Renovation. Players must fix up a wobbly building within a strict time limit. By quickly sliding each piece into the right place, you can reach perfect alignment and win the challenge. Renovating buildings might actually be fun if only this mode included sound effects. Without audio feedback, it’s tough to judge whether pieces are a millimeter or off or in the correct position. It’s a shame Digital Chocolate made such an obvious oversight. Note: renovation mode isn't shown in the available screenshots.

Quite a few modes

I expected a low-budget casual game like this to only have one or two modes, but it actually offers a fair number of ways to play.

  • Quick Game: The simple tower building experience in which the game lasts forever or until you run out of lives. A height chart compares the player’s tower with real-world buildings after the game ends. Three of the game’s five Achievements can be scored in this mode.
  • Board Game: Tower Bloxx’s surprisingly lengthy campaign mode. A map of New York is divided into five regions, each of which makes up a level. Level are made up of boards that contains from 6 to 28 squares. The object is to fill as many of the land squares as possible with buildings, while also earning all the Happiness (points) you can. Only a few lands are buildable initially – the rest much be unlocked by drawing the right cards.

    The player draws a card every turn. Just like with real board games that use cards, these can be helpful or hurtful. Good cards allow land to be unlocked, buildings to be built, land to be upgraded (awarding a bonus for building on it), upgrading buildings, awarding powerups, and more. Harmful cards can cause you to lose a turn, happiness, or be unable to build certain building types or land types.

    Board Game mode actually adds a fair amount of complexity to an otherwise simple game. For instance, players must eventually choose between four different types of buildings to make. Blue towers are all-purpose; red ones make adjacent blue buildings happier; yellow monuments generate happiness every turn (instead of all at once); and green skyscrapers are 40 blocks high, giving them the highest potential for happiness. But skyscrapers require upgraded land to be built, can’t be next to a blue building or they reduce its happiness to zero, and they’re just tough to build straight.
  • Time Attack: Try to build the tallest tower you can in 30 seconds. Perfect block drops and reaching height milestones increases the timer.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: Like Gravity Guy, Tower Bloxx offers the seldom-seen feature of same-screen multiplayer. Whereas other parts of the game are played with the phone in a vertical orientation, this mode is played horizontally. Multiplayer is also split-screen, with the left player in charge of constructing a building and the right player renovating the same building. Kids would probably like it, though renovating is significantly less enjoyable than building.
  • Challenges: Throughout Board Game Mode, 15 timed challenges pop up now and then. Here each challenge can be played on its own. They involve reaching certain heights, happiness levels, or renovating towers within a time limit.

Run-of-the-mill art

While the latest iPhone Tower Bloxx game uses 3D graphics, New York is a 2D affair. The block sprites are colorful and show a good level of depth. Tower Bloxx’s backgrounds exhibit a bit of personality, with people using umbrellas to float around for some reason, and the scenery changing as you get higher. But the backgrounds don’t get creative enough to keep the game from having a largely generic appearance.

As for the elevator-style music, it gets old super quickly and I turned it off after only one game. The building sound effects work pretty well, though as I said before, renovation mode is strangely silent.

Achievements

The Xbox Live Arcade version of Tower Bloxx has some ridiculously time-consuming and difficult Achievements. Thankfully, the mobile version includes just five easy-to-get ones. Three are tied to Quick Play with the other two coming from Board Game. Had the developers given Time Attack and Challenges their own Achievements, gamers would probably spend a lot more time in those modes. Still, the journey through Board Game mode will give most gamers their money's worth.

Overall Impression

Tower Bloxx: New York’s core gameplay is the definition of casual, with simple to understand controls and rules and a fair amount of challenge. But I never really got into the building gameplay, and the renovation gameplay just stinks. Thankfully, the creative Board Game mode dresses things up enough to prevent players from dying of boredom. Tower Bloxx is a good choice for Achievement hunters and casual gamers, but everyone else should try the demo for buying.

  • Tower Bloxx: New York – Windows Phone 7 and 8 – 16 MB - $2.99 – Store Link (delisted)

Update: The game was delisted from the Store at the beginning of 2014.