Word game and puzzle enthusiasts are in for a combination of lovely treat and brain-abusing punishment in Blocks With Letters On 3, the third installment in the block-manipulating, anagram-solving, funny-bone-tickling series, the first installment of which was voted one of the Best Games of 2008 by JIG. After nearly two sad blockless years, Marty Sears is back with all the fiendish brain-teasing action and absurd animations fans have come to expect. And if you're new to BWLO, you'll find this even more of a treat... and even more of a punishment. A punishing treat? A... treaty... punishment? Anyway, yay!
If you don't know the series, you might want to go back and try the first and second games first, as the third game basically leaps right into high gear from the very first levels. While the instructions are clear, they can be a little much to take in all at once. However, if you just can't wait to leap in, I'll go over it for you as simply as I can. Every level contains a grid with the titular blocks with letters on them and some bright yellow goal squares. Your task is to fill the goal squares to spell a certain word. You manipulate blocks by clicking on a block and using the [arrow] keys to move it. You can also use [space] to shift from one block to the next.
The basic gray block is subject to gravity and can only move left and right, and if it encounters a gap, it will fall through it. In some levels, you either start with white block or can turn gray blocks white. White blocks can move in any direction and won't fall. Depending on the level, there are also many special helpful or hindering elements. Running a block past a red rotator will rotate it 90 degrees. Blue glue will hold a block fast. Numbered blocks can be flipped on and off by switches. Letter changers will change A to B, B to C and so on. Swirly, color-marked teleport squares can be used by pressing [enter]. And new for BWLO3, the black and white duplicator can be used one to duplicate a block, while the purple question mark mystery switch behaves differently depending on the level. Phew! Still with me? You generally don't have to deal with them all at once, and it becomes second nature fairly quickly. When you beat a level, you're rewarding with a whimsical, sometimes grotesque, but always amusing animation depicting what you've just spelled out. At the end of the game, the grand finale is a full song, and Marty Sears thinks it's the best song yet.
Analysis: This game is almost pure thinking and rewards careful, slow movement. There are a few levels where you must quickly switch between blocks in order to move one while the other one falls, but even on those levels you only have to do it once or twice. Because the game requires lateral thinking, for one player a certain level may be maddeningly difficult even with hints, for another player the level's solution is obvious at first glance, and for a third player the level seems difficult at first but trial and error lead to the solution. When they move on to the next level, the stumped one gets it immediately, the immediate one gets it only with difficulty, and the trial and error one can't get it at all. Rather than continuing to beat your head against a level that's stumping you, I suggest taking a break for a while and coming back to it with fresh eyes. You only have 10 hints (which give an idea of how to start, usually) and 10 clues (which tell the first letter of the solution) total, so be stingy with them.
While all the solutions are words that are acceptable spellings in any variant of English, one word's spelling is more common in UK English, and at least one of the hints refers to idioms that are only found in UK English as far as I know. These puzzles are difficult even for native English speakers, and I can only imagine how difficult they would be for non-fluent speakers. That said, this game is emphatically not for people who want an easy diversion, but for the masochistic puzzlers in the audience—and I'm one of you!—it doesn't get much better than this.
Still want more Blocks With Letters On?
Play the entire BWLO series...