Block Fortress is Minecraft meets tower defense meets first person shooter, all squeezed down into a mobile game. Build a base in the middle of a blocky wilderness, place turrets and towers and power supplies to fortify your position, then send in the waves of enemies. Once combat begins, you shift from building mode to combat mode, taking a gun into battle and watching over your fort by blasting enemies by hand. It's incredibly exciting and also deeply rooted in upgrades and tactics, making it the sort of game you can play for months without truly mastering.
Block Fortress divides gameplay into two sections: building and fighting. You start with the former, placing your fort somewhere on the map (preferably on high ground near a mine) with a simple tap of the screen. Then, search through your active inventory for a few basic tower units such as a machine turret, plasma cannon, mine shaft or power supply. Drop a turret by tapping the menu bar followed by the location on the screen. Towers need to be powered in order to function, so make sure you have a supply close enough to provide.
When combat begins, you take to the field to both defend your base and to carry out any repairs. Move by sliding your thumb on the bottom left corner of the screen, and look/fire by sliding your other thumb on the bottom right corner of the screen. Tap and place blocks the same way you would in building mode, but keep in mind you take damage while out on the field, so keep construction down to a minimum. Enemies are surprisingly smart in Block Fortress, going right for your weak spots and keeping their distance when able. It's intense, but if you survive, you'll walk away with some extra gold to upgrade your defenses, and maybe some new equipment, too!
Analysis: Block Fortress is an intricate game, packed with features, upgrades, tools and nuances that would take weeks to pin down. In addition to 16 defense units, you also have about 30 wall blocks and support towers you can place, each with their own cost, range, strengths and weaknesses. Forming a good strategy to survive each wave will take a lot more than pure luck. And as soon as you realize you can use wall blocks to build structures brick by brick, a world of possibilities suddenly opens up before you. Minecraft meets tower defense, indeed.
Block Fortress provides several modes of play that allow for a good variety of experiences. The standard campaign mode offers a progression-based game where you build and defend across multiple waves of attackers. Sandbox mode gives you infinite resources and full control over enemies. Quickstart stocks you with minerals and challenges you to stay alive as long as you can. There's even an extremely robust crafting menu where you can modify the game's items to have different qualities and abilities.
Here's the main drawback of Block Fortress: it doesn't belong on a mobile device. Most players still need some convincing that a first person action game can be successfully carried out with awkward touch screen controls, and Block Fortress is no exception. Half the game is played out with you staring down your enemies from behind a gun, and it's incredibly cumbersome to walk around the landscape without tactile feedback beneath your fingers. To top it off, the interface for the building portion of the game is unusual, making you long for the comfort of a gamepad or mouse/keyboard combination.
There's a steep learning curve and the controls are less than perfect, but just behind those obstacles is an extraordinarily deep and satisfying defense game.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 3. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.