12.8.21 Z-Blocks (Atari 2600 Homebrew Game Review)

I purchased Z-Blocks about two months ago, along with “Mean Santa,” which I reviewed previously on this website when I announced I would be reviewing homebrew games. Of course, the creation of my YouTube channel put a damper on my plans as set out. BUT! Today… I will be reviewing the second Atari 2600 homebrew game I purchased, “Z-Blocks,” which is more or less a Tetris clone for the 2600. How does this homebrew game ‘stack up’? Read on to find out what I thought of this game…

According to AtariAge and user Demonix on AtariHQ, Z-Blocks was self-published by “Alex G,” in an undisclosed year. Tetris clones have been semi-popular, according to Demonix, on the 2600, and Z-Blocks is no exception. Z-Blocks brings ‘multiplayer capabilities’ to the Atari 2600 in this version of Tetris. There was no box with the game when I purchased it on eBay, and it was at a good price, around $10 for the cart, which plays well and is in great shape. My first impression of Z-Blocks was a little lackluster at first, but the more I played it, the more it grew on me.

In Z-Blocks, there are many ways it stands out above the rest of the Tetris clones. For starters, players can select the speed and level where they start, and 2 players can play head-to-head in a sort of Z-Blocks battle mode. You can select which blocks you start out with already pre-filled and the position of the blocks, too. Demonix says in their great review, “Graphically, Z-Blocks is quite plain. Each block is readily recognizable as they fall from the top of the screen, but unfortunately all blocks share the same color and there’s no outline around the segments (or squares) of each piece. This really isn’t something that deters from the enjoyment of play, however, and the tradeoff in allowing for two-player simultaneous action is more than worth it.” I completely agree with that statement. Z-Blocks does LOOK quite plain, and that is what first drew me away from the game. Looks aren’t everything, of course, as I’ve learned over the past 2 years as I got more involved with the Atari 2600, and Z-Blocks is a great example of this. Once you get started playing, it can be quite addictive as regular Tetris can be. The one thing I still dislike, though, is that every block is the same color (red) with no variation. I wish this game provided more colors to work with, as that can be a small factor in gameplay enjoyment and variation, as well.

The fire button rotates the blocks 90 degrees in this game, but there is no way to further drop or hold blocks as is a feature of most Tetris games in that franchise. The object of the game is just like Tetris, to clear horizontal rows of blocks and see how many lines on can eradicate. Pieces can’t be flipped in either direction, for instance, as tiles can only be flipped clockwise. Z-Blocks can be played by 1-2 players only, and as far as I can tell, there was no manual or box published for this game as none can be found online at all. Demonix mentions in their review that a box and/or manual was planned to be released, but I have not found one as of yet. I did find a graphic of what could be a box for the game online, which I’ll paste below. My ultimate score for Z-Blocks is a B-. I think it’s a pretty good shot at an Atari 2600 homebrew game, and it does most Tetris clones on vintage systems one better by allowing local multiplayer, which is a great plus. The graphics could be a little more varied or interesting, to be sure, but it’s great at what it does, bringing the great game of Tetris and block-dropping and line scoring to the Atari 2600.

Do I think you should purchase this game? If you’re a puzzle or Tetris lover like me, YES! If not, your results may vary. It’s a neat game to own and play, IF you can find it online. Like I said, I found mine on eBay in October 2021 for a decent price ($10) so if you see it, you may want to grab it!

Of course, stay tuned for more homebrew game reviews! I plan on keeping this feature going but on a somewhat slower schedule. You can also view any video reviews on my vintage gaming YouTube channel, BallistikCoffeeBoy. Check it out, subscribe, like and comment! -BB

Video Games Database has the above image on their website here.

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