Build and choose-your-own adventure.
A long time ago, in the far off distant past of the year 1998, I read in a magazine about something that seemed inconceivable at the time. A fighting game that advertised making your own characters with custom move sets. My friend and I anxiously awaited the release of this fabled game, and resulted in both of us trading in a pile of games to get Fighter Maker. Quickly learning the gravity of our mistake, we were introduced to a bland fighter with dull characters and a move editing mode too much for our young minds to handle. It was a costly lesson that “maker” games would either be too obtuse to understand or too simple to enjoy, a prejudice I’d hold onto until Nintendo did it right with Super Mario Maker.
Block Quest Maker takes the Mario Maker mold and crams into it a top-down dungeon puzzle adventure akin to the Legend of Zelda. Choosing to play through pre-made levels first, I received a good introduction into how general movement, weapons, bombs, levers, doors, monsters, and water work together. This also contextualized to me how the different creation tools come together to build a cohesive level.
Creating a level is surprisingly straightforward and simple. One can be produced within minutes if not attempting an overly complex puzzle or stretching the limits of what can be placed on screen. You’re given the option between several different map sizes and placed on a grid with clear instruction on how tying items together work, and then left to create. One exception souring the experience beyond these concerns is a questionable use of an in-game currency. It works by requiring currency to purchase build elements, earnable by tacking-on an entry fee on levels you create and charging those who might want to play it. In practice it didn’t affect my overall experience, but felt a little off-putting.
Beyond the developer creations, the meat of the experience will be exploring the user generated levels, which is cause for alarm given that there’s currently only seventy total player creations. Some entertaining ideas are explored in a portion of these levels, such as a trio of obstacle courses or another attempting its best Gauntlet cosplay. Clear thought was put into how both to search for and find levels, with tags and sort options to help curate a search. But the lack of player base to create levels makes them meaningless, and you can’t go into this expecting a robust offering to keep you engaged.
The replayability, no matter how good the core gameplay is, lives and dies by how robust the community around the set of tools and how engaged they are in producing new levels. This is something I fear will be dead on arrival unless effort to connect the Switch community to other platforms is done in the future. For the asking price and the amount of developer-made levels available at purchase, Block Quest Maker is still perfectly enjoyable in short bursts, and better yet if you have a creative bone that you want to itch by making your own adventures. Just don’t expect a long tail of community driven content like some of its more well-known contemporaries.