Slam Bolt Scrappers is one of those quirky yet classic indie titles that have proliferated since all three major consoles have gotten into the download market. Online distribution removes (or at least reduces) the financial barriers preventing smaller companies from getting their stuff out there, and similarly shifts the potential lower limit on price point as manufacturing, packaging, and physical distribution costs are now eliminated. It opens up a new market for fun, simple, original games requiring (usually) a smaller investment of both time and money. Slam Bolt Scrappers is the first title from the small team of 20-somethings that make up Fire Hose Games and at first glance it's cute and unique. I fired it up wanting to like it, but unfortunately it left me a bit cold.
The 2D gameplay is self-described as a “mash up of brawling and puzzle solving” and this is pretty much on the nose. You have a free-floating character who can drop different coloured blocks, which come in different shapes but are always comprised of four square units. There are only a few different combinations, and they'll be familiar with anyone who's played Tetris. These shapes merge with others of the same colour whenever they make a square block, be it 2x2 or 5x5. Once you've created a block of the minimum 2x2 size, it will start functioning as a different kind of weapon, depending on what colour it is. Red squares fire missiles, a certain shade of blue fires a stun-gun arc of electricity, another shade of blue creates a shield around any adjacent block.
The bigger the block, the more powerful it becomes in both offense and defense, so wrapping a layer around your block to make it one size bigger is always a sound strategy. However, your blocks are firing on — and being fired upon by — your opponents platform, which has blocks of its own. As you take damage, little unit squares may be blown away just as you were about to complete a new block, or upgrade an old one. Further, the many coloured enemies that constantly swarm in to the level are necessary sources of new blocks — once you give them a good pounding — but left unchecked, they will rain destruction on your carefully built up forces.