Part fun, part tool, this Early Access game has much more room to grow than its towers
What happens when an architect makes a video game? Block’hood, a “neighborhood-building simulator” from one-man developer Plethora Project. It started life as a research project at the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture, where its creator, Jose Sanchez, is an assistant professor but has slowly transformed into an educational game published by Devolver Digital, which produced games like Hotline Miami and Broforce. With a focus on expanding upward rather than outward, and a pared-down visual style, it’s a different take on the building experience offered by SimCity or Cities: Skylines. It instead plays like a cross between Anno, SimEarth and reverse Jenga.
The game starts with an isometric view of a gray, lifeless board. You’ll have anywhere between four and 400 empty squares to play with, and can build up to 20 levels high. (The size is defined either by you or the scenario, depending on the game mode.) Whatever the case, the first thing you’ll need to do is create the basic requirements for modern life: water, fresh air and electricity. That means building a well, a solar panel and a tree of some description. Only once your blocks are in place and producing can you start thinking about building a small apartment, the simplest residential block.
Each block — there are almost 100 beautifully designed options to pick from, with more being added regularly — takes up one square, although some stretch two levels high. Almost all of them both consume and produce resources. A tree typically draws in water and produces fresh air and leisure, which is a requirement of any residence. Perfect! Not all outputs are good, though. A small apartment brings the positives of labor and consumers — great for building stores and offices — and the negatives of gray water and organic waste. You’ll need to lay down other blocks to take care of those unwanted outputs and convert them into positive resources. These new blocks, in turn, consume more resources, and produce others. […]