Review: Blokus Portable: Steambot Championship

Blokus is a popular, award-winning strategy board game.  And now you can take the fun of Blokus wherever you go, without worry of losing any pieces, with Blokus Portable: Steambot Championship for PSP.


Like many other popular board games, Blokus is easy to learn but hard to master.  Four players take turns placing blocks on a grid playing field.  The Blokus pieces are formed from smaller squares, like Tetris, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The rule that applies for Blokus is you can only place a piece that touches a corner of your other pieces, but it can’t touch a side.  However, you can touch the sides of other players’ pieces.  When no one can place another piece, the player with the most pieces placed on the board wins.  A little strategy is involved, as you can block your opponents from placing their pieces on the board with some careful planning.


And that’s pretty much all there is to Blokus.  In the PSP version, you can play against a multitude of computer opponents.  Blokus fans and strategy experts will probably have little trouble beating the computer players, but they do get progressively tougher as you climb up.  Winning matches nets you prize money that you can spend on outfits and hairstyles for your on screen avatar.  Plus, higher tournament brackets require a starting fee, too.  You can also view trophies you’ve won and Blokus tips and rules in the one player mode as well.


Players can also compete wirelessly with up to four nearby players with PSPs of their own.  Plus, you can go online and play Blokus in Ad Hoc wireless mode as well.  Though finding online matches may be a little slow since the game is a little under the radar.


There aren’t really any problems with Blokus Portable, but getting the regular board game instead to play with friends is probably just as fun, and a little cheaper, too.  About the only advantages that Blokus Portable offers is letting you know what pieces you can place on the board, and not having to pick up and/or losing pieces when you’re done.



Kid Factor:

Blokus Portable is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB for ‘Comic Mischief’ and ‘Mild Suggestive Themes.’  However, I couldn’t find anything relating to those descriptors in the game at all, unless it’s text said by the computer players that I missed.  Reading skill is helpful as all the rules and dialogue is text based.  Blokus Portable teaches critical thinking and logic skills, so it’s still a good game for kids.


Fanboy Factor:

The reason why the game is called Blokus Portable: Steambot Championship is that in the one player game, you compete against characters from the Steambot Chronicles video game on the PS2.  You see, game maker Irem made both Blokus Portable and Steambot Chronicles in Japan, but Majesco published Blokus in the US, while Atlus published Steambot Chronicles in the states.  In Blokus Portable, you walk around Lobster Inn, a location in the other game, and enter rooms where other Steambot characters sit around and wait for someone to play Blokus with them. 


However, Steambot Chronicles was a very different kind of game.  It was set in a early 1900’s Industrial Revolution kind of era, but instead of driving around Model T’s and other cars with wheels, players piloted Trotmobiles—robot mechs with feet.  Steambot Chronicles had a lot in common with Grand Theft Auto as well (it was only rated T for Teen so it was a lot tamer, though).  Steambot had a ‘sandbox’ style of gameplay in that while you could follow the story, you could also go off and do whatever you wanted to.  Use your Trotmobile to dig for fossils, deliver goods, or battle other mechs in a coliseum. Plus much, much more.   Steambot Chronicles was a fantastic game and aside from Okami, it was my favorite game of 2006 (even beating out Zelda: Twilight Princess).  If you spot Steambot Chronicles anywhere, pick it up.  You’ll be in for a real treat.

6 Responses to “Review: Blokus Portable: Steambot Championship”

  1. Back when I had a modded PS2, I was able to play the imported “Blokus Club with Bumpy Trot”. Amy and I had quite a bit of fun with it, videogame versions of board games are very convenient. I don’t think I’d enjoy a handheld version as much though, I don’t think you have that same social aspect. It’s a shame the PS2 version never got a US release.

    I’ve contemplated buying the board game before, but it’s one of those titles that is basically useless if you lose so much as one piece, and we’re very prone to doing that 🙂

  2. If you haven’t already, you should try and track down a copy of Steambot Chronicles for PS2. If they ever brought Bumpy Trot 2 (Steambot 2) to the US PS3, I might be a little more tempted to get a PS3. –Cary

  3. Wow, Cary writing reviews of boardgames! (Well, boardgame-esque stuff…) I’m so proud of you.

    Of course, all is explained when you mention it has ties to some semi-obscure Japanese game involving chicken-like transportation. 🙂

    Blockus looks pretty cool as a boardgame. I’d buy it but I’m not a huge abstract game fan. I like a light pasting of theme on my games.

  4. Yeah, if I had more disposable income I’d have picked up Steambot Chronicles when the Atlus store had it for 30 bucks. (GameQuestDirect actually have it in stock for 28.99, though the box art is for The Godfather?!)

  5. Cary – you mention ‘online’ and ‘ad hoc’ in the same sentence. Ad Hoc is local wireless, Infrastructure is internet WiFi. Does the game allow Internet play, and if so what modes? That would make it even more interesting.

    I’m glad it translated well – most of the board game ports I have played lately have been mediocre at best.

  6. I’m going to blame it on the poorly written instruction manual that made me confused on ad hoc and wireless online. But there is a wireless room and a online room in the game, so I’m assuming you can do both. –Cary

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