Sadistic game shows, tentacle rape cartoons, used panty vending machines—you just can’t help but wonder why some of the awesome things that catch on in Japan don’t really catch on here in the States. Quarth is a definitely a gaming gem that has earned its spot on that list.
At first glance, Quarth, also known as “Block Hole“, resembles some kind of no-frills top-down shooter, like Aero Fighters or 1942. Then you realize that your “enemies” look like Tetris pieces and your ship shoots blocks. Don’t let looks deceive you: This game is 5% shooter, 95% puzzle game and about as addictive as a bucket of black tar heroin.
The object is to use your block-spewing ship to turn the Tetris-ish pieces floating in space into solid rectangles, thus making them disappear. If you get overwhelmed by the blocks and they pass a dotted line above your ship, then it’s game over. It’s easy to blow the game off as being yet another Tetris clone, but Quarth isn’t out to just be just another copy-cat game. It takes obvious inspiration from Tetris and innovates, making an entirely new game. The game’s simplistic, fun and addictive gameplay is what makes it stand out among the sea of Tetris clones released in the late ’80s/early ’90s and distinguishes it not as a clone, but possibly as being a peer to Tetris itself.
Players in the US may not have gotten an NES release for this game, but we can take solace in the fact that we can at least pick this game up for Game Boy. There are a few differences between the Famicom and Game Boy versions, most notably that the Game Boy version includes a larger selection of ships (including one ship that looks frighteningly like a penis with wings) and a fun addition to the gameplay: Power-ups. In this version you can get different power-ups depending on how greedy you get with the block shapes you make. Make a bare minimum-sized rectangle and you get no power-up bonus. Press your luck and make a gigantic rectangle, and you’ll get progressively better power-ups that can be saved for later use, but you also risk piling the blocks too high and losing a ship.
As for European gamers, well, you get shafted again. Quarth wasn’t officially released in Europe on any console, but apparently it is available on some cell phones, so you’ve got that going for you, I guess.
Quarth is a great choice for any puzzle game fan looking for classic-style game with a new twist or for anybody who thought that the game in last month’s review, Overture Facile, hurt their brains entirely too much.