Crew 167: The Grand Block Odyssey is a sci-fi block-pushing puzzle game entangled within a strange mystery about an isolated survivor hoping to save his planet. It was released in an early access stage by Oddbreeze on Steam last October but is now fully available. I reviewed this after playing for two hours, which I felt was more than enough block-puzzling for one sitting. Everything started to seem a little square…
Crew 167: The Grand Block Odyssey’s Launch Trailer:
In Crew 167, you play as Crew 167. The lack of a name doesn’t detract from the characterization of the protagonist, however. Throughout, you get internal monologues and cut-away flashbacks which help develop the otherwise basic character. Crew 167 has recently awoken from some sort of cryosleep to find himself alone on his ship. He’s a bit out of it, and an implant that gradually begins to malfunction only acts to exacerbate his disorientation. Through an A.I., you find out about how you’re on a mission to save the people of Source after its collapse. Source is the name of Crew 167’s home planet, by the way.
So… You’re an isolated space fellow with an A.I. companion struggling through puzzles representing a deterioration in your mental health. It all seems pretty standard. And, sadly, standard is where this game sits amongst its peers.
Graphically, Crew 167 was at times a pleasure to look at. And at times, painful.
During actual gameplay, the textures were good. Some of the areas seemed a little empty, but with your focus on the puzzles ahead of you, this didn’t matter a whole lot. They are very well lit, too. The dramatic shadows help to hone in the idea of Crew 167 being isolated on the ship. Well, other than the A.I. Although you soon learn that Crew 167 is strangely linked to the A.I. So… Are they really different characters?
Where Crew 167 disappointed, though, was during its cutscenes. Although the character model was still fairly decent for the game, it looked horribly out of place. The textures and lighting of the world around Crew 167 would barely look adequate in a PlayStation 1 title. I can’t quite understand how the gameplay levels looked so nice while the cutscenes looked so poor. It really throws you off and is distracting when you’re trying to follow the story.
In addition to this, the character animations weren’t the best, but for what the game is, this didn’t matter a whole lot. What I found amusing was the fact that the animation for moving the blocks was Crew 167 kicking them. His kick is largely unenthusiastic, and he can kick these massive blocks across the room with ease. The guy is stronger than I gave him credit for and should probably look into using his cannon-like right foot for good.
Crew 167’s gameplay is simple and easy to pick up.
You move with WASD and do everything else with the space bar. There are a couple of interactive points that offer up contextual text, but the space bar is largely for kicking the boxes.
One feature I thought was an excellent addition to the title was the voice acting. Throughout much of its early access, this was absent, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like. I am sure it would still have been a fun experience, but the inclusion of the voice acting was a fantastic addition. I would have liked the voice actor for Crew 167 to be a little more emotive at parts, but I suppose an internal monologue wouldn’t necessarily be any more emotive than the portrayal given, so it didn’t bother me that much.
There’s also a fun idle animation for Crew 167 when you leave him standing around for a few seconds. He waves up at you with both arms. It’s cute, but I felt that it cheapened the immersion that the rest of the game was working so hard towards. I felt like I was meant to be playing as Crew 167, not controlling him ethereally from above.
What I did enjoy, though, is Crew 167’s soundtrack. It’s simple enough and only enhances the game’s attempts at being atmospheric. When I downloaded Crew 167, I got the soundtrack alongside it which was a nice bonus. I know I’ll be listening to it again in the future at some point.
While challenging at times, Crew 167 did offer a fun puzzler wrapped in a fairly interesting story. Parts of it echoed today’s society, much like any successful science fiction story does. It made you think, a little, about what we are doing to our own planet. The greed of mankind and its destruction of the environment acts as the backdrop to the game’s story.
There are times, however, where the game is strangely self-aware. Crew 167 mentions how he feels a need to finish puzzles in order to calm his mind. While tying it in nicely, I felt like this was more of a shoe-horn way of dragging out the telling of the story. It felt a little cheap.
Crew 167: The Grand Block Odyssey is fully available on Steam from 8 April 2020. For more information, check out Crew 167’s official website. In other news, Valorant’s Closed Beta is happening. Check out what we thought about it here.