Boom Blox Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
The name Steven Spielberg has long been associated with top quality movies. The man has been responsible for directing some of the finest movies of all time but that certainly means nothing when it comes to videogames; or does it? A collaboration between EA and Steven Spielberg has given us Boom Blox and it has to be said that the results are very impressive. Boom Blox is not only one of the best Wii games to date, it’s also one of the best family orientated games ever created. The game has a very gentle learning curve, has tons of variety and above all is just a lot of fun.
Boom Blox is what you might call a block-based, physics based puzzle game. You’ll mainly be unleashing destruction on a variety of block challenges by throwing and blasting but there are challenges that don’t require you to be destructive. Some challenges are Jenga-like in that you have to remove blocks from a tower without making the tower topple (or making penalty blocks fall from the tower). There are also blasting challenges where you’ll be using fire hoses, lasers and a six-shooter. Whether you are trying to smash towers to smithereens or delicately attempting to remove blocks without upsetting the tower, the game is intuitive and hugely entertaining. The game even comes with its own comprehensive editor that allows you to create your own levels.
As the title suggests, the game is filled with blocks, that is to say Blox. There are many different kinds of Blox in the game and these help to add variety and a layer of strategy to the levels. There’s the standard Blox, the indestructible Immobile Blox, the Gem Blox (which you’ll be trying to knock to the ground quite often), Points Blox, Penalty Blox, Bomb Blox (which explode when you hit them), Chemical Blox (which explode when two or more of them make contact) and many more such as the Ice, Cloud and Fireworks Blox. Being aware of the properties of each Blox will allow you to solve some of the puzzles in the smallest amount of throws possible. In fact there are a lot of puzzles that can be solved with a single throw if you know how to make the different Blox work for you.
For two or more players, you’ll want to play in the Party Play mode. Here you can play either competitive or co-operative games that offer throw, blast, grab and attack levels. You can even play four-player games with just a single remote. Make no mistake about it; your relatives are going to want to play, even if they wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of playing a game. What makes the game so accessible is that the objectives are always straightforward and the controls are intuitive meaning that even the most ham-fisted person will have the controls mastered in a few moments. To aim your throw, you’ll position the aiming reticule by pointing at the screen with the Wii remote. Once the reticule is in the desired position you’ll press the A button to lock your aim. Next you’ll bring the remote back (as if you were casting a fishing rod) and you release the A button as you bring your arm forward. Timing the release of the A button is essential to getting a lot of power into your throw. Some games don’t require you to throw objects. In the grab puzzles you will simply point with the Wii remote and hold the A button down to grab a block. You can control the camera by holding down the B button and moving the remote. If you find this method too sensitive you can plug in the nunchuk attachment and use the analogue stick to control the camera. Regardless of the nature of the levels you’ll play, the controls are about as simple as they could be.
Whilst the game is definitely at its greatest when played as a multiplayer title, the game doesn’t skimp on catering for the single-player. The game allows you to have six profiles, so in most households every member of the family will be able to experience the single-player game and record their progress. Single-player modes include Explore and Adventure and you’ll also find the game’s tutorials under the single-player section. Explore mode provides a set of challenges, spread over six categories, for you to undertake. There are many puzzles here and once you’ve completed them all with a bronze medal or above (you’ll get a bronze medal for completing a challenge with the minimum requirements, silver for a better performance and gold for completing a mission as efficiently as possible), you’ll unlock Expert challenges and when you’ve completed them, you’ll unlock Master challenges. Adventure mode gives you four adventures, each comprised of story-based levels, to play through. Once again you’ll have to earn medals and whilst it’s usually easy to obtain the bronze medals, at least in the first couple of adventures, it’s much more of a challenge to obtain the gold medals. Once you’ve completed the adventures you’ll unlock some bonus levels for each of the four adventures.
You certainly wouldn’t claim that Boom Blox is a great looking game but that’s not to say the game doesn’t have a certain endearing visual charm. It’s a game that manages to be both visually pleasing to children and yet not so cutesy that older children or adults might be turned off. Everything in this game is rather blockish and angular ranging from the ubiquitous Blox to the characters you’ll find in the Adventure mode. The physics in the game are superb and the Blox react to your actions just how you would expect them to and this is one of the more satisfying aspects of the game.
With Boom Blox being as enjoyable as it is it’s even more pleasing that it won’t cause any problems for deaf gamers. The game’s tutorials are all exclusively in text that you can read at your own pace. All of the instructions for each level and level type are given in text so you’re always aware of what needs to be done. All of the storyline in the single-player Adventure mode is given in text so you won’t miss out on anything and once again, you’ll be aware of what you need to do.
It’s probably fair to say that many gamers didn’t get too excited when they learned that Steven Spielberg made the decision to dabble in the gaming industry. After Boom Blox however, I think it’s safe to say that most will eagerly look forward to the next game he has a hand in. Boom Blox is easily the most pleasing surprise of 2008 and is a game that is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys playing games with friends or family. As a single-player the experience isn’t quite so memorable, although it’s still enjoyable, and it’s a shame that you can only trade level designs online but these are really the only complaints that can be levelled at the game. As an offline multiplayer experience on the Wii, it’s the best game we’ve played and it’s a game that uses the unique motion-sensing controls to perfection.