Review: Boom Blox
Posted 10 May 2008 at 14:57 by Jo
|"The simplicity of the controls makes this game incredibly easy to pick up and the precision of your movements won't go unnoticed, as the angle and speed at which you throw an object will greatly influence the outcome of the chain reaction you are about to unleash."|
It would be a rookie mistake to bundle Boom Blox together with the myriad of third rate efforts that are trying to hop on the "casual game" train for some easy cash, but a mistake that would cost you an incredibly fun and well made game. Behind Boom Blox is not only EA, but also the mind of legendary movie director Steven Spielberg, and he couldn't be off to a better start. Starting with the simple premise of playing with blocks, but allowing the player to do so in a multitude of ways using the Wii Remote and realistic physics Boom Blox delivers a fantastic experience you won't want to miss out.
But these blocks, excuse me, 'blox', aren't just your run-of-the-mill Jenga blocks. They have special properties that go beyond having different weights, like breaking into tiny gems, blowing up or disappearing when hit, exploding when mixed with blox of the same type, while others simply increase or decrease your score. With all this and the individual physics of each blox and item you throw, huge domino-like reactions can be caused, making for some incredibly satisfying playing sessions. Boom Blox lets you throw a lot of things like baseballs, bowling balls, bombs, shoot lasers and grab blox and throw them around the screen to rearrange or destroy a construction simply by using the Wii Remote.
Point the Remote to where you want to throw an object, press A to lock the cursor in position, do a throwing motion and release A. Simple, but effective. Grabbing and manipulating an object is equally simple, just point, hold the A button and the block will follow as if attached by a string. To change the camera angle just hold B and point the cursor where you want to rotate the camera, although you can attach the Nunchuck and use the analogue stick for the same effect. The simplicity of the controls makes this game incredibly easy to pick up and the precision of your movements won't go unnoticed, as the angle and speed at which you throw an object will greatly influence the outcome of the chain reaction you are about to unleash. If you want to, simply nudge a blox or send a ball with a curved trajectory (a weak throw will suffice, but if you want to send something flying you will need a stronger throw). Where other developers failed to use the Wii Remote to its full potential, EA succeeded in both the technical aspects and its application.
The game is divided in three modes: Play, the single player mode, is surprisingly complete, with a lot of unique and fun levels. Some are easy, others require a bit of thinking, others demand a trigger finger, but all of them are insanely fun and addictive. A huge plus is that you can change between levels and restart them very quickly and easily, which means if you're looking for a quick fix of Boom Blox or you want to get the best possible score, you don't need to go through a number of menus and put up with loading screens since everything happens almost instantaneously. The scoring system is a simple one, consisting of bronze, silver and gold medals, but the conditions to obtain these vary from keeping the number of throws to a minimum, avoid tumbling certain blox or simply doing something in a set amount of time. The challenges don't become stale and it allows more "demanding" players to pursue the gold medal, while others might be satisfied with just finishing the level. If you were afraid this was a multiplayer only game, fret not, dozens and dozens of intricate and challenging constructions are there just for you, the lone gamer, to destroy.
The multiplayer mode delivers dozens more original levels that support up to four players and can be played cooperatively, making this game a blast to play with friends, especially because of all the different ways to play. You can simply take turns with friends to see who makes the higher score destroying point blox from the same construction, making for some fiendish planning. The cleverly placed multipliers that increase your score if you make a blox hit them add a layer of strategy to the multiplayer that fits very well with the rest of the game. Another mode places blox in a board and has players sliding their own blox into a multiplier zone or simply making the opponents' blox fall out of the board by throwing baseballs at them, so the accuracy and the strength of your throws is pretty important here. If you're feeling aggressive there's a shootout mode featuring all kinds of guns (and hoses) and a competition to destroy other players' constructions. If nostalgia's your thing, you can take turns with your friends by carefully grabbing blox to slowly take a construction apart without making it collapse. And of course, you can play your custom created levels to your heart's content, making Boom Blox a fantastic party game.
Enter the Create mode, where you can edit pre-existing levels and create your own levels from scratch with a wide range of blox, items and pre-made constructions (boats, crossbows, drawbridges, etc…) amongst other things at your disposal. Everything you see in the already existing levels can be made and even more, with a lot of customization and options at your disposal, like the ability to set the rules or to alter any single player level. Not to mention that you can send your creations to your friends via WiiConnect 24, which is a very welcome feature. Although level creation is very well done, sometimes it's a little frustrating to put items exactly where you want them on the 3D set, but fortunately, this isn't a big problem and it's easy to get past it. It's obvious that with the multitude of levels and modes that come with the game along with the possibility to create and trade new ones, this game has amazing value, despite the lack of an online mode.
The game is easy on the eyes with some different backdrops to break the norm, lots of vivid colors and the weird, but cute blocky characters that appear throughout all the different stages. However, the physics engine does seems to take its toll on the game's performance and sometimes when there are big explosions and things flying everywhere there are noticeable framedrops, although they're not common enough to ruin the game. With a very simple, but effective menu design, navigating through the game is a breeze, which goes along nicely with the intuitiveness of the game. The soundtrack, whilst not extraordinary, fits the game well with some catchy tunes and there are many different sound effects, which are especially noticeable on big and constructions filled with diverse blox, not to mention the funny screams of all the different blocky animals. The Wii Remote speaker isn't forgotten either with some cool effects coming through the little speaker to liven up the experience.
With amazing replay value, a tremendous amount of polish, ingenious puzzles, lots of creativity and fantastic use of the Wii Remote, Boom Blox is one of those rare games which delivers what it claims to: fun for everyone.
The scores are, as always, below the comments.
N-Europe Final Verdict
In the end, Boom Blox is an example of what can be done with the Wii Remote and that the so called “casual games” that are hated by many can be a fantastic experience. A fantastic puzzler.
Amazing use of Wii Remote
Lots of replay value
You can make and send your own levels
Great for multiplayer
Online multiplayer would be great