When the site relaunched, I thought it’d be Smash Bros. or Mario Kart that lit the fire under my ass to write a review–but guess what, Smash Bros. Brawl is Smash Bros., and Mario Kart Wii is Mario Kart…you know what you’re getting, and they don’t need to be reviewed. I am almost literally knee-deep in games, and amongst the whirlwind of GTA IV, Mario Kart, Mass Effect, Smash Bros., and at least three other games I’m juggling, Boom Blox has hooked me solid and pulled me away from all the other games.
Developed by Electroinc Arts (boo?) and Steven Spielberg (yay?), The basic premise of Boom Blox is you either want to knock over Jenga-like structures as efficiently as possible, or keep them from toppling for as long as possible. There’s variations on those two themes, but the idea of the game is to tap into your inner-child, and how fun it was when you used blocks to build giant towers, castles, and structures…and how much more fun it was watching them tumble to the ground as you destroyed them. Boom Blox captures that thrill (or threat) of destruction perfectly, and is one of the many reasons you’ll be returning to the game.
The game is divided into adventure, challenge and multiplayer modes, but before you’re able to do anything, you’re forced to play through tutorial mode which is quick, painless, and teaches everything you need to get started. You’ll learn how to throw, grab, shoot, push, pull, camera movements, and anything else you might need to know, all performed on a single Wiimote. I’m always a fan of Wii games I can play with a Wiimote in one hand and a beverage in another, especially when the controls are damn near perfect. Much like bowling in Wii Sports, Boom Blox is a perfect game to show off your Wii and the Wiimote’s capabilities. My only complaint about the controls is the threat of carpal tunnel from playing too long.
Game mechanics are as simple as the controls: gravity is a bitch, and explosives tend to blow stuff up. You have your basic building blocks with no special properties, but inter-mingled with these vanilla blocks are red bomb blocks that explode when hit, green chemical blocks that cause an explosion when they touch, purple vanish blocks that…you get the idea (and so on). Some blocks have point values (and negative point values), and that’s when a majority of the challenges come in. Whether you need to score a certain amount of points, or destroy a certain amount of blocks in as few throws as possible, the rules and goals for challenges are never confusing (thanks to the helpful tutorial stages), so the challenge (and fun) arises in how to achieve those goals.
Each stage uses the bronze/silver/gold method for rating your performance, so you’ll easily know if you can complete a stage faster and/or better. 98% of the challenge stages are exactly the fun you’d expect, but 2% of the stages seem to miss their mark–the game is all about manipulating blocks and destroying structures, so when you’re faced with a challenge that is nothing more than a light-gun shooting gallery, it feels a little tedious and cheap. It’s a very small complaint, and for all I know some people might enjoy the variety. The different “tools” (items you use to manipulate the blocks) help mix the gameplay up as well–sometimes you’re throwing a baseball at a pile of blocks, sometimes it’s a bowling ball. Sometimes you’re grabbing and pulling blocks, sometimes you’re shooting a firehose–the different tools and challenge types easily keep the game from falling into a gameplay rut. Add to that the ability to easily create your own puzzle or edit any of the existing puzzles (and share those with your Wii friends), and Boom Blox is far from lacking variation in its puzzles.
As with any puzzle game, graphics aren’t too important, but Boom Blox gets no complaints in the graphical department. The stages are basically piles of blocks with cute little block-shaped animals dancing in the background, so it’s not exactly like high-def next-gen graphics are needed (or necessary). The graphics are colorful, simple, and cartoony, and the physics seem spot on; watching a tower weeble and wobble is perfectly nerve-wracking. There’s no slowdown when 50 individual blocks are exploding into the air, nor when you’re quickly rotating the camera around to plan your next move, so that’s a plus. I don’t know what exactly Steven Speilberg had to do with the game, but I like to think he had his hand in “directing” the cutscenes used during the adventure mode. You’re treated to little cutscenes at the beginning and end of each “chapter,” and while the content is G-rated material like kittens on halloween, or a cowboy beaver vs. monkey bandits, the art style and rhyming storybook storytelling is extremely well done. If you’re looking for a fun little family title for kids and adults, Boom Blox is perfect.
I actually wrote that last sentence thinking solely of single player. With my mom visiting, both she and my wife seemed to be having as much fun watching me play as I was playing challenge and adventure mode. Fortunately, Boom Blox has a fun multiplayer mode as well, and it’s definitely a solid party game. Up to 4 players can play (and share a single wiimote, if you wish), and the simplicity of the game and its controls make Boom Blox an extremely easy pick-up-and-play game for people new to the game (or gaming in general). Whether you’re hurling balls at towers for the most points, playing a mutated version of shuffleboard, or any of the various forms of Jenga-type games, multiplayer Boom Blox is just as fun and addictive as the single player…with the added bonus of not having to clean up all those blocks after a round.
I normally don’t complain about a game’s price tag (or enjoy complaining about a price tag), but if I really had one solid complaint about Boom Blox it would be that 50 bucks seems like a bit too much for what you get (at first). The problem is while the game has a LOT to offer, the concept behind the game is such a simple concept that it’s hard to justify the full price tag. The game is completely polished, fun to play, offers over 400 puzzles, endless multiplayer fun, and the easy-to-use create-your-own mode…but then you think, “50 bucks for Jenga? Really?” While there’s some merit to that question, Boom Blox is much more than a simple Jenga clone. The question to ask yourself is would you pay 50 bucks for Wii Sports? Or have you received 50 bucks of entertainment out of Wii Sports? While the “free” price tag on Wii Sports is hard to beat, Boom Blox definitely has the potential to sit right next to Wii Sports when it’s time for some simple, perfect multiplayer Wii fun. Whether you want to wait for your birthday or whenever the price may drop, everyone that owns a Wii would and should enjoy Boom Blox–the question is how long you want to delay the inevitable.
Mr. Face say this game **good**.
Mr. Face never wrong!