Behold the Building Blocks of Fun
When acclaimed Hollywood film director Steven Spielberg and one of the most powerful third-party developers in the video game industry today, Electronic Arts, announced that they were teaming up to create video games, assumptions were made that their projects would all be blockbuster epics just like Spielberg's work on the big screen. Instead, Wii owners were greeted with an action/puzzle hybrid featuring deformed animals, colorful visuals, and physics-based gameplay. This little-title-that-could was the original Boom Blox. A plethora of copies sold and a year later, the team is once again at it with the sequel, Boom Blox Bash Party, promising new puzzles, gadgets, and fun. Is this a party that will rock your block, or is this bash best to no-show?
While the title of the game suggests blowing up blocks, there's really more to the Boom Blox series than that. The most basic types of puzzles simply require you knock all of the blocks or gems to the ground in as few throws as possible. The game relies heavily on strategy as well as trial-and-error to figure out the best way to go about toppling over a behemoth structure of blocks. Some puzzles score you by how many throws it took you, some by how many points you've accumulated, and some by how many gems have been collected. At the end of a puzzle, you're awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on how well you played. More difficult puzzles of a level theme can only be unlocked by winning silver or better on a round of puzzles.
There's different types of blocks as well as gadgets the game throws at you. For my sanity I'll be using the traditional "blocks" spelling. A baseball can be chucked swiftly, but it doesn't have as much oomph to it compared to a bowling ball. New tools such as the slingshot have you grabbing onto any block inside the puzzle area and ricocheting it to cause as much carnage as possible. Aside from returning types of blocks like the explosive bomb blocks, disappearing vanish blocks, and chain-reaction chemical blocks, a new block type in the form of the virus block vary the puzzle design splendidly. When hit, the virus block infects blocks touching it, effectively destroying them.
A theme park area serves as Bash Party's level hub. Just select a ride, and a bounty of challenges will unveil themselves. There's three different types of levels in each ride. Each type of level has a different goal to them, and the variety of puzzle types is astounding. Apart from the aforementioned knock-the-tower-down-in-as-few-throws-as-possible puzzles, there's challenges where you need to pull blocks from a tower or structure without knocking down all of the penalty blocks which will deduct points from your score. There's also missions where you need to bomb a block structure in order to excavate all of the hidden gems in five throws or less, slide a puck around trying to hit point multipliers on something resembling a miniature golf course, and puzzles where the goal is to hit as many score blocks as possible for a high score.
Some of these challenges will be familiar to Boom Blox veterans, but there are two new types of levels that change things considerably: underwater and zero-gravity levels. Underwater levels have floaty physics where blocks fall at a much slower rate whereas zero-gravity levels force the player to hit blocks out of a zone in order to score points. These two types of levels really bring something new to the formula. Another something special and new are achievements-- blatantly ripped off from the Xbox 360 line, but they do give expert, proficient, or persistent players goals to shoot for.
While there is no online multiplayer, that's quite all right. This type of game just screams satisfying social interactions anyway, and Boom Blox Bash Party delivers them in spades. Totally different puzzles are available for versus play. Some of my favorite modes include a simple premise where you take turns trying to knock down all of your player color's blocks before your opponent or opponents. Another has you alternating tossing bowling balls at each others' fortresses, trying to knock down their horde of gems. Finally, there's a mode where you toss a paint ball at a set of blocks, trying to color as many as possible under your possession. At the end, you try to knock your colored blocks down. It's hilarious albeit pride-killing to unintentionally knock down your opponent's blocks while you just knock down one or two of your own. That's just a small sample of the bounty of modes available in versus. Co-op has two players trying to solve puzzles together. Again, these are exclusive to co-op mode just like the versus and solo puzzles are exclusive to their respective modes.
With 400 levels total spread out among solo, versus, and co-op modes, there's enough content here to last months. However, if that number isn't enough you can always design your own levels, and this time share them with the world. The level creation process is much more streamlined and accessible giving you all the tools, blocks, and gadgets you'll need to create your own levels. If you lack the creative touch, you can download new levels at any time. You can even search the highest rated, most played, and newest levels from the easy-as-pie search system. As of right now,the quality of created levels is pretty much on the uninteresting side, but already there appears to be some incredibly intriguing ideas being displayed by the community. Regardless, EA is also applying new official levels to this service on a constant basis if 400 levels already available aren't doing it for you.
Boom Blox Bash Party is a more difficult game compared to the 2008 original. Some puzzles you'll barely achieve a bronze in while others will simply seem impossible. There's a level batch in particular where you have to pull blocks out of teetering tower, Jenga-style. The only problem is that the Wii remote doesn't give you the amount of precision needed to pull them out in certain puzzles. You'll accidentally run the block you're grabbing into another block for a very frustrating experience. Furthermore, on levels where you have to chuck balls at enemies and blocks in a rapid-fire manner are annoying since the Wii remote doesn't always register your throw when you're doing them in a quick succession. Such puzzles are a chore to trudge through, but this time around you can use boom bux, collected by earning a medal on a given puzzle, to purchase locked levels and challenges. So if a certain puzzle is giving your problems, you can just bypass it by purchasing the next puzzle or series of puzzles.
Boom Blox Bash Party isn't just a sequel. It's a worthwhile progression and evolution of the franchise with new modes, blocks, and tools. This is all the while retaining the fun, accessibility, and charm that the original was praised for. This is a game that anyone physically-able can get into and enjoy. Boom Blox Bash Party is a terrific party game, a wonderful solo game, and a worthy addition to any Wii owner's library.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]