Thursday, June 12, 2008

Boom Blox Review

The Wii's first "blockbuster"

user posted image

When famed Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and video game mega-giant EA were teaming up to produce games, many assumed that all of these titles were going to be epic, the equivalents of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. Fast forward to a bit later, and it's revealed that the first Spielberg/EA production would be a cutesy game involving blocks in the form of Boom Blox. Many pegged the title as just another kiddy game for the Wii. Were critics right in their dismissal of this game, or is this a game that will rock their blocks?

Most folks when they come across this title, from my experience, simply call this title a block simulator or an alternate form of the popular parlor game, Jenga. Well, that's just a small portion of Spielberg's smorgasbord known as Boom Blox. When you start up a game, you can choose from one of six different profiles-- a sensational addition for your friends and family to create their own save files to play at their own leisure. You begin with a simple series of tutorial levels teaching you the very bare-bones basics of Boom Blox. After completing the tutorial mode, there's three single-player modes to select from: explore, adventure, and create. Explore mode gives you the chance to mess around with various tools and solve puzzles involving specific types of blox (I'm going to spell blocks in this form from now on, so be sharp). For instance, bomb blox, when clobbered with a ball, will explode causing all the blox around it to get launched away, whereas chemical blox only work when two different blox of the same persuasion touch one another, thus exploding.

user posted image
Not even fowl are safe from the destruction.

Adventure mode takes you through four different miniature tales either a mama gorilla who wants to reunite with her children or little kittens trying to survive a trick-or-treat expedition. Each tale is presented in short still-frame cutscenes with rhyming text accompanying them. These tales are each three chapters long. Each chapter has about six puzzles each and poses a new type of puzzle challenge for players to get accustomed to. One chapter will have you chucking baseballs at bear soldiers (Grrrs) who are trying to steal the lamb soldiers' (Baas) gems. Another will have you throwing a bouncy ball into a mineshaft (series of blox) in order to mine as much gold as possible. There's a surprising amount of variety in the goals-- far more than most probably imagine.

And most of the challenges are simple enough to beat the first time through (except for the final two adventure missions and the expert levels). However, the longevity lies in your score. At the end of each puzzle you're awarded a medal for how you did. You have to complete a mode with a Bronze in order to pass it. Each challenge has a different catch into how you complete it. One series of tasks has you trying to knock down all the gem blox in as few throws as possible. Sure, Bronze permits you some trial and error with three throws, but Gold will require you to topple all the gems in only one throw. Or there's some challenges where you need to escort a trio of kiddies to safety without letting the ghouls and undead touch them. Bronze is to let one kitty stay free, but Gold requires all kitties to survive. All that to just give you an idea on the added challenge that Boom Blox offers. By getting Golds and Silvers in various chapters you're rewarded with new content for create mode such as new tools like the bowling ball to throw or bonus challenges that will require multiple tries before you even come close to getting your brain wrapped around it.

user posted image
The only thing that stands in Gorilda's way from reuniting with her ilk are all these Tikis.

Speaking of Create, this mode grants players the ability to design their own levels: placing various types of blox, experimenting with the game's physics, setting goals (i.e. the amount of points it takes to win, how many throws the player is allowed, etc) and just goofing around. In fact, you can even edit any of the preexisting levels in the game to tinker to your delight. I personally made a simple 8-bit sprite of Mario lined with bomb blox and chemical blox and watched it explode with sheer delight-- using the play feature to slow down and rewind the carnage! And if you think your work will impress your friends, you can send your created masterpieces to folks on your Wii friends list. Unfortunately, there's no online play between friends across the globe, but truthfully local multiplayer is where it's really at.

user posted image
There's many different locales to blast blox in.

Local Multiplayer puts you and up to three other friends on the same Wii remote or different remotes to play a variety of games. There's the less exciting shooting gallery mini-game, but for that dud there's countless other amusing games. You can either play competitively or cooperatively, either trying to complete a goal together or against one another. One game has you throwing baseballs at point blox to try to get the highest score, but watch out because your friend could finish the work for you and topple the tower his or herself. As mentioned before, there's a Jenga-inspired game where you're trying to slide out the most blox without upsetting the giant game over block on the top. Multiplayer has personally lasted me hours and hours of fun with friends. It's almost worth the price alone.

If you haven't come to the conclusion yet, let me build it for you: this game is packed with fun and content-- but how does it play? Well, most levels allow you to spin the camera around the level. Unfortunately, there's no zoom function which would help in levels where you can't see everything from the current perspective. Regardless, with a hit of the B trigger, you can use the remote to move the camera around to your liking.

user posted image
Save the kittens inside this fort from the undead that desire them!

The main fun of Boom Blox comes from the incredible physics engine the game uses. It's immensely gratifying to see a large totem of blox blow apart from one another and all around the level's arena. It might seem a bit random, however, because one attempt on a puzzle using the exact same throw and method as the last might achieve different results. It's just how the engine works. Nonetheless, this doesn't become frustrating with throwing challenges since they can be repeated in a span on 10-20 seconds. The many tools offer different playing styles. With the hose or the six-shooter you just point to anywhere on the screen and fire while with a ball, you hold A to set your position on the screen and throw and release the button to chuck. The game measures the speed of your throw to calculate its power, and where you hit a block factors into either setting off a complex chain reaction of blox or just knocking down one block off its perch.

Boom Blox has an obvious children aesthetic to it with it's bouncy music, child cheers, and miscellaneous animal noises. The graphics are charming and don't stutter, but we've all seen better on the Wii. Alas, perhaps the simple nature of game would not benefit from fur-shading or orgasmic levels of bloom.

Boom Blox stands tall with the likes of Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl as the ultimate party games for the Wii. It's many challenges offer enough content for the solo player to attempt to unlock all the hidden tools and content the game has to offer, while for folks with friends there's a wide amount of fun and diversions to complement the seemingly hefty $50 price tag. If you're looking for a creative new game for your Wii, and you're sick of poor third party games, is Boom Blox the gem for you! Ironically, Boom Blox is the blockbuster Wii owners were waiting for from Mr. Spielberg.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Graphics: Simple and there's no framerate problems. The physics are convincing as well.

Gameplay: Get your throwing arm ready, there's tons of blox to topple and puzzles to solve!

Sound: Upbeat music and cutesy sounds. Nothing award-winning here.

Replay Value: The Create mode alone offers so much already, but earning Golds in challenges give you more to work with.

Overall: 9.0/10 - Marvelous. The best third-party title on the Wii.

1 comment:

Rockstar Girl said...

nice blog buddy. Steven Spielberg seems to be going great guns for everything...have you heard about the new alliance with indian tycoon and business conglomerate, Anil Ambani. it seems that Spielberg will also be directing some of his (Reliance Big Entertainment) movies. you can read the article at