Boom Blox Wii
This whole casual game business still pisses me off to some extent, as many companies don’t seem to understand what gamers want. You have all kinds of shovelware hitting the Wii every week, with most of them abominations that I would not wish on my greatest enemy. Then you have companies dumbing down their Wii titles for some weird mind boggling reason. EA completely missed the mark with Boogie and EA Playground last year. THQ have next to no idea what they’ll dump out of their arse next, and by the way spelling Dogs with a Z is not smart or clever, and it certainly does not make me want to buy your stupid game Ubisoft.
However, some companies are much smarter with their releases, with the likes of Professor Layton and Zack and Wiki being the latest clever and accessible titles that truly offered gamers something that feels new. Thankfully, Boom Blox is yet another one of these games that treads similar ground. In fact, the title is so impressive it easily makes up for last year’s misstep by the EA.
For the most part, about 70% of the game is built around the idea of you throwing balls at a structure to topple it. You do this by pointing your Wiimote at the screen. Holding down B to move the camera then picking a spot by pressing A. You then keep A held down, pull the Wiimote back and perform a throwing motion and let go of A. The ball will then go flying in the direction you selected. Depending on the power of your throw, combined with the block you aimed at, it will start a chain reaction causing stuff to fall. At its simplest this reaction could just be one block simply hitting another thus causing it to fall, but because of the vast array of different blocks in the game many different reactions can occur.
If you hit a bomb block it will explode, making blocks around it scatter. A vanishing block it will disappear causing all blocks above to fall. Making a green coloured chemical block come in contact with a matching one will cause yet another explosion. It all sounds very simple really, but it’s not as easy as it initially sounds. The game usually asks you meet your objective in one throw to get the gold medal, with a lowly silver or bronze awarded if you take too many throws to complete the task. The levels get increasingly complicated the further you get into the game. The more interesting ones mimics see-saws, and you have to hit the right block to shift the weight.
When not throwing balls at blocks the game also sets Jenga style tasks to pull out different blocks from a tower to try and keep it standing. These levels offer some diversity as well, with some stages having hazard blocks that will knock points off your score should you remove them. As you get further into this mode things start getting complicate too, with some of the latter stages best described as versions of Jenga from your nightmares.
There is more though, with a mode featuring blocks on conveyor belts where the challenge is to hit them with a laser gun or water cannon. Another sees blocks shooting through the sky, tasking you with hitting them as well. There is even a selection of co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes on show, which combine all the modes named above with options for up to four players at once.
Then there is the create mode, which lets you build you own creation to topple or just blow up. Undoubtedly, this is a nice addition to the game, as it ups the replayability significantly, but just like any other create mode or map builder options in other games it comes with it fair share of problems. The big one of course being that it takes an age to build anything of worth. This problem is made even worse as the creation menus are a bit messy, and the controls to place blocks are much fiddler than those to knock them down. Nevertheless, if someone has the patience then the possibilities to create new levels are nigh on endless. If you do make a level make sure you go on to share your creations with everyone in your Wii Friends address book afterwards as you don’t want to keep your genius all to yourself.
If there was another problem to point out it would have to be the look of the game and the appearance of the characters, Now, in my opinion there is nothing wrong with vividly colourful games, but the characters in these titles have to have some appeal. Regretfully, the characters on show in Boom Blox are just not likeable. In fact, I don’t think I have ever being so annoyed since I first laid my eyes on Busby the Cat. In truth, the overall look of the game is not much to write home about either and could have been made look much better, especially as EA offer such top-end presentation in many of their other titles. However, on the bright side there is some good news as a selection of these aggravating characters always appear in the background as you play each puzzle, so you can send block shaped chickens and cows flying at any time should accidentally on purpose send a stray ball their way.
Boom Blox is a game built for the Wii, not because of it. Unlike many other games on the platform it is hard to fathom playing without a Wiimote in your hand. If only for that reason alone it is a title that deserves attention, but thankfully there is much more to praise Boom Blox about. It’s one of those games that’s very easy game to play, but difficult to go on and master. It’s in the same vein as Super Monkey Ball if you want to start comparing, and because of this it is not only a game all kids should end up enjoying, but also a game the kid in everyone should end up liking to some extent as well. All in all, it is a fantastic, albeit highly unexpected first venture for the exciting Steven Spielberg / EA collaboration. Other companies should most certainly take note. More please!