|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Los Angeles||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 6, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
March 4, 2008 - Who doesn't love blowing stuff up? What about blowing stuff up in a way that's not particularly violent? How about explosions of flying blocks and cute animals delivered in a fun and humorous presentation any family member can enjoy instead of fire, dismembered limbs, and gore? Electronic Arts has teamed up with Steven Spielberg to work on an enticing creation that will challenge players to both build and destroy with a realistic, explosive physics system and a cast of loveable, quirky characters. As a puzzler, Boom Blox may very well turn out to be the next big genre topper on the Wii.
Simple gameplay concepts don't always yield great results, but Boom Blox takes a basic design - one that capitalizes on the primal bliss that comes from unadulterated simulated destruction - and runs with it. The game drops players into more than 300 levels filled with 3D blocks stacked in assorted towering configurations with the goal of clearing the stage of all blocks by using the least number of moves. Essentially, it's completely the opposite from Jenga, yet a number of additional gameplay elements make the game largely more interesting than simply knocking blocks down.
Aside from the plain-looking pieces of varying sizes and shape that serve as the basic building blocks for the different structures, there are over a dozen other unique blocks that possess special properties that affect gameplay, including purple blocks that vanish when struck, red bomb blocks that explode, and green blocks that erupt with chemical reactions when hit, among others. The game also features over 30 animated character blocks that move around the field with different behaviors. You'll find monkeys that throw baseballs, skunks, tiki heads, skeletons, dogs, sheep, beavers, bomb-laying chickens, the grim reaper, and many other wacky critters. These creatures are cute, but they also add another element to the gameplay, since their actions can influence how players will have to approach each stage.
Boom Blox features a lighthearted and upbeat cartoonish visual style full of color and charm. The game will primarily take place in four different worlds including a western frontier town, a haunted house, a tiki realm, and a medieval forest setting. The single-player campaign includes contains a light story punctuated by brief animated scenes to add some additional flavor and dress up each stage.
Though the objective is to take out the different towering configurations of blocks and blocky characters, it's the way players get to do it that makes the game look so appealing. Using the Wii Remote, it's possible to grab, shoot, and push the stack of blocks to cause them to collapse. Players can also blow the stacks up by setting off massive chain reactions or throwing a variety of different items at them. Chucking items at the structures is done by selecting a specific block to target, locking onto the selection by hitting the A button, and then using the Wii Remote to make a throwing motion. The strength of your throw and the type of object you're using as ammo plays a big part in how the blocks will react when struck. The sensitivity of the controls allows players to use varying levels of power in their throw, and the game will react accordingly.
The extremely realistic physics system also makes the game quite intriguing. Boom Blox utilizes the Havok physics engine, so blocks will react to being hit and towers will topple just as they would in a real setting. This is particularly spectacular when a chemical reaction or bomb is triggered causing a chain reaction that sends blocks flying explosively in all direction. Most controls, including the camera angle, can be adjusted with the Wii Remote, but using the Nunchuk attachment lets players enter into a super slick bullet-time mode that lets you pause the action in mid-explosion and pan around the scene to catch the chaos from different viewpoints before letting it fly again.
In addition to several single-player modes, Boom Blox will feature co-op and competitive multiplayer gameplay (in single and split-screen modes) alongside various mini-game activities. A deep in-game level editor will let players concoct their own stages full of block busting chaos to play or share with friends via the WiiConnect24 service. If the ability to create several different styles of puzzles is not enough, it's entirely possible to construct your own Rube Goldberg machines, which should provide many hours of added entertainment.
If you've ever wondered why a child might spends a lot of time meticulously constructing a tower of blocks only to whack it into oblivion and marvel at the ensuing chaos, a few minutes with Boom Blox may provide some much-needed insight. Beyond that, it definitely has some serious potential to consume many hours of puzzle gameplay for adults and kids alike.
CCC Staff Contributor