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Throw balls at blox in the first title to emerge from EA and Steven Spielberg's collaboration...
So... the first title to emerge from the creative (and money spinning) partnership between Steven Spielberg and EA Games is finally here, but it's probably not what you'd imagine.
Certainly more Animaniacs than Schindler's List, Boom Blox is a puzzle game that at heart takes you back to the innocence of childhood with the simple premise of knocking down blocks with a swift flick of the Wii Remote. It's LEGO and Jenga mixed into one, and certainly succeeds when it comes to creating an enticing and appealing concept that's only really possible on Wii.
Armed with a big bag (presumably) of baseballs, bowling balls, and bombs, Boom Blox' challenge is to knock down Gem or Point blox whilst avoiding point-reducing Penalty blox from hitting the floor. Rated with the typical Gold, Silver, and Bronze criteria, Boom Blox may be an easy concept to grasp, but obtaining the Gold, often with only one shot, is a tougher task all together. Additional blox types with various attributes contribute to the puzzle challenge, such as hitting Vanish blox to make them disappear or setting off a chain reaction when multiple Chemical blox come into contact. The challenge stems from working out the correct angles when taking the shots and attempting sneaky tricks like hitting multiple stacks with a rebound. Later stages introduce other techniques beyond the basic principle of throwing balls at blox, with the option to blast them away or yank them using appropriate gestures on the Wii Remote. It's the visceral nature of the Wii Remote that makes Boom Blox so enjoyable from the start. Beyond the simple premise lies a game that's naturally entertaining and succeeds because Spielberg and the team evidently know what a good Wii game entails.
Grouped under Explore, Adventure, and Party modes (along with Challenge alternatives for the first two), there's plenty of blox-destroying action to be had in the 300+ levels. The Explore mode introduces the various Blox and the techniques you'll need to deal with them, whilst the Adventure mode provides a storyline involving the conflicts of the various oblong animals (suspiciously influenced by The Gregory Horror Show) that frequent each stage. The four different categories in the Adventure mode provide a satisfying sense of variation, whether it's trying to accomplish the task of knocking down blocks whilst defending the 'Woollington Army' or removing the obstacles from Gorilda's attempts to track down her baby Gerts. Beyond adding a little charisma to the game, these characters also influence the game with various different actions. The Party mode provides plenty of multiplayer action, whether it's working together to complete various stages, or against each other using any means to make your opponent's blox come tumbling down.
Boom Blox also jumps on the Creation bandwagon with the inclusion of a Create mode. A user-friendly interface and tutorials means you'll be devising devious stage in no time at all, sending them to friends via the Wii Connect 24 support. Our only complaints surround the typical issues with Nintendo's Friend policy, which could adversely affect how infectious user-created Boom Blox stages become.
Like many of the best puzzle games, Boom Blox is the type of game you'll play militantly, only progressing to the next stage until you've achieved Gold on the current one. There's something quite satisfying when you stumble upon the solution, and magically mesmerising when the blocks come tumbling down, it's like watching tower blocks demolished in slow-motion to an accompanying ambient soundtrack.
Nevertheless, when it seemed as though EA and Spielberg's collaboration was going to offer the finest Wii experience this side of a Nintendo first-party title, the slight cracks begin to appear. Boom Blox doesn't quite reach the lofty standards it hints towards at the start of the game, with the distinct lack of fiendish challenges failing to provide the hook that puzzle games desperately need to create a maddeningly addictive experience. After whizzing through the stages, you'll soon find repetition and monotony beginning to kick in. Admittedly, it's not enough to loose interest entirely in its quirky charms, but it does consign Bloom Blox from being a must-have for all Wii owners to something for those who like games to be a little different.
It could be our lack of finesse with a Wii Remote, but we also had some troubles distinguishing between the levels of power when it comes to chucking the balls. The most powerful shot is the type you'll often use, so the decision to have so many different levels of power is a strange one and leads to frustrating situations where one failed gesture recognition means the difference between gold and silver.
We should also warn potential Boom Blox'ers about the wrist-aches that the game causes. Repeatedly thrusting the Wii Remote forwards to be sure of the most powerful throw absolutely kills the next morning - just don't blame us if you end up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or something as a result, blame Steven Spielberg.
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