Name: Boom Blox
Platform: Nintendo Wii
A little over a year ago it was announced that Steven Spielberg and EA were going to be teaming up to develop two video games. One was to be a next-generation title, with a focus on story and graphics, and the other was going to be a game that would resemble Jenga, slated for a release on the Nintendo Wii, called Boom Blox. The Elebits-like title had a steady stream of positive buzz in the months leading up to its release, with some players saying that it was shaping up to be the best third-party game for the Wii in 2008. After some extensive playtime with the title, I feel confident in saying that although Boom Blox is a lot of fun, those predictions were wrong.
I’m calling Boom Blox a puzzle game because there really isn’t a better way to classify it. There are several game modes that involve destroying pieces of the world by throwing objects at stacks of blocks to create chain reactions, and most of the levels involve throwing the fewest number of times possible to complete an objective. Other modes add-in different ways to manipulate the blocks, but most of the game will be spent swinging your arm at the television in a somewhat nerve-wracking and screen-threatening fashion to hurl baseballs at badly stacked rectangles. While this is incredibly simplistic, it is also incredibly addictive.
An impressive aspect of the game is that it actually takes into account how fast your arm moves when throwing the ball, allowing you to either softly lob or peg like a bullet. Boom Blox may employ the best use the accelerometer to date, because after a couple of days my arm is bruised and burning where I have one of those bumps everyone always talks about. Oh, that’s right, a muscle.
There are over 300 levels to play in, all with different twists on the same basic premise, and an unlimited amount of content later on down the line thanks to the addition of a level creator. Players are given almost complete free reign to create custom levels which can then be sent to friends via Wii Connect 24.
The graphics are not very interesting or appealing and generally consist repeated cubical objects with low-resolution skins plastered on them. Colors are fairly vibrant and the game runs at a smooth framerate, even during the most chaotic explosions. The music is fun and whimsical, reminiscent of a slot machine, with constant bings, beeps and bangs being heard over the ring of coins and points.
Multiplayer is also a surprising amount of fun but I really wish that EA had gone the extra mile and put the game online. There are several different modes that range from a shuffle board like game to a castle attack and defend map, which can be played with up to four players for intense physics based fun.
Boom Blox isn’t going to win any awards for production values despite having both EA and Steven Spielberg’s names attached to it. That said, nothing about the game really rings "Spielberg," so I am not too sure how much work he actually put towards the game. The multiplayer portion does bump up the value of the title, though, and the large assortment of different single player levels with different awards for completing it under different circumstances also goes far to make the game a definite purchase. It may not be the only party game on the console, but it is one of the only ones that deliver a comparable single player experience to go along with it, and while it is definitely not the Wii’s Jaws I would say that it definitely isn’t the system’s 1941.