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Boom Blox just the sort of fresh imaginative game the Wii needed. The follow up, Boom Blox Bash Party, manages to expand on this success without loosing the friendly feel of the first.
New interaction tools, physics-varying environments and proper level design tools combine to create fresh reasons to revisit. Not only this, but a broad expansion of the game's elements and modes bring to the table almost endless possibilities.
Although the original Boom Blox may have played to the masses rather than the hardcore gamer, it managed to win friends in most quarters. The nuanced controls and simple play mechanic made it easy to pick up and the competitive edge made it hard to put down. Regardless of your phase of life or gaming persuasion, the Boom Blox formula of block balancing battles delivered the goods.
Not only does this make for a lot of fun, but offers players a lot more ways to solve each of the puzzles.
The killer feature here though was that this would be hard to imagine on other systems. Boom Blox had a proper reliance on the Wiimote controller to make it possible. Boom Blox Bash Party now adds new interactions in addition to the original's pull, throw and shoot mechanic. The new slingshot control for instance, lets you pick up any stray block or piece of scenery to use as a projectile to take down the current puzzle. Not only does this make for a lot of fun, but offers players a lot more ways to solve each of the puzzles.
The 400 new blox-busting levels draw on design ideas left after the first game shipped. Some are familiar, but others draw on new materials and block shapes. The same imaginative and mischievous minds are evidently still at work here. Some are mind stretchingly difficult while others are primed to set off catastrophic chain reactions. These levels can now draw on new cylinders, paint and virus block types as well as the all-new cast of characters to provide more varied challenges.
Each of these levels are now spread through the game's different zones. Each zone has its own unique physics that affect the play mechanics and draw on a particular type of interaction.
The underwater world for example, affects not just the look and feel, but the physics of how each block interacts. Landing a hit here, results in blocks floating off rather than falling to the floor - something that introduces new ways to solve each level. Then there is the out space zone where blocks float off into oblivion.
The game isn't limited to the packed in levels though. There is a whole area where you can create your own levels. Unlike the previous game, where only a limited set of level design tools were provided, here you have everything the developers themselves used to create the in game challenges. Although it is early days still and the success of the level designer and its online marketplace where players can share levels with each other is still to be proven.
A proper sequel in the best sense of the word.
We said in our preview that Boom Blox Bash Party looked to be a proper sequel in the best sense of the word. It takes the best bits of the first game and extends them. Having spent time with the game proper we can now see this in full force. The attention to detail throughout - both on the mechanics themselves, and their playful implementation - makes the game feel polished and easy to like.The only down side is the reliance of the fiddly Wiimote pointing. Experienced players can largely compensate for the inherent fiddly nature of the controls, but younger or newer players (as the game seems to be targeted) will often struggle to get it to do what they want. It's interesting to see the upcoming Wii-Sports Resort to be using the MotionPlus add-on as a means to move away from the pointing mechanic. The clever little gyroscope enables the game to know which way you are pointing without using the infrared receiver. It makes the experience more direct and enjoyable.
No doubt, with EA at the helm, Boom Blox 3 will include MotionPlus support. Even without this though, Boom Blox Bash Party makes for some great evenings in. The variety, innovative interaction and sheer playfulness on offer are more than enough to warrant the cover price alone.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: