BOOM BLOX Review
|Developer:||EA Casual Entertainment|
|Release Date:||May 9th, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Duncan Lawson (Sinna01)|
Boom Blox is a family oriented puzzler produced in an apparent corroboration between EA and, bizarrely, Stephen Spielberg. Mr Spielberg's motivation to approach EA with his concept was - and this is a phrase that should make you all very wary indeed - "I really wanted to create a video game that I could play with my kids." This is the gaming equivalent of 'making a movie that my kids could see', and we all know The Pacifiers and the Jingle All The Ways that this good intention has paved the road to cinematic hell with. In fact Boom Blox is not anywhere near as bad as the aforementioned products, and it is absolutely good clean fun for the whole family, but it is also ultimately repetitive, uninspired, and seemingly put together with an initial rush of enthusiasm tailing off into space-filling by the numbers.
Boom Blox can best be described as a hybrid of Jenga, Lego and the Worms series. Using the Wii remote, you will have the ability to throw balls with a fly-fishing style flick of the wrist and 'A' release, grab objects with a pinch of the A and B button, or point and shoot. With these basic tools, you will be presented with some 300 different puzzles in three 3 essential flavours, dressed up in cutesy Lego style Medieval, Jungle, Wild West and Haunted House themes.
The bulk of the game for a lot of players will be in the single-player Adventure mode, where you travel between four themed worlds, each with three 'acts' comprised of 8 or so set puzzles. Each of the Acts centre around a puzzle type, such as a straight jenga challenge, knocking gems off of blocks with a ball, or to blow up all the green blocks, etc.
Given the cute simplicity of the graphics and the straightforward controls, Boom Blox lives and dies by the strength of its puzzle design and the delicate balance of its difficulty. For the first two thirds of the game, this is actually very well executed, and as each puzzle can be completed at gold, silver or bronze distinctions, there's plenty of motivation for replay. The look and feel of the game is clean and simple, with much of the straightforward fun of the coconut shy, jenga, or mousetrap. Very few of the set-pieces will require more than one or two attempts to achieve at least the bronze award, and you'll finish the whole single player campaign in only one or two afternoons of casual gaming. There are multi-player co-op levels to play as well, but the majority of these do not really play any differently from single player if you were to pass the control around between moves.
Both the single player and the multiplayer challenges suffer from one essential flaw - that the game designers reach has significantly exceeded their imagination. For around the first 50 of the 300 levels, there is intelligence and humour in the level design, encouraging the player to think through their actions, anticipate the tumbling chain reactions, and perform Brain Surgeon calibre feats of steady-handedness. There is definitely a point that the inspiration ran out, however, and the game rapidly falls into relying alone on the novelty of the Wii's motion control for its entertainment value. The family orientated puzzler for significant portions of the last act degenerates into a c-rate light gun shooter, which when even this idea runs out of steam is propped up by replacing the gun with a ball, to exhausting and repetitive effect.
The horrible light gun levels are the worst example of the uninspired level design, and although this does affect most of the game, it is within more tolerable levels. Boom Blox comes complete with a full level designer, and it wouldn't surprise me if fans were not able to put together a more engaging and exciting collection of levels themselves over time. The game should be lauded for having a realistic stab at that elusive cross-over genre for kids and adult gamers together, but lacks the creative weight to back it up.
- Accesable, intutive gameplay
- Cross-generation family friendly
- Plentiful levels
Not so good stuff
- Unispired level design
- Too easy for most gamers
- A lot of money for a fancy jenga set
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