Review: Boom Blox Bash Party (Wii)

Spielberg's block-based baby is back for another helping

The original Boom Blox - a collaborative effort between big-shot Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and Electronic Arts - proved to be both innovative and enjoyable, especially when playing with friends and family. Due to the success of the original, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Spielberg and Electronic Arts have teamed up again to create a follow-up that fans have been calling for; it's not only packed with tons of new levels and ball types, but also packs gameplay-changing influences like zero-gravity environments and a more robust creation mode.

When you first boot up Boom Blox Bash Party, you’ll be greeted with several gameplay options. There’s a solo, versus, and co-operative mode – all of which are pretty self-explanatory. The versus mode this time around has been expanded to allow for team-based challenges, which is a smart inclusion given that Boom Blox easily attracts crowds as soon as you start playing.

The main mode, on the other hand, throws you into a hub world that sort of resembles a theme park, with a spinning carousel in the center, and boat, spaceship, elephant, and robot statues scattered across the perimeter. Each place represents a different game type. The merry-go-round is a sample of all the more robust stages, whereas the boat takes you on a pirate-themed adventure with underwater challenges. Rounding things off are the spaceship (which rockets off beyond the atmosphere and to the low-gravity stages), the robot (which tests your grabbing skills with giant structures that must be dismantled) and the elephant (which houses new paintball hurdles).

One thing that’s evident to see right from the beginning of the game is that Bash Party is a far meatier game than its predecessor. There are now over 400 levels to available as well as new ball, block, and character types. There are no tricks going on here; every challenge is completely new and is not recycled from the original title. In addition to the new gameplay changes that were previously mentioned, players will still be able to find traditional Jenga-like formations. From start to finish, this is the definite version of Boom Blox, rather than being a money-grabbing update of the base concept.

When dismantling one of the puzzles, the control mechanic is very different. You point the Wii Remote at blocks you're interested in grabbing onto, hold A to lock and then make a pulling motion. The blocks will slide out in your grip, and then you can throw them anywhere you want, but you need to make sure that you don't accidentally topple any negative-point blocks or characters who might be standing atop these structures.

In an underwater level though, the lower-gravity locale means that you’ll have more time to react to falling blocks as they float outward. The downside though is that you'll also have to counteract the efforts of some troublesome creatures that surround the blocks, like an octopus for example.

One of the new tools at your disposal this time around is the slingshot. Making use of the slingshot tool is quite easy as it entails merely grabbing onto objects, pulling them back, and then letting them fly. The developer have been kind enough to build a ton of unique puzzles around this unique tool, including a brand new multiplayer version of the old classic shuffleboard game. In this game you can use the slingshot tool in order to heave the colored blocks at your opponent in an attempt to knock your opponent's blocks off the platform. On top of these games, there are also brand new match-three puzzles for you to clear. Add in a unique achievement system and you have a fairly well-rounded game play package.

But the new content doesn’t stop there. There's also a brand new Virus Ball that can rub slime on other blocks which will eliminate them. The Conveyor Block is also always moving in one direction and dropping any blocks on it will cause them to flow in that direction. You'll be able to buy all of these new tools with money you earn completing stages and earning medals.

The biggest addition to Bash Party though is the massively improved level editor. It isn’t difficult to tell that Electronic Arts put a heavy amount of emphasis on fine tuning the immensely improved tool. For those gamers who have a creative mind, the sky’s the limit as whatever you think of can easily be replicated on the screen.

Tying in directly with Bash Party's level editor is the equally expanded online mode, which is seamlessly integrated into the experience. There are no friend codes to be found of here. Rather, the title connects to Electronic Arts’ servers in a process that is practically invisible to the end user. Players who connect online will have the option to trade levels directly with friends and download some of the levels uploaded by Electronic Arts, which include levels from the original Boom Blox. Best of all though, all of this new content is free to use.

Electronic Arts has also overhauled the game's graphics engine, allowing for more detailed levels and particle explosions without sacrificing the fluidity of the framerate. It’s great to see them go out of their way to update an engine that already looked great as it was.

Conclusion

Boom Blox: Bash Party is unquestionably the definitive version of the game and tops its predecessor in every way possible. While some may label it a 'casual' piece of software, EA has managed to make the game appeal to both demographics without sacrificing the quality. Simply put, this is an amazing sequel from EA and should be snapped up at the earliest possibly opportunity.

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