Reviews// BOOM BLOX Bash Party

Posted 29 May 2009 14:27 by
When I first played the Wii, at E3 in 2006, I was incredibly excited, and impressed. Not so excited that I put all my investments into Nintendo stocks, and that I will always regret - but certainly excited enough to jump up and down and clap quite a lot. This excitement did not die down for several months... and just as it did, our Wii arrived in the office, and then hundreds of potentially productive hours were spent golfing, and bowling. The Wii is a wonderful idea...

But, over the intervening two and a half years, my interest in and enthusiasm for the Wii has diminished somewhat. The reason for this being the games. All too often, publishers port a game from another platform and hastily and unsatisfactorily graft on Wii controls. Shovelware. One can understand why they do it... I think. Though one might think that producing games for the number one selling platform would take a higher priority.

Nintendo, of course, doesn't take this approach. The Wii is their baby, and they love it as any proud parent would... and that love shows in their games, which are conceived from the very beginning to exploit Wii controls. But there's only so much first party software, and it tends to be too family friendly for my tastes.

I loved Super Mario Galaxy, but coming from an Amiga and PlayStation background... I'm no great Mario fan, and Super Mario Kart did nothing for me at all. I enjoyed House of the Dead, but the Wii is a gimme for gun games - and since buying a projector I had been jonesing to play one.

But by and large, third-party publishers do not "get" the Wii, and as a result it doesn't have games I want to play. Or when it does - SkateIt for instance, they are hideously unplayable. I never want to see another Wii boxing game. Over time, my WiiLuv has waned.

Then along comes BoomBlox. It's from Steven Spielberg, no less - which to many people will be a solid gold stamp of approval. But those are the kind of people who think that The Terminal and Minority Report are quality movies. I admit that Jaws and Duel are entertaining, and I know that Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan are much admired - but there are parents alive today who were not born the last time Steve made a movie I wanted to watch.

Exactly what Spielberg's involvement with Boom Blox Bash Party is is open to debate. Although he is clearly a very creative guy, he has no former video games production experience, and the game has been produced by EA's LA studios, where a team of experienced video games producers have been involved. So the SS name on the box may be more to do with his perceived (and actually very real) midas touch than his video games pedigree. Beyond name recognition though there is nothing to suggest that his name above the title will hold any sway with video game players.

But all of this is academic. What matters to real gamers, and therefore what matters to us here at SPOnG is whether Boom Blox Bash Party is any good as a game. And it is. Because unlike so many modern games, it eschews cleverness, and technical flim-flammery in favour of good, old fashioned, visceral gaming experience. And a real life experience too. BBBB is all about throwing balls at your opponents pile of building blocks. It's about knocking things down.

Tim thinks the game is basically a computer game of Jenga. Now, the idea of BBBB is to knock things down, the idea of Jenga is to avoid the tower being knocked down. So, how he draws this comparison, I cannot imagine. True, there is a pile of blocks in both games - but that's like saying FIFA is a video game version of the Wimbledon final. Both have balls, and nets.

But Tim's towering synesthesia aside, BBBB takes what would be a great game in real life. Piling things up and knocking them down, with the added skill aspect of throwing things, and makes it an even greater game on the Wii. In real life, once you had knocked everything down, you would have to pile it all back up again - and that would not involve destroying things, so it would be nowhere near as much fun.

Also, in real life, you would find it difficult to obtain the constituents of the blocks which, when they contact one another, explode. And even trying to obtain those chemical constituents might get you on a list that you really do not want to be on, especially when you are queuing at a passport control on your way to Magaluf. But in Boom Blox, these things are not even an issue... the explosions are virtual. But they do add a strategic aspect to the game. As do the other blocks which simply disappear when your projectile hits them - and that would be a tricky erm, trick to manage in real life.

There are a variety of single-player options, and a head-to-head multi-player which can see you challenge up to three friends. There are also a variety of balls to be thrown, each has a different "heft" so you'll need to consider that before you take your throw.

What BBBB does well is take a simple yet compelling game idea, exploit the console medium to make it easier to play and make use of the Wii's unique control method to make it analogous to a physical game. The visceral thrill of throwing the ball in BBBB adds immeasurably to the experience.

SPOnG Score: 87%
People say the best ideas are the simplest ones. Boom Blox Bash Party is certainly a simple idea. Well implemented. The resulting game is addictive and fun.

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Psalms 29 May 2009 17:46
Boom Blox Bash Barty looks like a lot of fun, the first is a regular favourite amongst my uni friends.
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