Boom Blox is the first of two announced video games which will emerge from the much-talked-about partnership between Electronic Arts and legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. Developed exclusively for the Nintendo Wii, players use their Wii remote to throw a variety of virtual objects at towers of building blocks with the intention of knocking them down. It's exceedingly simple once the controller is in-hand and dangerously addictive after only a few minutes of play.
Collapsing New Buildings in Boom Blox
Remember Jenga? Or its alcohol-fueled, college-age, homemade equivalent? In that game, a series of blocks are first stacked into a tower with players then taking turns pulling single blocks out of the structure without knocking the rest down. Well, Boom Blox is the anti-Jenga.
In each level of the game's single player mode, players are presented with puzzles in the form of building block structures which must be destroyed in a specific manner. There are multiple sets of these puzzles, each with their own unique characters, narrative context and setting. The final game will ship with more than 300 levels in all.
In the example used for our time with the game, a race of sentient sheep in a medieval setting are searching for gems scattered throughout the world. That's right... sentient sheep on a hunt for gems. Why, we're not sure. But a sheep in need is a hard thing to say no to.
In the level demoed a series of gems rested atop four building block towers arranged to form a square. The goal was to knock those gems off in as few throws as possible, with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded for succeeding in one, two and four throws, respectively.
With no buttons pressed, the remote's pointer is an oversized targeting reticule. Holding down either the B button or the A button locks the pointer in place, though with far different effects. The B button is used to control the camera; hold it down and move the remote to adjust the field of view in the game's 3D environments. The A button is instead used to prepare for a throw. Once the targeting icon is locked in place, players must make a throwing action with the remote, releasing A at the apex of the throw. The quicker the swing, the harder the throw in the game.
The result, of course, is disrupted blocks and hopefully a knocked down structure or two. Boom Blox features a realistic physics engine, one which extends to the makeup of the object being thrown. A bowling ball, for example, does a great deal more damage than a baseball does.
Making things more complex are a multitude of block types and characters which can either help or hinder the player's progress. Bomb blocks explode when hit, purple ones simply disappear and green ones trigger a massive chemical reaction (read: explosion) when they come into contact with one another. Characters perform specific activities, such as bomb-laying chickens and bomb-triggering beavers. And then there are skeletons, which prey on other characters, and dogs, which act as protectors.
Other Options in Boom Blox
Boom Blox is more than just a collection of puzzles however. A multiplayer Party mode contains 11 different competitive modes, each one offering multiple levels to play in. Additionally, Boom Blox also features a Create mode in which players can edit any of the game's included levels or craft new ones of their own.
Multiplayer options are always welcome, but the Create feature shines brightest with opportunity. More than just a platform for creating new puzzles, players can use this mode as a sort of sandbox playpen for letting their imaginations run wild. The example we were shown featured a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption in which block arranged as dominoes triggered a series of character actions, eventually causing a rocket built out of fireworks blocks to blast off. The potential for wacky YouTube videos and endless replayability - created levels can be shared with friends - is very high in Boom Blox.
The relationship between Hollywood and the video games industry has historically been a bad one in both directions. Spielberg and EA are well on their way to disrupting that pattern with Boom Blox. The overarching concept of tapping into that childlike urge to build things and knock them down is undeniably "Spielbergian" and it fits very well into the gameplay model that the team at EA Los Angeles has developed. Whether or not the final game's levels are varied enough to avoid being repetitive is still something of a question mark, but Boom Blox has quite an edge already thanks to core mechanics which are both simple and fun to play with.