Posted by: Matt Vella on May 07
The Good: Engrossing realistic physics. Precise motion controls. Cheeky graphics.
The Bad: None. Really.
The Bottom Line: The best casual gaming has to offer and possibly the best Wii title yet.
The concept is as simple as it gets: Stack things up. Knock them down. Repeat.
Boom Blox, the collaboration between Hollywood titan Steven Spielberg and game-maker Electronic Arts, is a puzzle game that invites players to “throw” various projectiles at stacks of blocks, which react with startlingly realistic motions. Uncomplicated, tactile, and fun, Boom Blox represents the best of what casual games have to offer – and it could very well be the best title for Nintendo’s Wii console yet.
Rather than attempt to recreate the operatic action of most summer movies, this “block-buster” is a puzzle game that was created to be accessible to families and groups of friends. The game is built around the Wii’s motion sensing controls and programming that gives in-game objects realistic physical properties. To solve the hundreds of puzzles included in the game, players must toss balls to knock over blocks, carefully slide individual pieces out from a stack (think: Jenga), or set off Rube Goldberg-like chain reaction machines.
Impeccable motion controls and realistic physics lie at the center of the experience. The speed of a player’s throw, for example, is precisely rendered on screen thanks to the Wii Remote’s built-in accelerometer. The angle of each throw, meanwhile, is dictated by where a gamer places the cursor on the screen. This precision causes the controls to simply dissolve, disappearing into the gameplay experience rather that becoming an obstacle that must be mastered before the game can be enjoyed. The other half of the equation is the game’s blocks, which react in lifelike ways, as if they had properties such as weight and momentum.
A variety of modes are available for players to dive into Boom Blox. “Explore” is composed of increasingly difficult puzzles designed to teach players the basic mechanics of the game. Medals are awarded depending on how well players solve the puzzles. “Adventure” is slightly more fast-paced, adding some character-driven storylines and shooting-galleries. The multiplayer mode is varied, mixing and matching from the single player modes.
Like a geometry problem, there isn’t always a “right” answer. In fact, most stages can be solved in a variety of ways. This element makes the game inherently re-playable and lends multiplayer sessions a palpable sense of strategy and experimentation. There are literally hundreds of pre-created puzzles on the disc and the game includes a level editor that allows players to roll their own. Downloads of the Boom Blox community’s best home-grown puzzles are on the way, as well.
It all adds up. Boom Blox may be the best casual game I’ve ever played. Though so-called casual titles that emphasize light, easy-to-learn gameplay may be easy to pick up, many are also just as easy to put down for lack of truly engaging gameplay. Boom Blox raises the bar, making of its simplicity a supreme – and just plain fun – virtue. I’m at a loss to think of any person I know, gamer and especially non-gamer, that couldn’t pick this title up and enjoy.
No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.