swollenfridge's Boom Blox (Wii) review

Boom Blox is great multiplayer fun with a horrible soundtrack.

Boom Blox is one of the few games on the Wii that truly just feels right in how it uses its motion controls, which are also, unlike many Wii games, fairly central to the mechanics. Boom Blox's main premise is deceptively simple - it's basically throwing balls (usually baseballs, although occasionally bowling balls and even bombs show up) at stacked arrangements of blocks - sorry, 'Blox' - with the aim of knocking as many off as possible in the fewest throws. There are a few other modes as well, although that's the bread-and-butter, but another excellent one is similar to Jenga, where you try to pull as many out as possible without knocking over the top block, and there are a few others that aren't quite as compelling.

This basic framework does have a couple added wrinkles beyond that - mainly in the different kind of blox, which includes one that explodes upon contact with the floor - but really that is the game, and it's surprising just how compelling that is. The main reason is that this main concept is shown to be inherently fun when executed as well as it is in Boom Blox. The controls feel spot-on, and the speed of your arm does affect the speed of the thrown ball. Just as important is the physics in the game. This is one of few Wii games to possess Havok physics - generally the standard in more high-tech games, often first-person shooters - but it's extremely important that the Blox fall in realistic ways, which they do for the most part. Occasionally there seems to be a bit of wonky collision detection, however, mostly in that there will sometimes be a block that appears to be just suspended in the air.

Boom Blox has quite a bit of content, single-player and multiplayer. Although the singleplayer is surprisingly fun - even puzzle-like, sometimes, especially if you want to get the elusive gold medals - the multiplayer is the true draw.  Boom Blox's simplicity and ease of controls lend it the immediacy of all the best party games, and this is the rare game that you can boot up for just about anybody to play.

Boom Blox isn't without its flaws. The graphics are merely average, although serviceable (better graphics wouldn't really improve a game like this). The cutesy aesthetic, however, designate it as a kid's game when in fact it has much wider appeal than that. Most people probably won't mind, but you might feel a little embarrassed busting this out in front of your friends. The aesthetic, however, is pure heaven compared to the nightmarishly terrible soundtrack. If you were taking an elevator to hell, then I'm guessing the music from Boom Blox would be playing in the background. Truly atrocious, and I'm not sure how this got past an entire development team without anybody second-guessing who would ever want to hear this music, which crosses the line from harmless to actively aggravating.

Boom Blox isn't infinitely replayable. Though there's quite a lot of breadth of content, the tendency to gravitate towards the two best modes (throwing the balls and pulling the Blox) in multiplayer severely limits the modes. The co-op is great fun, and the singleplayer is good enough, but at a certain point you'll have played everything this game has to offer, or you and your friends will have gotten better than the game's levels are calibrated for. While you can make your own levels, and this is an appreciated feature, odds are you'll simply be too lazy to use it.

Nevertheless, if you have some gamer or non-gamer friends hanging around one night, odds are you'll have a great time playing Boom Blox.

 If only it had better music.


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