Frankly, just throwing balls at towers of blocks is enjoyable enough for a while, but what makes Boom Blox intriguing in the long-term is the interaction between the tools and the blocks themselves. You’ve got your basic blocks, your gem blocks, your gold score blocks and your tough, hard to shift grey blocks, but you also get explosive bomb blocks, green chemical blocks (which explode when two or more come together) and purple disappearing blocks (these vanish on impact).
It’s all controlled by a fairly complex physics engine, and after the first few levels you realise that each puzzle is effectively a mechanism. Everything is in place for you to succeed, and all you need to work out is where to hit or what to pull so that the block structures roll, tumble, explode or scatter in the way that will achieve your objective most efficiently. Whether you get it right or wrong doesn’t matter too much. A quick restart is only seconds away, and there’s always something enjoyable about watching the blocks come tumbling down anyway. Maybe it all goes back to the toddler’s love of building and collapsing brick towers, but I’ve got more out of watching things fall apart in Boom Blox than I have in half the big action games where rampant destruction is supposed to be the key selling point.
Without good level design – or good puzzles – all of this would be absolutely meaningless, but this is another area that the game gets spot on right. In the game’s Explore modes you can play through several sets of puzzles, each one concentrating on a particular tool or block type, and each set graded in difficulty. On top of that, each puzzle also has a choice of gold, silver or bronze awards. This is partly what makes Boom Blox a great family game: even the junior members can work through the game getting bronze, while tired dads can get a silver without needing to call on too much brainpower. The golds, however, can be a very different matter. Sometimes you’ll win one first time, but in other cases you’ll find yourself scratching your head, trying this approach then that, before someone wanders in, says ‘can I have a go?’ then cracks it on their first attempt. Sure, you can get through the whole game on silver, but will you be satisfied without the gold? I think not.