The adventure modes, meanwhile, are just plain weird. Here the puzzles are arranged in a number of ongoing stories, charting, say, an ongoing war between medieval sheep and bears or the gold-prospecting saga of a blocky, moustachioed beaver. I can’t say that the plotlines or characterisation dragged me in, but the puzzles are a different story, often combining block types and tools in a more complex and engaging way than the Explore mode. This does come at a cost, however. The storylines are divided into several themed sections, and there are a few that drag on a little bit more than they should. The adventures of Gorilda, a mother gorilla in search of her kidnapped offspring, could certainly have done with trimming back.
As a single player game, Boom Blox is thoroughly enjoyable, with enough meaty content to keep you glued to the screen for a couple of dreary days. It’s also, it should be noted, the kind of game that encourages audience participation, partly because it’s fun to watch, and partly because it’s even more fun to point out where someone else is going wrong (at least before they threaten to lamp you if you don’t shut your trap). However, I wasn’t so sure about its multiplayer potential at first. A lot of the Party mode’s level seems skewed away from the more complex and interesting puzzle solving and towards the more basic pleasures of ball tossing and shooting-range style games with the laser gun. Luckily, there are some more sophisticated cooperative and competitive options in there, and during the more difficult tower toppling or Jenga-like challenges, the game adds some real tension to the family-friendly fun.
It’s the Create mode, however, that may be the key to Boom Blox’s long-term appeal. Even before you try it you’ll know it’s there, because the more you play, the more you’ll unlock blocks, tools, scenery and characters that can be used in it. At first, you’ll think it’s just a simple level editor – the sort of thing you’ll look at once then never touch again. Then you realise that the different blocks and the simple level-editing tools give it a bit of a Lego feel; constructing can be fun almost in and of itself. Finally, you try out the examples and work out that you can use the tools to create your own bizarre block-based mechanisms, at which point it’s like having the biggest and most spectacular domino-toppling simulation known to man – not to mention one which allows you to share your efforts with friends using Wii 24 connect. The only major disappointment is that there’s no online service where you can upload and download great puzzles or demolition showcases from other players worldwide. The game practically cries out for it. And while I’m on the subject, online Leaderboards wouldn’t have hurt, either.
Still, these are relatively minor criticisms. Boom Blox isn’t quite a masterpiece, and there are times when its structure – one short puzzle, then the next, then the next – means you rarely get in the hypnotic groove that makes a truly great puzzle game great. In terms of sheer, simple, accessible fun, however, it’s one of the best third-party games on the Wii, not to mention one of the few family games on the system with any real longevity. With that in mind, I can recommend it without any hesitation. I wouldn’t like Mr Spielberg to give up his blockbusters, but his blox buster has certainly gone down a storm in my household. I’m confident it will do the same in yours.
A stunning combination of great Wii controls and imaginative physics-based puzzle gameplay makes Boom Blox a family-friendly hit.
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