UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead, review below:
I was very skeptical about Boom Blox, thinking it was simply a kid’s or casual game and nothing more than that, however, after playing it I can see that it is actual quite fun, entertaining, and at times, thought provoking.
To begin with, the controls are very simple, so anyone, besides my mom, can learn them instantly. You simply point to where you want to throw the ball, for instance, hold the A button to lock on to that position, and then give the Wii remote a flick and release the A button. It’s as simply as that. You can also manipulate the camera by holding the B button and moving the Wii remote in the direction you want to move the camera. The only thing to keep in mind is that the power in which you flick is important and changes the power of your throw. Also, because this is true, you can really get into it so it is important that you ALWAYS wear the wrist strap so we don’t have any of those hole in tv accidents. The only thing I don’t like about the camera system is the fact that you cannot zoom-in in anyway and the camera is centered on an axis that is different for every level and sometimes it makes it hard to make the shot you want, which is disappointing and frustrating.
Like I alluded to a few sentences up, there are various weapons in the game besides the basic baseball. For starters, there are a variety of balls and throw-able objects, such as tennis balls, rubber balls that bounce like crazy, bowling balls that plow through blocks, and bombs. There are also an assortment of guns which are much easy to control, as you simply aim and fire. There is also one of those sticky hands that you get out of the coin machines, but they simply work as a grabbing tool so you can pull blocks away one by one from the main structure. Having all of these different kinds of weapons greatly gives the game variety and the ability to have different game modes, which are mainly apparent in the solo game modes.
The carnage ensues. FYI, simply aiming at those animal guys is hilarious.
There are three main modes: Play, Party, and Create. Play houses the single-player modes, while Party features the multiplayer modes, which work for 2 to 4 players, and Create is where you can create and play your own levels.
Play mode contains the most variety and things to do in Boom Blox. It contains 5 sub-sections: Training, where you must start; Explore; Adventure; Explore Challenge; and Adventure Challenge. All of these sections follow the same formula, which is that only one level is available from the beginning, and to unlock the next level, you must complete the previous one with either a bronze, silver, or gold medal. There are a couple different parameters that judge what medal you get, but each level only uses one. These parameters consist of how many throws it took to, for instance, knock every block down, how long it took to do so, how many animal-block-things stay alive, or how many points you earned.
Oh boy, you creepy little squirrel thing. I got gold.
Explore mode contains 6 different sections, each of which is a block-type, except the last. There is the blue gem blocks, golden point blocks that each have a different point value mostly dependent on size, red bomb/exploding blocks, purple disappearing blocks, and green chemical blocks that explode when they come into contact with each other. There are a few more kinds of blocks that this mode does not feature. The last section in the Explore mode features the sticky hand item and plays like Jenga, where you need to remove specific blocks without making the entire structure fall. Each of these sections contains about 20 levels, each of which is like a puzzle that you will want to replay again and again in order to get the gold medal. Luckily, you can easily retry a level and it only takes a second to reload the level, which is nice, as opposed to waiting 5-10 seconds for the level to reload which can get irritating quickly. Some of these levels can be really challenging, and you even unlock levels of much harder difficulty in the next section I’m going to talk about. For this reason, you will be racking your brain trying to figure out the best way to go about solving these puzzles, which is why sometimes it would have been nice to be able to zoom in, but you can’t. Also, it brings a bit of a problem with the fact that you have to beat that level to unlock the next, so if you get stuck, you are kind of screwed. For this reason, it would have been better to have a system such that you have 5 levels available to you and then you unlock the next set when you beat 3 or 4 out of the 5, or something similar.
Be careful there…pulling out those blocks can be tricky and you have to hold your Wiimote very steadily. Also, the game is very physics intensive, which you must take into account in all of your actions.
Adventure mode contains four sections, each of which contain a different form of gameplay. One has you protecting a bunch of kittens as a zombie horde attacks, while another has you clearing a path so a gorilla-block-thingy can reach her children. All of these scenarios have a bit of a story behind them, which are played out via cut-scenes and text. Adventure mode is still played like Explore mode in that you are ranked and get a medal which will then unlock the next level.
With both these modes, you see the creativity of the developers. Boom Blox isn’t simply a game where you try to destroy a bunch of towers of blocks. Sometimes that is the case, but you must do it smartly in only a couple throws. Other times, the game plays like a shooting gallery, with point blocks flying around and you have a gun and have to amass a high score. Other levels are like Jenga, where you have to slide out some blocks to achieve some goal, while still more levels play like Defend Your Castle, where you have to stop a bunch of raiding animals from stealing the gem blocks from your fort. This diversity shines through and really makes Boom Blox something special, however, once you beat a level, there is really no reason to revisit it, so these shining moments are soon forgotten.
Kill it, kill it! Those blocks will…block their way, at least until they destroy them, so do your best to fight off the horde as long as you can.
Party mode features a variety of game-types, such as the shooting gallery, a shuffle-board-type game, a mode in which you try to destroy your opponents’ castles, and others. These are pretty fun and give Boom Blox a strong multiplayer presence, which is the main reason why you would return to this game, as the single player mode can be beaten fairly quickly; within 6-10 hours or thereabouts.
The last mode is the Create mode. The Create mode features a lengthy tutorial that you can choose to view which will go over all of the tools it has to offer and suggest tips to help you design a decent level. There are a bunch of options at your disposal, so you can completely customize your level with the blocks and sizes and background and props you want. By playing the other modes, you unlock more and more items that can be used in the Create mode, including weapons, characters, and props. After you have created a level, you can set some of the rules, including number of throws allowed, time limit, and number of players. It seems to me that Create mode is somewhat limiting in the types of modes you can create, although the more I think about it, the more I can see people using it, so if you are really creative and like to put time into these kinds of things, unlike myself, then you will probably find lots to do and create here. But if you are like me, then you won’t use this tool at all, and thus limit the enjoyment you get out of this title.
Keeping all of this in mind, I believe Boom Blox is a bit overpriced at $49.99. I think it should have been a budget title for only $29.99. If this were the case, then I would definitely suggest it to anyone, however, as it is full price, it is hard for me to suggest it, as you can get through the single player experience very quickly, and then there isn’t much for you to do except play it at gaming parties and get togethers. However, I was very surprised that I had so much fun with the game, so I suggest that you at least play it at some point via a rental or borrowing it from a friend or something. It really is enjoyable while it lasts.