Boom Blox Review

You might not enjoy every single game type that Boom Blox offers, but most of them are a lot of fun, especially if you're playing with friends.

Boom Blox is one of those products that blurs the line between game and toy. While it has the levels and general structure needed to provide you with a clear sense of progression through its challenges, there's something to be said for just tossing bowling balls into huge towers of blocks and letting physics take it from there.

Nobody not likes to play baseball!
Nobody not likes to play baseball!
The game gives you a lot of different ways to play around with that basic concept, both alone and with up to four players. Once you've gotten over the game's built-in variety, you can get into the level editor and create some wild stuff of your own, then share it with your friends via the internet.

The key thing about Boom Blox is the level of control you have. You mainly interact with objects by tossing or shooting things at them. Shooting is a point-and-click endeavor, but throwing things has a lot more finesse to it. First you point at the screen and use B to rotate the camera, then hold A when you've lined up your shot. To toss, you cock back your arm, make a throwing motion, and let off the A button to release. The harder your throwing motion is, the harder your toss. While getting used to how fast you need to move your arm to throw hard can take a little time, it's pretty easy to pick up.

The grab tool gets a bit trickier. Instead of just lining up a shot, locking on, and tossing, the grab tool lets you get your hands on individual blocks and pull them around. Sometimes you can be wild with this, but it usually requires a very steady hand and some slow, even movement on your part. That's because most of the grab tool games in Boom Blox are effectively Jenga, where you're trying to pull objects out of a mess of blocks without disturbing the pile too much.

The Jenga-style games, which you can play alone or with others, is probably my favorite thing to do in Boom Blox, but there's a lot of variety to be found. The game starts you out trying to use the fewest number of baseballs to knock down all of the gem blocks in a level, and as you go deeper you'll discover how the different block types interact. There are bomb blocks that explode when hit, chemical blocks that explode when two of them connect, vanish blocks that disappear when you strike them, and so on.

The game's adventure mode brings a collection of cute, block-shaped characters into the proceedings, some more directly than others. This sets up games where you're helping a little mustache-wearing critter "mine for gold" by blowing a hole in a structure with a bomb ball, then tossing rubber balls into the hole. Any blocks touched by the rubber ball light up gold and count for your score. The last couple of games in the adventure mode ended up being my least favorite. Both of them have you protecting kittens from skeletons, one set using the grab tool to place obstacles to slow down the enemies and clear a path for the kittens, and another where you can shoot or toss balls at the skeletons to keep them away from the kittens. They both can get pretty frustrating, and it shines a bit of a light on the way the game's progression keeps things pretty inflexible. If you get hung up on a puzzle and you aren't willing to switch over to multiplayer mode or go create a level, you're basically stuck.

The multiplayer offers co-operative games, competitive games, and attack games. The Jenga-like mode counts as a competitive game, where players take turns removing blocks from a pile and attempt to keep the whole thing from toppling over. The castle attack games are neat, too, giving players big castles with gem blocks in them. The goal is to knock out all of your opponents' gem blocks before you get taken down in kind. With a good amount of variety to it, the multiplayer mode can really take you a long way.

Of course, if you do get tired of what Boom Blox has to offer by default, you can go in and edit existing levels or create new ones from scratch. The creation tools aren't much different from the grab tool you use in the main game, so it's somewhat intuitive, but it requires a steady hand if you want to make something specific. I found that I didn't really have the patience to make anything too elaborate, but if you're into level creation, you'll probably like what Boom Blox delivers in this area.

Boom Blox would be a shell of a game if it didn't have the graphical prowess to back up its concept. The game has a charmingly simple look to it that might not wow you right away. But the game doesn't fall apart with a lot of objects are moving around on-screen, and that's what really matters in this case. When you start setting up elaborate, bomb-filled levels that send everything flying all at once, it's good to know that the game can usually keep up with you, and that's what makes it look great, overall.

While some of the trickier puzzles may take some real time to master, especially if you want to get a gold medal on every challenge, it doesn't take a lot of time to acclimate yourself to Boom Blox and whip through most of what it has to offer. The lasting value, then, comes from the multiplayer, which is an absolute blast, and the creation aspect, which, to be fair, isn't for everyone. Still, with so many different things to do and so many different ways to do it, Boom Blox seems like the sort of game that just about anyone can have a great time with.