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Author Topic: Review: Boom Blox (Wii)  (Read 2066 times)

Mark

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Review: Boom Blox (Wii)
« on: June 11, 2008, 11:45:20 AM »


Boom Blox is a puzzle game that makes use of the unique properties of the Wiimote.

Most puzzles involve you plucking, throwing, or shooting things.  There really isn't all that much variety in the commands, but this is counterbalanced by the sheer volume and strategic diversity of the unique puzzles.

Plucking probably requires the most precision since you need to move a virtual hand with Wiimote movements and grab blocks that are only held together by physics.  If you've ever played Jenga, this will seem quite familiar.  One spastic move can cause the whole thing to topple and lead to failure.

Throwing is much like pitching in Wii Sports Baseball, except you can hold the button down before your throw to lock onto your target destination.  The throw will be stronger depending on how hard you swing the Wiimote, which adds a bit to the strategy.  For example, some puzzles will require you to knock blocks off of platforms and into point areas.  Sometimes you will need to throw as hard as possible to launch a block far enough.  Other times, you need to be more subtle.

Shooting is just your standard point and click.  Not much to be said about that.  Most of the games involve hitting moving targets like skeet shooting.

I'm not going to talk much about the single-player mode because we played through coop first and honestly the game started to wear thin at that point.  However, I will note that the game features a ton of puzzles with three ranks for you to achieve from passing (bronze) to mastery (gold).  I think the younger crowd (kids) will probably get a heck of a lot more out of the game than we did.  The gameplay is simple and deliberate.  It's actually a little bit educational because you have to use strategy and geometry/physics to pass many of the puzzles, so if you are looking for a family-friendly game, you have found it.  The game can also be frustrating though, so it can go both ways.

Boom Blox features dedicated adversarial and cooperative multiplayer modes.  We didn't touch the adversarial mode. 

The first thing to note about the cooperative mode is that everything is locked.  You start with one stage and you basically unlock the next stage by passing the current stage.  There is no skipping around in the beginning.  On one hand, this is kind of good since it forces you to stick to a puzzle no matter what, but on the other hand if you get stuck on one, there is no moving on to something new.

The modes have a variety of challenges that are all spinoffs of the aforementioned plucking, throwing, and shooting.  There is quite a bit of strategic variety in each of these modes.  For example, you can be plucking blocks off of a structure to gain points in one stage, and in another you can be moving blocks around to make barriers that protect a character trying to walk to a goal.

Some modes will have you playing simultaneously, but many have you taking turns, which I consider to be flawed coop.

Let me give you an example.  Say you are playing one of the Jenga-style puzzles where both of you are plucking pieces off of the block structure...  Some stages force you to alternate in turns.  This does two negative things.  One, it makes one person always have to sit and wait.  Two, it causes irritation between the players when one person makes a bad move and the other can do nothing to help.

What is especially irritating is that some of the puzzles seemed to actually favor simultaneous plucking.  For example, there are bars that are like teeter totters with a block sitting on each end.  You remove one end and the whole thing will tip and fall.  However, if both people could pluck, the balance would be retained and you could score a coop victory.

Here's one of my greatest coop tips for game developers:  Coop play should ALWAYS be about REWARDING teamwork by making things easier or achieving greater success.  A strong player should be able to compensate for a weak player by assisting.  Some of the design choices actually make the game harder and more frustrating through coop, which is foolish.

Even if they insisted on leaving the turn taking in place, they could have made it far more interesting by allowing the non-plucking character the ability to use his hand to stabilize a piece of the structure.  Perhaps in Boom Blox 2.

Conclusion:

I give Boom Blox a 7.50 on the single-player scale and a 7.75 on the coop scale.  The fact that there is a dedicated coop mode and some of the puzzles are wonderful means that I do recommend this game.  I only give it a .25 bonus though since only a handful of the stages offer a true coop-enhanced experience.

If you have young kids and are looking for a game to play with them, I would definitely recommend this title.  It is very family friendly and has some educational value.



« Last Edit: June 11, 2008, 11:51:44 AM by Mark »

 




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