It's the best Spielberg creation since Animaniacs.
From the very first time I saw Boom Blox, at E3 last year, I thought it was going to turn out to be a pretty cool game. The positive vibes I heard coming out of GDC a few months ago cemented that feeling. Now that I finally got some hands-on playtime with the first Steven Spielberg-Electronic Arts collaboration, I can say with confidence that what I played of Boom Blox is certifiably awesome.
For the media summit demo, the entire game was available. However, the attendees gravitated toward one multiplayer mode in particular. In it, a series of Jenga-like blocks were stacked in a variety of configurations. The aim of the game was to throw balls at the structures and fell the blocks to score points. Each of the blocks had a point value on them, with bigger blocks usually, but not always, worth more points.
Using the Wii Remote pointer allows you to look around the structures from any angle, including from above and below. Aiming the pointer cursor at the screen and holding down the A Button, when you've found your spot, sets you up to hurl a ball at that spot. The throw is achieved by doing the obvious action with the Wii Remote and then letting go of the A Button at the right time. It's just as if you were throwing a baseball. (Trust me when I say that you should definitely use the wrist strap while playing this game mode, even if you're not a fan of using it.) If you hit the right spot, you'll dislodge some blocks and score some points.
Look at 'em fall
There are real physics behind these actions, however. It's possible to topple large chunks of a tower to score huge points if you can knock out enough blocks under it, but because there is more weight on the blocks below that's not easy to do. I found that I could get leverage by aiming downward at a block that was protruding out of the pile and throwing a ball at toward its end. This created a seesaw effect, vaulting blocks on the other end into the air and scoring me good points on many occasions.
Other players, in the four-player game we were playing, had other strategies. One was able to hit blocks in such a way that they ricocheted into other blocks, causing mini-chain reactions. The alternating shot format of this mode made it so players could take advantage of the setups other players created, as every shot weakens the tower (or towers, depending on the level) further and further. Before too long, someone is going to knock over a lot of blocks and score a lot of points. Some players played to that strategy, looking to weaken the tower in a way that would best play to their advantage when it was next their turn to throw.
The amount of strategy and depth in just this one mode is ridiculous, yet it's based around the simple concept of throwing things and knocking stuff down. The action is a little boring if you're playing with three or four players in this mode, but only because it takes a while for it to be your turn again. It's awesome fun to play the game and watch others play the game. There's really no other way to put it.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Boom Blox. There are over 400 levels in the game broken up in various single player and multiplayer modes, and they are categorized into a ton of different game modes with all kinds of special blocks. Some blocks are shaped like animals that have special properties, like a chicken block that lays bomb blocks. Ghost blocks disappear when hit. Another level we saw required blocks to be shifted around within a pre-constructed tower to lower a bridge.
To take it a step further, every level in the game can be placed into the custom stage editor to tweak to your liking. Of course, you can build a level from scratch if that's your fancy. During a presentation we saw a few examples of what was possible with the level editor. One stage was as abstract as a Rube Goldberg machine; it ultimately exploded a herd of cows. Another quick demo showed us the behavior of various animal blocks and what could be possible in creating a stage.
Exploding animals, and other destruction.
Boom Blox looks simple and childish on the surface. But based on what I've seen and played, this game has the potential to be amazing fun for all types of gamers.