Friday, June 13, 2008
Boom Blox (Wii game review)
I played Nintendo as a kid, then the first Sega. After that I forgot about video games. In 2001 I got an X-Box, and shortly after that a hand me down GameCube, then a hand me down Playstation 2 (long after the systems were cutting edge), but only played a handful of games on each one: House of the Dead, some kind of car race game where you get a boost if you don't hit anything (Afterburner?), a really fun game where you skate around and graffiti stuff (I always called the game "Radio Free Europe" because that vaguely sounded like the title, which I can now no longer remember), Sniper Cell (far too serious and difficult and time consuming) Simpsons (one of my favorites because Sara could search, as she is wont to do, and I could race), MarioKart (always fun, especially with other people, because the power-ups you get in 12th place still mean you can have fun and disrupt the front-runners), one of the new Metroids (too serious), Dance Dance Revolution (instant fun), one of the Spiderman games (pretty good). That is nearly all the games I have played since 2002 with any focus, not counting short spurts with stuff like the Hulk (fun, but I had to return it), Lego Star Wars (interminable) and Marvel Ultimate Alliance (boring). I am not a "gamer" but I do like the occasional game. And I recently bought a Wii, under the influence of commenter HC Duvall -- in part hoping to make my apartment more fun to visit. And also because, you know, I do not have a dissertation hanging over my head anymore.
I have only played a few games for the system. Raving Rabbids (fun, and a great sense of humor -- I will review the sequel when I get it), the New MarioKart, and Boom Blox, which should surely be called "Bloom Blocks," but is not.
Bloom Blox is basically reverse Jenga. You are faced with a tower and what you want to do is knock it over in a few moves as possible. There are levels where you want to carefully grab a piece and pull it out -- difficult using the Wii remote, and not unlike playing that electric surgery board-game from the early 80s. But mostly, at least at the beginning, you chuck balls at the structure using a satisfying throw motion that makes the Wii fun. Aim, mostly, is not the issue -- you say where you want the ball to go and it goes there. There are a host of different kinds of blocks: blocks that vanish if you hit them, blocks that explode if you hit them, blocks that explode if you get matching blocks to touch them. There are also various balls to throw: baseballs are the default, but there are also bowling balls for more damage, bomb balls that explode when they reach their target (or before if you want), rubber balls that bounce around. Other levels give you the chance to stop invading creatures from stealing your blocks by throwing stuff at them and destroying their constructions. On each level you can move the camera all around the structure, searching for weak-points, or the right angle to throw at.
It is pretty fun. Each tower takes only a minutes to play -- which makes it easy for lots of people to take a shot, and most of the levels I have been looking at are not time sensitive. There is something weirdly engrossing about sitting around with people all shouting about the structural integrity of this cartoon world, and the physics of a tower collapsing ("If you hit the bottom vanishing block, then the tower will tip THIS way, causing the two chemical blocks to touch -- that explosion will cause this bomb block to blow up too bringing the second tower to the ground"). Watching the towers go down from various angles is also very satisfying -- there really is something to the feeling that a correctly thrown baseball can topple something that large. It really channels your destructive tendencies well. (You would be surprised how many people I know that claimed that my enjoyment of the Hulk game suggested I was a bully, or that -- get ready for this one -- shooting cartoon bunnies with a plunger-gun in Raving Rabbids was vaguely unethical; meanwhile everyone else is raping hookers in Grand Theft Auto). There are two player options, but I have not spent enough time with that one.
You can also design your own levels, which is probably too advanced for me, but seems like a cool option -- although the AVClub complained that sharing them is hard: you can only share with friends to protect the kiddies from penis shaped towers -- Sara commented "Aren't all towers penis shaped?" -- so there is no easy access to a host of what must be amazing fan created levels.
I am not the best authority, but I recommend it.