Boom Blox Review: Explosive Casual PlayS

Boom Blox is an odd creation. It's a casual game created with the help of a director known for the stories his movies tell. So what happens when Stephen Spielberg teams up with Electronic Arts to make a game for the Wii? Lots of explosions of course. The game has you throw, grab, shoot and explode "blox" in such a myriad of mind-bending puzzles that you might actually forget you're playing a "casual" game. Boom Blox includes ways to play with friends or on your own, through a story or just for fun.

But is it all of that enough to shake off the stink of Wii shovelware and live up to the expectations of a game created by the man behind E.T., Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Loved

Eclectic Gameplay: With more than 300 levels, a myriad of ways to play (from blasting and throwing to pulling and stacking), Boom Blox is a virtual toy story of Wii gaming. Each facet of the game manages to deliver, with little to none of the technical issues that have marred other remote-heavy Wii titles.

Great Character Design: What's a game without character? While Boom Blox is loaded with plenty of entertaining character design, it's in the adventure mode that the funky characters really shine. The four themed worlds were "creatively directed" by Spielberg himself and some of the sizzle seems to have made it through the process. Also, it's hard to go wrong with mini-fig like monkeys, cows and kittens in my book.

Deep Pick-Up and Play: None of the many games and modes in Boom Blox are hard to understand or to master, but the level of depth, the sheer number of puzzles included in the game are staggering. Many may take you only a minute or two to whip through, but all of them are satisfying.

Level Editor: The game's mix of multiplayer, single player, co-op, competitive, story and play is nicely augmented with a surprisingly innate level designer that, once the game is fully played through, grants you access to just about everything you come across in the packaged game. Building levels in the editor is so quick and easy to test out that it's almost as fun as playing them.

Sense of Fun: Boom Blox is a charming toy, a game imbued with a sense of fun that somehow makes it greater than it's many parts.

Hated

Weak Co-Op Gaming: After playing through the addictive adventure mode, I was looking for a similar experience to share with my son. Unfortunately I didn't get one. The co-op levels felt more like something meant for training or to show off the tech than for fun.

Shallow Competitive Gaming: While a bit better than co-op, the game's relatively shallow competitive mode feels like what I thought Boom Blox was going to be before I played it: A one trick pony.

Gimped Level Sharing: There's nothing more disappointing then being given a surprisingly robust tool with which to create your own fun and then being told you can't really share it with many people. Boom Blox level sharing relies on the Wii's innately flawed online support, which is so protective it throws down roadblocks to fun. In this case, you can, at least for now, only share them with a select group of friends. Perhaps a new channel will pop up on the Wii for level sharing down the line, but until then it's not very useful.

Boom Blox is, at it's heart, a puzzle game; you have to move, blow-up or shoot away blox to score points, save little blox characters, or defend buildings, but with so many different things to do and so many different ways to do them, it's easy to forget that. Add to the absurdly large number of puzzles and modes the game's four adventures, each with its own story and distinct look, and you've got a game that's sure to entice.

While Boom Blox isn't without its issues and moments of tedium, the main thing that prevents this title from realizing its full potential is the lackluster multiplayer. A game about fun should make multiplayer a top priority, not something that feels so tacked on.

Boom Blox was developed by Electronic Arts LA, published by EA and was released on May 6. Retails for $49.99. Available on Wii. Played single player Adventure mode to completion. Played single player Explore and all multiplayer modes and tested level creation.