When EA announced a three-game partnership with movie mogul Steven Spielberg in 2007, many wondered what the end results would look like. The first fruit from that deal was Boom Blox, a charming, simple, and addictive puzzler that found a soft spot with the family-friendly Wii console's audience--and even won an award for best casual game at the 2009 British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards show.
As soon as production wrapped up on Boom Blox, Spielberg and the team at EA Casual Studios, full of ideas and energy for a sequel, went to work on Boom Blox Bash Party. Among the major additions are an additional 100 levels, up from 300 in the original, and twice the amount of multiplayer content (up from 60 levels in the original)--the team wanted to focus on the party experience that the game provides. The team has also added a new rendering system, as well as new blox, shapes, and tools.
In addition to other modes, Bash Party adds two new worlds to the series--one is based on exploring the far reaches of outer space, and the other is a swashbuckling underwater pirate adventure. The physics have been tweaked in Bash Party to better match their environment, be it space, water, or regular atmospheric conditions. Bash Party producer Amir Rahimi demonstrated a space level in which you have to throw a bomb into a cluster of asteroids to collect gems hidden inside. After the bomb detonates, the gems fly out, and depending on how well you've placed the bomb, and thus how many gems you've managed to release, you'll score a bronze, silver, or gold medal.
Speaking of gold, we also got our hands on the pirate area, which takes place under the waves. It's full of lots of cute and colourful blox-shaped creatures, including parrots, raccoons, rabbits, ducks, and deep-sea divers. One of the pirate-themed games we saw was Gem Dig, where the goal is to aim and throw a bomb at the various blox fortresses, causing as many explosions--and as much gem movement--as possible. Any gems that fall out of the structure will go towards your total. The catch is that you have only five blocks per attempt, so you'll need to be strategic and target structural blocks to bring the house of blox down. The levels in Gem Dig include a straight-up rectangular structure, an Aztec-like pyramid, and even one that resembles a pirate ship. Despite being under the surface, however, not all of the levels are submerged in water; a few are set in grottos.
We also played the appropriately named Gem Toss-Up game, where the goal is to fling as many gems up to the surface as you can. Any that fall to the seabed will be discarded, so you need to make sure your blox structure remains upright for as long as possible, otherwise you'll have a cascade of gems to contend with. In addition to the falling blocks, you'll have to contend with a giant squid that tries to steal blox from you. You can prise the blox from him by grabbing them and sending them to the surface. Some of the easier levels are trapezoidal, but the more advanced ones are top-heavy, making the task more challenging. One thing worth mentioning is that underwater the blox slowly drop down to the seabed and the gems gently float up to the surface when flung. This will buy you a bit of time if the structure starts to crumble, but you'll still need to move quickly to collect as many gems as possible, resulting in loads of frantic fun.
While we didn't get an extended look at any other modes, Rahimi showed off a cool three-by-three mode, similar to what you see in other puzzle games, such as Hexic. The game involves throwing a paintball at a variety of different-coloured rectangular and circular blox. When the colour of three adjacent blox are the same, they'll be removed from the field and added to your score. It looks like a fun addition to Bash Party, and we're looking forward to seeing what the team at EA Casual comes up with for the final game.
Unlike the original Blox game, Bash Party lets you share the levels you've created with the outside world, and not just with those you've shared your Wii friend code with. It does this, according to Rahimi, by circumventing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connect service and connecting directly to EA's own servers. We have yet to see how this will work, but all the better if it helps people share their creations with one another, with fewer restrictions.
Boom Blox Bash Party looks like it will be a solid addition to the series and is set for a spring 2009 release exclusively on the Nintendo Wii. For more on Boom Blox, read our original review and keep your eyes out for more blox-busting coverage on GameSpot before then.