Only one short year later, Electronic Arts already has a sequel to the successful Nintendo Wii action puzzler with movie director Steven Spielberg's name on the cover. Using the Wii motion controls in a way that feels natural, Boom Blox Bash Party continues the trend of simple controls and family-friendly fun. There are plenty of new levels and other additions to explore, as described in our last hands-on, but this time we got a chance to play around with the latest build to see how it feels.
If you've played the original Boom Blox, the controls are exactly the same. You'll have to go through a short tutorial in the beginning before you can jump into the other levels, but it's quick and painless. Most of the time, all you need to do is aim and then swing the remote forward to throw balls. The A button is used to lock on, and the B button rotates the camera. There are a few new ways in Bash Party to cause the strategically placed blocks to take a tumble, such as with a slingshot, a cannon, and a virus ball. With the slingshot, you hold A, pull back your Wii Remote, and let go of the button. This is a good alternative to wearing out your arm by constantly tossing baseballs. The cannon is also easy on your physical exertion because all you need to do is light it by hovering over it and holding down A, after which you aim the cannon and release A to fire. Living up to its name, the virus ball spreads its orange-colored disease onto the other blocks, which you can chain with other previously infested blocks for a chain reaction.
One noticeable difference is that a lot more work has gone into the presentation of the game. The menu is a vibrant theme park, and once you've completed the tutorial, you're free to roam to around the available areas. Each time you enter a new area, there's a short cutscene--basically still art--that gives you a glimpse of what you're wandering into. Even the stages themselves have evolved, so instead of requiring you to just knock out blocks that are piled precariously on top of each other, the blocks come in different shapes and sizes that actually resemble an object. For example, in one level we had to lob bombs onto a well-put-together cargo ship to find all of the gems buried underneath. The space level also provides its own unique challenge because you're dealing with zero gravity. You can't just gently hit the neatly piled structures for them to fall over; you have to destroy them with enough force to knock them far into space for it to count, otherwise the pieces just hover in place.
The familiar but strange and cheery rectangular animal characters take on a larger role in Bash Party. They're now all over the place, even on the structures that you want to take down. They don't pop and vanish now when you hit them, so you can toss them around for fun, or even smack them hard enough to bring down neighboring blocks. Another interesting addition is Paint Blox, which functions very much like a match-three game in which you throw paint to change the color of the blocks. It's like Bejeweled but based on physics.
Given that the game is geared toward those who like to play with others, there's almost twice the amount of multiplayer content this time, so you can grab a friend or four and play against each other, in teams or cooperatively. There's also a greater variety with the amusement-park themes. Some of the games that we played in Versus mode involved shooting each other's pirate ships with the cannons, and knocking each other's pucks off of the board. You're still aiming for the highest score, so the goals and premise are the same, but the stages are more diverse this time around, which makes each round feel a bit different. You'll earn achievements as you go along in the form of Boom Bux, the in-game currency that will let you unlock new levels and features if you don't want to unlock them the traditional way. If you've completed everything and are still itching for some new content, you can always create new levels or edit the existing ones and share them with friends online.
Boom Blox Bash Party appears to be a bigger, flashier version of the previous game, with plenty of new mind-boggling levels to conquer and an array of features to mess around with. It's really easy to get caught up destroying towers and tossing around bombs because it's so simple and fun. Wii owners who missed the original may want to keep an eye on this one when it is released on May 19.