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Boom Blox Bash Party

More puzzling on the way from Spielberg

Talking to Amir Rahimi (Senior Producer of the Boom Blox series), we discover that the first outing of Boom Blox was more of a rough sketch than the pinnacle of their desire. With Boom Blox Bash Party almost upon us we'll soon discover the delights of new interaction tools, physics-varying environments and proper level design tools to name a few.

These were among the new ideas that emerged towards the end of the original Boom Blox project, as Rahimi said "we were locking down the first game and realised that there were still a load of ideas we'd not had time to include. Both the team and Spielberg himself during his weekly visits to the offices, wanted to carry on working on the project. In fact, it was more a case of could we not do another Boom Blox game. It was all I could do to get them to wait until the next project was lined up."

Although Boom Blox may have played to the masses rather than the hardcore gamer, it managed to win friends in most quarters. The nuanced controls and simple play mechanic made it easy to pick up and the competitive edge made it hard to put down. Whether you were a family man looking to play with his kids or a twenty something looking for a late night throw down with friends the Boom Blox formula of block balancing battles delivered the goods.

Not many games on the Wii would be hard to imagine on other systems. Boom Blox had a proper reliance on the Wiimote controller to make it possible. Boom Blox Bash Party adds new interactions in addition to the original's pull, throw and shoot mechanic. The new slingshot control for instance, lets you pick up any stray block or piece of scenery to use as a projectile to take down the current puzzle. Not only does this make for a lot of fun, but offers players a lot more ways to solve each of the puzzles.

To get the conversation going Rahimi laid out the main points of the new edition. 400 new blox-busting levels, new teamwork multiplayer modes, new themed environments, new block shapes and interaction tools (including cylinders, paint and virus) and an all-new cast of characters certainly sounds like a lot of fun. Add to this the new Boom Bux rewards system to unlock extra features and the ability to design your own levels with the expanded create mode and Rahimi didn't have to work too hard to get our full attention.

These were the headlines from the developer, but we wanted a little more detail. The new blocks for example, "can you tell us some more about these?" we asked. Rahimi was off excitedly describing the new radioactive, bomb, and penalty blocks. Boom Blox Bash Party not only adds these new types but makes the little block people an integral part of the puzzles. "Another interesting addition to the player's arsenal is the virus ball and blocks", said Rahimi. Here, these new blocks introduce a new way to quickly infect levels with explosive charges. Simply hit them with the virus ball projectile and they explode and infect any surrounding blocks with the virus - ready for the next throw.

This brought us to ask about the level environments themselves; was there anything new planned here? "In Boom Blox Bash Party the levels themselves will affect the action more substantially." Levels are now grouped into themed areas. One such area in the wet world is the underwater environment. This effects not just the look and feel, but the physics of how each block interacts. Landing a hit here, results in blocks floating off rather than falling to the floor - something that introduces new ways to solve each level.

The final aspect of the new game that Rahimi wanted to cover was the level designer. As he outlined, "If you like the sound of these new tools and environments, then the new level designer should also be exciting. We took the decision at the start of development for Boom Blox Bash Party to provide our developer level design tools to the user."

Whereas in the first game users had a cut down level editor, in Boom Blox Bash Party they have the full set of tools used by the game's developers. Not only this, but there will also be an online marketplace where players can share levels with each other. The plan is to let the developers fill up the online area with levels once their work on the main game has shipped.

This is perhaps the biggest innovation in Boom Blox Bash Party, and what promises to give it a much longer shelf life. The key will be in how EA sifts the submissions and enables players to find the levels they like. One nice idea is the ability to look for similar levels to the one just played. If you liked a particular experience you can instantly find others like it.

In a nutshell, Boom Blox Bash Party is a proper sequel in the best sense of the word. It takes the best bits of the first game and extends them. With impressive claims alongside these features, that "Boom Blox Bash Party can now easily be up there visually with the best games on the system", it sounds like all the right pieces are in place. Time till tell how effective this all is and whether it comes together as a cohesive whole. But the added variety, new toys and better level creation tools are enough to get our Jenga juices flowing.

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