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GDC09: Boom Blox Bash Party hands-on


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A couple of years back, Steven Spielberg picked up the phone and called EA. After absolutely no time on hold, he told (insert random executive here) all about his idea for a Wii game about throwing blocks at other blocks. Although it had received similar proposals in the past -- mostly from third-graders -- the mega-publisher immediately drafted up a contract and made Steve a bona-fide game designer. That, dear readers, is how the original -- and now classic -- Boom Blox came to be. Well, more or less.

Mr. Spielberg is once again credited on the sequel, Boom Blox Bash Party, though we're pretty sure he didn't have to go to similar extremes to get it made. Anyway, for whatever reason, the dev team decided to build a new level editor -- the same one that's in the game for players to use -- and design all its levels with the thing. Oh, and set it underwater and in outer space, for starters.

Gallery: Boom Blox Bash Party | 18 Photos

There's been plenty more built on top of the original's premise.

We got a quick but satisfying run-through of Bash Party during GDC and came away happy that it's more of the same, but then there's been plenty more built on top of the original's premise to make this potentially smashing.

First off, we played a couple of puzzles set in the sea and, next, many miles above it. The way blocks slowly sunk in the salt water was very realistic, as was the way they'd drift in all directions in zero-gee. The gameplay mechanics in both settings were the same; we just had to take the effects of the environments into account this time.

We also played around in a level featuring a new block type, the Virus Block. As its name suggests, it "infects" and slowly dissolves any blocks it hits. It also looks rather unsettling.

Before our session was up, we got into some four-player action with the new slingshot mechanic. It's really an elastic band that you pull towards you then let go with a snap, sending the block in the opposite direction. For this part of the demo, we knocked what amounted to checker pieces around a flat surface. It was surrounded by short walls, with gaps the size of the pucks at each corner. Conveyor strips (another new element) were there to help guide our opponent's pieces off the edge. That was the goal: take turns trying to knock the other two-person team's chips off the board.

The final -- and most enjoyable -- new mode we tried was the Boom Blox equivalent of a standard vertical match-three puzzle game. Only the idea here was to use the arsenal of five different-colored paint balls at our disposal to change the color of blocks and cause chain reactions. We found an extra bit of strategy in tilting our viewpoint so that we could bounce the ball off one piece (there were, as in other parts of the game, cylinders, blocks and triangles -- yet another new addition) and onto another for a larger reaction.

Before calling it a wrap, we asked EA how the sharing of user-generated puzzles would be handled, since it's possible to create your own and share it with the entire Boom Blox community, no friend codes required. EA told us there will be a human element to weeding out potentially offensive -- it didn't say copyright-infringing -- content. Someone, somewhere will go through each submission individually before it's made available for download to the masses.

Boom Blox Bash Party was every bit as charming and engrossing as the original, while seemingly having enough extra stuff in the mix to make it worthwhile for solo players. The party modes, a focus of the game evident in its title, also seem like they'll be a blast.

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