Boom Blox

The different weights of blocks and projectiles alike are so well realized, they are almost tactile.

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genres: Puzzle
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: Boom Blox
Platforms: Wii
Number of players: 1-4
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Electronic Arts Los Angeles
US release date: 2008-05-06
Developer website

Steven Spielberg isn't exactly a stranger to video games. As the creator of the Medal of Honor series of first person shooters, his experience in film in general and with the subject matter of World War II in particular was brought to bear in an intense, well-regarded, and pioneering title. When it was announced that Spielberg had entered into a deal with Electronic Arts to collaborate on three original games, it was only logical to assume that he would again attempt to create something cinematic.

Surprisingly, however, the first of these titles essentially has no meaningful narrative. Rather than a heady story or an action-adventure romp, Spielberg has brought forth a simple party/puzzle game. To its credit, Boom Blox is in many ways exactly the sort of game the Wii was designed for. With appeal for both the casual and hardcore gamer, and with largely successful use of the Wiimote's motion controls, Boom Blox is far more engaging that it seems like it should be on paper.

Essentially, Boom Blox consists of a number of physics-based block tower puzzles, similar to Jenga. Via an intuitive interface, the player can rotate the playing field, enabling them to set the proper angle from which to approach block removal. That removal is generally accomplished by throwing an item at the block or grabbing it directly. The concept seems simple enough, but the variety in both block and projectile-types, as well as in direct objectives, keeps the game fresh throughout.

While the control scheme is largely satisfying, it's the physics model that steals the show. It doesn't take long to get a feel for exactly how hard to throw a ball at any given block, and watching and hoping that the wobbling tower will actually tip over (or won't, depending on what your objective is) like a tottering bowling pin is remarkably intense and fun. The different weights of blocks and projectiles alike are so well realized, they are almost tactile. Although medals are awarded for accomplishing the stated goal of any individual level, there isn't really any reward for gold medals per se. It might be expected that getting gold medals all the way through would unlock some sort of expert mode, for example. However, in this instance, that proves to be unnecessary. While the player may remove all target blocks with three throws in a particular level, earning a silver medal, sheer curiosity encourages replay to figure out how it's possible to do so with a single ball.

Even with all it does well, there are a few missteps in the Boom Blox formula. Likely in an effort to present variety in gameplay, there are some levels which essentially function as shooting galleries. Unfortunately, the Wiimote doesn't work particularly well in these sections (completely counter to how perfect an input mechanism it is for the rest of the game). Further, those sections seem rather misplaced in the context of the other levels. Since Boom Blox essentially represents an abstract extension of Jenga, its uniqueness is tied to concepts that are only possible in a virtual setting, and this is territory that hasn’t been exhaustively mined before. Shooting, on the other hand, has been done many times before, and much more engagingly.

They look so sad...won't you help them?

Although the presentation of Boom Blox with its anthropomorphic animal blocks is charming, it's hardly necessary. The likely reason for it is that it was intended to be attractive to younger gamers. It might have been nice to give these different creatures more distinct personalities, as opposed to what amounts to skins for various blocks. It's arguable that this choice could be contributing to the title's poor retail performance thus far. Although the fundamentals of the game make it an all ages affair, the design aesthetics are clearly targeted for a younger audience. Of course, Boom Blox doesn't come from an established intellectual property, and as such, it's possible that it's simply not positioned to perform as well as it deserves to.

Once again, a title with such wonderful potential for online play suffers from Nintendo's anemic online structure. While the level creation aspects of Boom Blox offer a great deal of flexibility in crafting block masterpieces, they can only be shared with people with whom you've exchanged friend codes. In this kind of game, more robust online trading features would undoubtedly make for a much richer and longer-lasting experience. As Boom Blox is an exceptionally entertaining party title (not to mention one that isn't a stereotypical collection of minigames), more online content would have been extremely welcome.

It will be interesting to see if Spielberg expands scope for his next collaboration with EA, particularly given how critically well-received Boom Blox has been. One of the remaining two titles he is developing is stated to be an action-adventure game, which presumably is more along the lines of what people were expecting from this collaboration to begin with. Perhaps the decision of such a marquee name to create Boom Blox speaks more to the rise in popularity of casual games in general. If that's the case, it is promising to the hardcore gamer that casual games with appreciable depth are starting to appear.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Forty years after its initial release, one of the defining albums of US punk rock finally gets the legacy treatment it deserves.

If you ever want to start a fistfight in a group of rock history know-it-alls, just pop this little question: "Was it the US or the UK who created punk rock?" Within five minutes, I guarantee there'll be chairs flying and dozens of bloodstained Guided By Voices T-shirts. One thing they'll all agree on is who gave punk rock its look. That person, ladies, and gentlemen is Richard Hell.

Keep reading... Show less

Tokyo Nights shines a light on the roots of vaporwave with a neon-lit collection of peak '80s dance music.

If Tokyo Nights sounds like a cheesy name for an album, it's only fitting. A collection of Japanese city pop from the daring vintage record collectors over at Cultures of Soul, this is an album coated in Pepto-Bismol pink, the peak of saccharine '80s dance music, a whole world of garish neon from which there is no respite.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.