When A-list Hollywood director Steven Spielberg started programming Boom Blox Bash Party, the sequel to last year's Wii-exclusive multiplayer hit, he thought, wait, I don't know how to program a videogame. Then he played with his money. Right now, EA's entire public relations department hates me for implying that Spielberg did not singlehandedly provide the concept and all the design choices for the ambitious project and for that, I do apologize. But hey, at least I'm the only one saying sorry because, frankly, Bash Party's development team has absolutely nothing to be sorry about. This bulkier, more polished sequel follows a very safe path, staying true to the original, but expanding upon the winning formulas. And yet, the title is not only packed full and spilling with new content, but the amazingly robust level editor and seamless online integration will keep you crafting and battling through custom levels for months of fun-filled entertainment to come.
If you somehow missed out on last year's Boom Blox, why'd you do that? You bought something completely forgettable and stupid instead, didn't you? What was it? Dancing with the Stars? Seriously. That's not cool. At any rate, Boom Blox was a quintessential Wii game from a third-party, something so rare that it borders on endangered. EA took a simple concept -- one purportedly hatched by Spielberg -- and ran with it, ultimately carving out a gameplay experience not possible on any other system. You were challenged to use your Wii remote to target Jenga-like puzzles, make swinging motions to hurl balls at them, and knock the blocks apart. Of course, the game also shipped with all sorts of subtle and grand variations on this winning formula, all of them just as enjoyable. Although I made some nit-picky complaints about the multiplayer experience outshining the single-player one, and the tech sometimes lagging behind the team's ambition, I ultimately very much recommended the experience to all Wii owners.
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Bash Party is better. So if that's all you needed to read, go out right now and pick up the game. I'm getting paid to do this, though, so let me tell you why. It is, on a very simple level, a much beefier package. There is much more content squeezed into the experience than there ever was in the original outing. For starters, upward of 400 levels to play around with that span a variety of unique themes and control styles, all of them interesting and challenging for very different reasons. And that says nothing of the new tools, both blocks and balls, at your disposal.
There are amazing new underwater locales with limited gravity in which you use the grab tool to fling blocks off-screen. There are spectacular puzzles based in outer space, where a well-thrown baseball will send blocks adrift into the depths of the galaxy. There are even match-three type puzzles in which you must throw paintballs at blocks to setup combos. These additions and more, like new pirate-themed ship battles complete with cannonballs and even levels where flying saucers attempt to beam blocks off the ground before you can shoot them away with lasers, greatly build upon the foundations laid down in the original title. These Meanwhile, there are new virus balls that infect the blocks they impact with, new conveyor blocks that slide objects into different directions, and much more. EA has worked admirably to include tools that really transform the make-up of puzzles so that, like the unique stages complete with their own physics, the blocks and balls themselves change the way you play.
Rest assured, though, that it's not all fancy new mechanics. The same old Boom Blox play controls that made the original game so much fun are back in full force, too. You will find a fair share of levels in which your only goal is to point, throw and break, a process that might seem to you chaotic, but in practice requires a great deal of skill and planning. Boom Blox continues to be at its best as you setup fantastic combos knock over pillars and topple them into each other for a great mass of points. And when you accomplish these feats in competitions against friends, the satisfaction gained is multiplied.
EA has also enhanced the presentation, from the scarcely animated, but stylized storyboard-esque cut-scenes that briefly establish some semblance of theme and story prior to levels to the enhancements that surround the interface that inner-workings of levels. Bash Party not only employs a robust achievements system that challenges you to, say, score 25 gold medals or explode 50 virus blocks, but also features a new Boom Bux currency, earned by completing puzzles, that you can use to buy various stages and items supposing you don't want to unlock them traditionally. Both inclusions are hugely welcomed and smartly implemented. For example, if you find yourself repeating a puzzle three or four times because you can't figure it out, the game will ask if you'd simply like to bypass it and purchase the next level. It's clear the developer thought these things through as it strived to create a very accessible game for both casuals and hardcore alike.
The simple truth is that I could and, in fact, do recommend Bash Party to all Wii owners based on all of the aforementioned content, which is beefy. And yet, that being noted, the game's real draw, as far as I'm concerned, is its combination of robust level editor and seamless online integration. EA has expanded upon the first title's create mode with a more fully-featured editor that allows access to more blocks, balls and tools than ever before, yes, but also enables very intuitive handshaking to EA's servers so that you can upload and download new stages in a flash. The ability to download new content is integrated not only into the editor, but each of the main game's stage sub-sections, too, so that if you've completed all the space missions, you can click on a button to download more and will be playing EA and fan-created submissions literally within 30 seconds. It's that fast. By the time you get the game, EA will have already supplied dozens of new levels for your downloading pleasure and the company is committed to providing more on a regular basis until the number of extra stages matches those that ship with the game. That's a whole lot of additional content to keep you playing and it doesn't even consider all the great puzzles sure to come from fans around the world. The developer even lets you rate your favorite stages, search by name or level types, and much more, for a very easy to navigate online experience.
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