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BOOM BLOX Bash Party (Wii)

Rated: 3+ in terms of content. Children under seven seem to struggle with the controls, though.

Story: There isn't really even an attempt at a story this time round. The levels have circus, space, pirate and hero themes and are populated by wacky animal blocks but nothing ties them together.

Gameplay: BOOM BLOX Bash Party is probably best described as a puzzle game. The majority of levels consist of arrangements of blocks that have to be demolished in a certain way. For instance, it might be a case of removing all the point blocks from a tower without knocking off the penalty blocks or of destroying a castle to make the gem blocks inside hit the ground. The means provided for achieving goals varies from level to level. Balls and bombs can be thrown, chemical blocks explode when combined and a floating hand allows blocks to be grabbed and pulled.

Throwing is done by aiming with the wiimote, locking the cursor by holding a button and then flicking the wiimote to launch. Grabbing is accomplished by locking onto blocks and moving the wiimote as if pulling the block about. Some levels involve light-gun style shooting, others allow blocks to be fired like sling-shots by pulling back on the wiimote.

Save System: Automatic save after every level.

Comments: I just re-read my review of BOOM BLOX from last year. I was sorely tempted to change the title, add in a few phrases containing the words 'more' and/or 'extra', re-post it and then slope off for a cup of tea and a few chocolate digestives.

Of course, that would have been bad and wrong but it's hard to avoid the fact that BOOM BLOX Bash Party is very similar to BOOM BLOX. (I decided just to cut-and-paste a few bits here and there...)

BBBP provides a virtual recreation of the joys of knocking down teetering stacks of bricks by throwing stuff at them. It's great fun lobbing a baseball at just the right angle to knock two chemical blocks into each other so they explode and set off a chain reaction of demolition. The large number of different bricks and objectives keeps the experience fresh throughout, with everything from crazy golf to zero-G levels. Fortunately, the concepts remain simple even when the levels are complex, so anyone can pick up and play. Also, the developers have a much better idea what works this time around, so there are far fewer of the fiddly Jenga inspired 'grab' levels.

The structure of the game has been opened up so that it's usually fairly easy to complete a level well enough to unlock the next one. It's also possible to progress by simply paying Boom Bux collected during the game. This takes away lots of frustration but attempting to get a gold medal on every level still maintains plenty of challenge.

Creating your own levels has been made easier and it's now possible to submit levels for them to be made available to everyone online (not merely people whose friend code you have). This means there are hundreds and hundreds of levels already available to download, play and rate. The process is surprisingly quick and easy - I was trying out something decent within seconds. If anything, BOOM BLOX Bash Party is a better advert for user-generated content on consoles than Little Big Planet, despite all Sony's hype.

The only real issue with BBBP is the cheap, soulless presentation of the single-player game. The animal blocks range from ugly to evil and have less charm than even the most minor character in any of the LEGO games. Quite how this happened with Steven Spielberg involved is a mystery. I can only imagine it's too increase the satisfaction of blowing them up and then dropping a big tower of blocks on their heads... This isn't a problem in the multiplayer, though, and that's where the real longevity lies. My boys have been busy for a while with the co-operative levels and the competitive levels can get extremely vicious. For three or four players, there's very little to beat it.

Conclusion: One of the best puzzle/party games on the Wii returns with more levels and extra features which make it a definite step up from the original.

Graphics: Basic but vibrant. The occasional judder that featured in the first game seems to have been eliminated.

Length: Medium.

Rating: 4/5.

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