Boom Blox might well be the best motion controlled game I've played on the Wii since Wii Sports. Despite much of the game's early press centring on the involvement of movie-directing superstar Steven Spielberg, it's the core gameplay mechanics and overriding sense of fun that will win Boom Blox many fans and much critical acclaim. With this simple looking Jenga-like puzzler EA has somehow managed to do what no other third-party developer has managed: make a Wii game as if crafted from Nintendo's own hand.
For such a simple game it's incredible that Boom Blox is so good, but that's part of its appeal. Essentially you have to manipulate blocks by removing pieces (by grabbing or shooting) in order to topple or keep a tower standing. Numerous special blocks come into play throughout the game, such as bombs, vanishing blocks and highly volatile reactive blocks, which need to be considered when attempting each level.
The entire game is played using just a Wii Remote, with camera movement handled by holding down B and waving the remote around, throwing is a case of holding A and releasing at the end of a throw, and grabbing is simply holding A to grab as if using two fingers. This is all remarkably intuitive and it works. While this might sound like an odd thing to praise in a game, so many Wii games fail to ship with controls that work as you'd expect. Boom Blox feels natural. Even the speed of your throw feels natural, which is something so many mini-game collections on the Wii have got badly wrong.
Being a game with a broad appeal, you're free to play how you wish. There's a fairly traditional stage by stage puzzle game mode, which awards you gold, silver and bronze medals depending on how you complete each stage; there's an adventure mode which introduces characters likely to appeal to a younger audience, and there's a brilliant multiplayer mode for up to four players, over a variety of game types. On top of this there's a create mode which lets you put together your own structures and set-pieces and then share them with friends. Suffice to say, there's enough here to keep you occupied for a long time, especially if you want to complete each of the stages in just a single throw.
What makes the game possible is the physics. Although Wii games aren't often seen as technical marvels, Boom Blox features some of the most realistic looking physics I've seen in a video game. While we're talking about angular blocks here and not people ragdolling across a complex environment, this by no means lessens how impressive it all looks. The way blocks fall and interact with others is as you'd expect, which is all we can really ask for. There were so many times during my time with the game where the blocks fell into formations that defied belief, yet upon closer inspection obeyed the rules of physics.
It's a game that works on so many levels. Even as a group of 'hardcore' gamers we found ourselves enjoying the multiplayer modes more than most games we've played this year, and it's equally playable with non-gamers. Even the single-player mode is great for playing in groups, with people always shouting out potential one-hit solutions or how stupid your last throw was. EA has made a game that people of all ages and skill levels can play and enjoy.
I'm the first person to criticise the Wii's software line-up when it comes to appealing to everyone, but with Boom Blox EA has managed to shame most other third-party Wii developers. Boom Blox is the type of game that innocently eats up time, with you playing with a smile on your face until you realise you've been sat in the same position all evening. The cutesy characters might put off some gamers (although they only really have a strong presence in the adventure mode), but they shouldn't be a reason to ignore the game. If any non-Nintendo Wii game deserves to sell well it's this.