Boom Blox was one of the best games of 2008. It managed to take an incredibly simple concept (throwing balls at blocks) and make it a great deal of fun. It wasn't quite as simple as that of course, with the physics engine going a long way to making the game what it was, and the fun Jenga-like game mode being ideal for some heated multiplayer gaming. It had a few niggles though, most notably some less than thrilling shooting sections and that, well, the content ran out. These criticisms have been answered by EA in the sequel, Bash Party, giving us what is one of the best Wii games of 2009.
Changes come in a few key areas. Firstly, there's more to Bash Party than we saw in the original Boom Blox. This comes from the game having more levels to play through, but also new Blox and toys to play with. For those not up to speed on the original, you threw balls at a variety of Blox in order to score points. These Blox came in numerous flavours, so some would explode when hit, some would vanish and others would explode when coming into contact with another of the same type. As long as you toppled the various structures in under the throw limit you'd complete the stage and move on to the next.
This is largely the same for the sequel, with plenty of that content included for fans. New to the party, though, are three new Blox and two new items. On the Blox front you've got the Boom Bux (hit it to earn yourself some currency to spend in the shop), Change Blox (cycle through numerous Blox types) and Virus Blox (explosions create a chain reaction, infecting and destroying other blocks).
New toy additions are headed by the Slingshot, which changes the game more than any other item that's been added to Bash Party. Instead of being just another way to fire balls at the Blox, you instead use it to ping Blox into each other. You grab hold of the block you want to use as a weapon, pull the slingshot back in the opposite direction you want to fire and then release, and you can grab and fire characters too. The cannon isn't quite as exciting, as it's essentially just a powerful ball being fired into the Blox, but its destructive powers makes it a worthy addition.
On top of new Blox and toys the actual environments are far more diverse than in the first game. Rather than just changing the visual theme, the gravity changes and there are even levels set underwater. The original game was great fun to play through, but Bash Party just feels fresher for longer – you don't do the same thing for too long and there always seems to be something new waiting for you in the next batch of challenges.
One such new challenge type is the match-3 variant that uses paint balls instead of standard dislodging balls. Your goal in these challenges is to score as many points as possible in a set number of throws, using balls that change the colour of their target. Match three or more Blox and they'll disappear, so if you're clever you can trigger huge chains and score a massive amount of points. It's nothing new, but the physics engine makes it feel more challenging that the usual Bejeweled clones we see.
The level creator has also been given a redesign, so it's now far easier to create your own levels. You still need to have some general skill in order to make something that lots of people will want to play, but there should be plenty of people out there that can do that. The game comes with a challenge browser and rating system, so it's easy to find new content and filter out the best of the bunch.
Multiplayer was a key component of the original and it's back here with even more to do with friends. When you're not playing alone you can either play together in head to head challenges or work together in a variety of co-op events. We reckon the Jenga-like stages have been tweaked a little for the worse, with the game now feeling a little too forgiving to rash moves, but there's still plenty of fun to be had here for gamers of all ages and skill levels.
While not a major overhaul, the additions make for some different gameplay scenarios and a game that feels different enough from the original to make the sequel feel worth while. As a single-player game it'll last you a decent while and puts up a pretty hefty challenge at points, but it's the multiplayer that makes Boom Blox Bash Party an essential purchase for Wii owners. This is more or less everything we wanted from a Boom Blox sequel and can't recommend it enough. It's just a shame the box art looks like it was lifted from an early 90s MEGA DRIVE game.