Videogame Reviews

Steven Spielberg's 'Blox' Party

''Boom Blox,'' the first of three planned collaborations between the director and Electronic Arts, presents an engaging set of puzzles for the Wii. Plus: ''echochrome'' for PlayStation 3 is ''Tetris'' meets M.C. Escher

BOOM BLOX In the puzzle game he presents for the Wii, Steven Spielberg dares you to knock his blocks off
BOOM BLOX In the puzzle game he presents for the Wii, Steven Spielberg dares you to knock his blocks off

BOOM BLOX
(Electronic Arts; Wii; Everyone)

''Hi, this is Steven Spielberg — and I have an idea for a videogame.'' That's pretty much all EA needed to hear to sign off on Boom Blox, the first in a planned trilogy of collaborations between the heavyweight publisher and the heavyweight director. Some may question the extent of Spielberg's actual involvement — can you blame the dude for wanting to spend more of his time on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? — but we like what we see, no matter whose name is stamped on it.

Boom Blox is a fun collection of puzzles. Using the Wii remote, you interact with elaborately arranged stacks of blocks. Some levels have you carefully taking apart a teetering tower without causing it to come crashing down (yes, just like Jenga). In others, the goal is simply to knock off as many pieces as possible, by hurling an array of projectiles (including baseballs and bowling balls). In these types of puzzles, each layer consists of blocks with differing shape and point values, meaning strategy trumps brute force: do you aim for the row of flimsy 5-point blocks — or try for the harder-to-budge 50-point slabs? Also factoring into gameplay are special blocks, like the explosive bomb- or chemical-blox, which let you clear an entire level with just one throw.

The game does have a few problems. Like other Wii games, it lacks online support — you can't play friends remotely, nor can you share the levels you've created using the game's nifty sandbox feature. It also would have been nice if the cute animal mascots could do more than merely moo and bark on the sidelines. Still, Boom Blox succeeds as an engrossing single-player experience and can take its place as one of the party games on the, well, block. BGary Eng Walk

NEXT PAGE: echochrome for PlayStation 3 and PSP

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