Boom Blox: Bash Party

Brick flair.

People forget. I forgot. More than 400 new levels! Twice the multiplayer modes! Online integration! Boom Blox: Bash Party sounds more like Boom Blox: Bad Old EA. But it's not. Not only does it appear to strip away things that people didn't like ("Shooting has taken a huge back seat in the sequel," the producer told us recently), but it presents new takes on old ideas, and new ideas altogether.

This was evident in last month's preview, where we saw the Pirate and Space level hubs, which challenge you to think about how objects move underwater and in a vacuum, and it's equally evident now I've played through bits of the other two zones, the circus-themed Showtime and the superhero-flavoured Heroic, both of which enhance the physics-puzzle social game core of the Wii original that Ellie - Ellie! - rewarded with a 9/10 review.

The changes here are subtler, but no less impactful. As with Boom Blox, Bash Party generally focuses on trying to take out stacks of point-scoring blocks with projectiles, or on tweezer-ing blocks out of a matrix using the Wiimote without knocking everything else down, so additions like virus blocks, which infect adjacent pieces when struck, forcing them to disintegrate, have interesting consequences. Then there's the slingshot, which allows you to use pretty much any given object as an instant projectile.

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EA's pushing the cuddly animals more to the fore this time. I'm pushing them more to the ground.

Back in Boom Blox, the implications sounded like unnecessary complication, but they actually made the game work. Jenga - let's be honest, eh? - is a bit more hair-raising when you've got a trio of dancing pigs perched on top, or you can only remove certain blocks. And the coconut-shy inspired ball-tossing games are harder to handle when the difficulty of taking out multiple blocks is exacerbated by things you mustn't hit, or things that might benefit you, like chemical blocks that combine to cause explosions.

The same is true of viruses, which threaten to take the ground out from under you just as often as they threaten to amplify the score. But it's the slingshot that's the greatest enhancement, elevating existing block-bashing game-types by giving you apparently unlimited options for attack, with a greater range of starting points, pace and trajectory, providing you can muster enough dexterity with the occasionally fiddly Wiimote controls. In theory you just click on something, drag back and then waggle the remote a bit to angle the delivery. When it works, it can be spectacular.

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Superpig. If he's up here, you've got the angle wrong. Idiot.

One of the other keys to Boom Blox' success though was that when it doesn't work, you laugh, because it's your fault. You also get this sense playing one of the new "colour combo" tasks, which are a variation on Bejeweled's match-3. You're given a set queue of different-coloured paintballs to throw into a pile of blocks (aim the cursor, hold A to lock it, swing your arm), and each impact changes the block you strike to the corresponding colour. If it forms a group of three of the same, they disappear, and the blocks above tumble into place.

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