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.
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.
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.
The difference, as was so often the case with Boom Blox, is physics. The bounds of the play area wobble and slope away under the outward pressure of the crushing, many-shaped blocks within, which try to fill the space below them any way they can. Whereas a match-3 game rewards precise patterns and the pre-destined ramifications of a block removed, Bash Party's extension of it puts a greater emphasis on what feels like good fortune, but what you know is really a set of calculations. It feels fair, so when it all goes awry you not only accept it, but often enjoy it, and then dive back in for another attempt. The small size of each level supports this too.
Bash Party is more fun to play with other people looking on to share in that, but providing more ways for them to get involved wasn't a bad idea either, and the few I've played with EA staff have distorted the existing rules in healthy ways. Multiplayer games involving the slingshot work particularly well, especially the Heroic zone's super-pig levels, where you can immediately gather 50 extra points by using a jetpack-strapped pig to take out stacks of blocks, but where carefully considered domino-effect attacks from other angles with ordinary props are sometimes more lucrative.
Across the modes, level design changes radically from task to task, which is surprising for a game promising over 400 separate challenges. One level is a spiralling wall topped with dreidel-shaped point-block formations, which look as though they should be eager to topple into one another but prove surprisingly reluctant to do so until you find the right angle. The next level might be a big flat negative-point platform on a stick, with a range of blocks stacked on top which you have to remove one by one without unbalancing it. The next still might be nine plinths, with little block houses stacked on them, some distance apart, inviting you to contemplate inventive chains.
There's also the new Boom Bux currency to amass, which allows you to buy your way into the next available task (even if you bought your way into the current one), providing you have enough money. It's a pretty standard idea, but its presence in Bash Party is another sensible decision geared towards releasing the fun to players. And that's what Bash Party quietly gets on with throughout, winning you over with its carefully concealed subtlety.
It's easy to see where it might go wrong - the new controls might be too fiddly, and those vacuum and water levels might sound better on paper, for instance. It's also going to be a lot of work to keep up the quality for 400 tasks. But EA would probably counter that the ability to share your levels and grab the best of your fellow players' from within the same menu as the core modes is a great life support system, and that the original Boom Blox itself should underwrite the benefit of the doubt. Not that Bash Party really needs any, because on this evidence it's looking very promising.
Boom Blox: Bash Party is due out exclusively for Wii next month. Retailers reckon 22nd May.