Boom Blox Bash Party

Baby boom.

When you get a toy, you want to play with it. If you make a toy - a really good toy - you've got to presume the urge is even stronger. Except, no sooner than you've made this joyous thing, you've got to put it in a box and send it out to all the little boys and girls (and less little boys and girls).

It's where EA's Boom Blox team found themselves after finishing the original, the first fruit of the company's relationship with Steven Spielberg. They pushed on, apparently even before the sequel was officially green-lit or the original even hit the shelves. "At that point, often you're not sure how well the game is going to do, especially when you're doing something on a wacky new console with a wacky new idea that people haven't seen before," says senior producer Amir Rahimi.

"Though we weren't sure what people were going to think, we knew we had a great time working on it, and we had a ton of fun playing the game - which is always a great sign. Steven Spielberg felt the same way," he adds, name-droppingly. "He'd take the game home at weekends and play it with his family - and they apparently had a blast. You take that and combine it with the fact the original Boom Blox barely scratched the surface on the number and depth of ideas we had for this franchise... it was just very natural to keep working on the game. I could hardly get my team to stop playing it. Normally it's the other way around at the end of the project."

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Monkey space travel death is a tragedy. Please send your donations. Together, we can stop it.

So what was different? "I think a lot of that has to do with the physics. I could take the same level that I've done bronze, silver and gold on, and know like the back of my hand, and I can play it in a very different way. I think the physics are so accurate, so realistic, that they offer a huge amount of replayability. The ability to look at something on-screen, form a mental model of what you expect to happen and actually be able to do that... or if not exactly that, find it surprises you in a way that's funny or interesting. I think that has something to do with why it never got old. And to this day it hasn't." In other words, when physics is so relatively nailed, games become compelling in the same way as, say, darts or bowling. Simple games with complex models bubbling along. With Boom Blox, the physics allow a game to be predictable in an intuitive way, and the actual game is creating impossible or at least implausible setups with which to play.

To that end, EA is pushing the game into new levels of grounded unreality, with four hundred new levels and twice the amount of multiplayer content for the sequel, Bash Party. It's the perennial more stuff sort of successor, building upon the - ah! - building blocks of the first one, with new tools. But listing what's new isn't really the point. In terms of the wider sweeping changes, the new worlds are the biggest. There are four, of which two have been revealed - pirate and outer space. Which is an excuse for new cute/creepy character designs and - more meaningfully - integration of different physics models. For the pirate levels, they're often set underwater, so you get to deal with stuff floating and bobbing and sinking, while the space levels can have zero gravity.

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Cannons are among the new toys added. Yes.

Generally speaking, there's more of this kind of flair, in terms of pushing the systems and seeing what the team could do with them. It's at least partially a result of the positive response to the first one. "The game exceeded everyone's expectations in terms of critical acclaim," says Rahimi. "I think what that did was to galvanise the team. It validated our thinking - it gave us a lot of confidence. A certain swagger. Every morning when they turned up for work, they turned up with this renewed sense in pride of what they were doing. It allowed us to be a lot more bold and confident in the sort of decisions we were making in Bash Party."

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