Version tested: Wii
Play Boom Blox for a few hours, or ten, and making a cup of tea becomes a whole new experience. Normally, you'd pluck a mug from the higgedly-piggedly pile in the cupboard without thinking about it. Now you're wondering whether you can pull out the red one from the bottom without smashing the lot. Normally, while the kettle boils, you'd mull over mundane topics like the weather or the broken drawer or the fate of Patrick Kielty. Now you're wondering whether throwing a bowling ball at the microwave would knock the toaster into the sink. This is one way you know Boom Blox is a great puzzle game.
But Boom Blox isn't just a great puzzle game. It's a great Wii game, which isn't a phrase some of us get to use very often. In fact, it's the best Wii game I've ever played. (Bear in mind Wii games I have played include AMF Bowling Pinbusters, Cruis'n and Game Party, I don't care for Super Mario Galaxy and I still haven't played Okami, Super Smash Bros. Brawl or forthcoming rodeo sim Professional Bull Riders.)
Too many Wii titles feel like traditional videogames with remote and nunchuk bits tacked on for the sake of it. This is a particular problem with multi-platform titles such as Tomb Raider Anniversary, but it also occurs in Wii exclusives. Shaking the nunchuk to make Mario perform a spin move feels a bit pointless, jerking the remote around so Link will fire an arrow a bit silly. Wii Sports makes excellent use of the controllers, offering an experience you can't really get from any other console at present, but the novelty wears off and what you're left with doesn't have much depth.
Boom Blox has novelty and depth in spades. Along with instant accessibility, long-term challenge, immense scope for creativity and monkeys wearing cowboy hats. It's all about physics. Each level presents you with a structure built out of blocks, and an objective. This might be to remove a minimum number of blocks without toppling the structure, Jenga-style. Or to knock it over by lobbing balls in the right places and with the right amount of power. Or to protect it from approaching enemies by throwing bombs at them.
There's huge variety in the blocks the structures are made out of. Wooden blocks will wobble when you hit them, perhaps causing the load they're bearing to fall, while steel ones won't budge. Vanishing blocks will disappear on contact with a ball, bomb blocks will explode. Chemical blocks also explode, but only when they come into contact with one of their own kind. There are many more different types, but it would be a shame to reveal them all here.
Then there are the tools you get to solve the puzzles, such as different projectiles with different properties - for example bowling balls pack more power than baseballs, obviously. There's the grab tool, used for pulling out blocks in the Jenga puzzles. A hose which can be used to spray blocks as they fly through the air and change their trajectory. Again, there are many more.