EA Casual Roundup • Page 2

Casual need a break occasionally.

And from our time playing the game, it actually looks like it could be a lot of fun. Boom Blox is played without the nunchuk attachment. Essentially, the levels and game types are all based on the idea of the inherent, atavistic satisfaction in building up to smash down. Think football hooligans playing Jenga.

In its most basic form the game offers you a pile of blocks and tasks you with knocking them all down by throwing baseballs in the least number of attempts possible. Holding down B lets you rotate around the blocks to get the right angle, pointing at your target and holding A locks-on, then a throwing action unleashes a ball - and the strength of the throwing action and timing in releasing your 'hold' on the ball (i.e. letting go of A) affect its power. The interface is smooth and effective.

You can hurl as many balls as you like. The skill element comes in judging exactly which blocks to target so you keep the throws down to a minimum - and there are Gold, Silver and Bronze awards available depending on how quickly you can achieve a total demolition.

Multiple block types add depth and variety and will need to be skilfully manipulated to achieve the top ranks. And if you're tired of throwing, a neat bungie-style pulling mechanic enables you to pull apart structures in other stages.

Throw in 400 stages, a multiplayer mode and level designer (which we haven't seen yet) and there's plenty to keep puzzle fans occupied. With the game out on 9th May we'll have a full review soon, but on the early evidence it's not hard to see this proving a popular family diversion in Wii households, whether in Shoreditch or Slough.

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince the movie will be out in time for Chrimbo, and once again EA is lining up the tie-in game of the penultimate chapter of JK Rowling's series. We were able to try out a couple of game modes on the Wii version.

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Harry's done alright.

Wizard duelling is back, with gestures refined. Frantically casting the Wiimote forwards produces a flurry of sparks with limited precision, whereas holding it back to charge before unleashing produces a deadlier direct blow. Meanwhile shielding is achieved by crossing nunchuk and remote across the chest - timed correctly, this reflects an attack back at your foe. It all feels satisfyingly involved, and we're told there will be more spells and moves to unlock as you progress.

Potion class was the other mini-game on offer. A wide range of motions are employed to pick up vessels, pour steaming, neon liquids into a cauldron, stir and shake - with test scores granted according to the precision of your preparations.

These features will also be implemented on PS3 for Sixaxis compatibility. "We thought, 'shall we just try porting the Wii stuff straight to Sixaxis and seeing if it works?'" says lead game desiginer Chris Roberts. "'Oh yeah, it does!' But we give you the option. We don't want to fall into the mistake that Lair made." Amen to that.

While the core experience of guiding Harry and chums around a lavishly recreated Hogwarts will remain, there are a couple of notable changes we were told about. The conversation system is being completely overhauled and the team has been working closely with stablemate BioWare to adopt some of the advanced techniques it used in Mass Effect.

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Community Chest cards certainly aren't what they used to be.

And the animation system is motion-captured for the first time in the series, using digital scans of the actors as opposed to hand-drawn assets. "We're also changing the camera," says Roberts. "Last time it was more Resident Evil and that was tough. We've now gone for a more traditional third-person view."

This school year Harry also becomes Quidditch Captain, so expect a heavy dose of broomstick battling in-between the main adventuring - but this will be more of a "rollercoaster" experience, than a pitch-wide free-for-all. It's all obviously kiddy-skewed, but diehard Potter fans should already know what to expect in terms of the quality.

Going back to Wii Fit (given your correspondent's current Fitness Age, it's a must), the difference between Nintendo's greatest mainstream successes and the average 'kids', 'casual', 'non-core' game is that the Japanese firm isn't making games just for one group of people. It makes them, cheesily, for "everyone", but often well enough that they are enjoyed by gamers of all creeds. While a great deal of EA's line-up is highly targeted (and will sell like hotcakes, whatever we think), promising projects like Boom Blox look to have the goal of genuinely broad appeal well within their sights.

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