Thanks to the Grand Theft Auto series, the idea of sandbox gaming has become synonymous with carjacking and senseless killing. Boom Blox takes the concept back to its childhood roots, giving gamers the power to erect and topple towers of delicately balanced building blocks. It's how you interact with these blocks, and the way they react in turn, that makes the game so interesting.
Players can hurl projectiles, like baseballs or bowling balls, by swinging the Wii-mote. When nailed, the towers teeter and crumble, blocks scattering in satisfying disarray. The controller can also be used to grab and manipulate individual blocks, Jenga-style. Some blocks explode when whacked; others merely disappear. Boom Blox mines a startling amount of play from these subtle variations. A series of story-based puzzlers introduce cute block animals, each with their own behaviors. One adventure tasks you with removing barriers that separate Gorilla Gert from her Baby Gerts. Others riff on tower defense, forcing you to hurl bowling balls at marauding soldiers who aim to take your castle.
Boom Blox is best when played with friends. A variation on shuffleboard offers the perfect mix of skill and strategy. Perhaps the most gratifying is a turn-based siege where players hurl cannonballs at their opponent's castles, attempting to smash their battlements into pieces. Drilling deeper, Boom Blox offers robust creation tools that let players construct their own puzzles and levels, then share them online.
Beyond the game: Steven Spielberg is credited with brainstorming the concept for Boom Blox and overseeing its creation. His deal with EA should produce at least two more games.
Worth playing for: The game-over message, "All baby cows are lost" may be the most surreal failure text to ever appear in a videogame.
Frustration sets in when: Boom Blox levels can only be swapped between friends. In efforts to protect underage gamers from the evils of cock-shaped towers, EA and Nintendo deny us access to a potential treasure trove of killer user-created content.
Final judgment: Spielberg's first videogame blockbuster.