Spielberg's Boom Blox provides fun but not innovation

Posted by Mark Raby

Gut Reaction - We all know Steven Spielberg for his masterpieces in film, E.T. and Jurassic Park to name a few.  His branching out to Saturday morning-style cartoons was also a success, and with an intriguing video game now under his belt it seems there is nothing he can't do.  However, if his first game is any indication,  I'm not sure if his work in the latter category will play out quite as momentously.

Boom Blox, Spielberg's first video game, for the Nintendo Wii, sounds like a pretty empty shell of a game.  Much of it revolves around swinging around the Wii Remote to build and destroy Jenga-like 3D structures.  

As players expand through the game, there are a lot of different environments and blocks with which to experiment.  Think of it as having a big box of Legos; you can basically do whatever you want in the game.  So it's more like a big virtual toy instead of an epic adventure.  Additionally, there's a fleshed out single-player mode that has you solving puzzles with the Boom Blox "blocks."  You need to run through this mode to unlock the "Create Mode," where the game's backbone is.

There is also a handful of mini-games, like target shooting and a more traditional Jenga-esque endeavor, but these aren't really that fleshed out.

Spielberg signed a deal with leading video game publisher Electronic Arts in 2005, pledging three titles, of which Boom Blox is the first.

For two years, Spielberg fans have been wondering about what he had in store.  I don't think anyone could have expected the rather meager offering he provided with Boom Blox.  But every Hollywood hot shot some day or another will work on a project that makes you take a double take and wonder what the purpose is, instead of just creating something fun and exciting.

That's what Boom Blox is.  It is really a pimped out tech demo in a retail box.  That's not an immediate slam on the game; some tech demos are really cool.  Blox definitely has a lot of appeal with its unique concept and fluid use of the Wii Remote.  But it seems more like a game that relies on Steven Spielberg for namesake instead of one that lives up to his name.

His blockbuster films from the 1980s essentially defined the quintessential popcorn action flick.  The children's cartoons that he produced in the 1990s also became benchmarks for future TV shows.  However, Boom Blox makes no such breakthrough.  It's a new puzzle game, a genre that is still going strong but is so limited strictly by the nature of the genre.  

In other words, Boom Blox is the standard Wii game - a fun adventure that offers a new experience, but lacks a lot of depth.  From Spielberg, I've come to expect more than just the "standard," so in that respect the game is, in my opinion, a failed opportunity.