Boom Blox Bash Party - hands-on

Though last summer's Boom Blox was a critical smash, finally presenting us with a game for the Wii that could properly appeal to hardcore and casual gamers alike, it was plagued by initially slow sales. Publisher Electronic Arts is insistent that the game's retail performance picked up over time, but once the first month's sales charts are out, the internet's mind is made up. Thus our reaction to the announcement of a sequel so soon was a mix of surprise and joy.

With less than a year since the original game's release, we were skeptical that EA could pump out enough new material to warrant a sequel, but judging by our first hands-on time with the game at GDC, we were wrong. The first thing we were told is that the game will feature twice as many competitive multiplayer modes as the original - 22 as opposed to 11, which explains the "Party" in the title. Some classics are returning, of course, but EA is placing a heavy emphasis on the new modes, one of which we got to check out for ourselves.

In the puck-based challenges, players get assigned to teams and must use their colored pucks to knock off other players' colored pucks. Think of it as a more malicious version of shuffleboard with increasingly complex boards to slide your pucks along. Simply knocking the pucks off the edge of a big square board is one thing, but how about adding a big hole to the middle of that board? And then conveyer belts that suck pucks into the hole if they get too close? We tried it with three players who all spawned with four pucks, and we experienced moments of great triumph, unbelievably lucky shots, and a final one puck versus one puck showdown - basically everything that a great multiplayer event should have.

Of course, EA isn't completely ignoring single player, which will also be larger than the original game's solo mode with a planned 450 levels. We got to check out two of the new themed worlds that will now affect gravity in the game. In the pirate world, the Blox are dunked underwater and your throws have a watery slowness to them. This effect is exaggerated even more in the space world, where zero gravity will have Blox floating away instead of just dropping to the ground.