Do you remember Arkanoid or any of the slew of brick breaker games, where you move a paddle/dude with a trampoline/tube-shaped spaceship around the bottom and bounce a ball up at bricks above you? Image that, but first person and using touch or motion controls instead of sliding a rectangle right and left, and you’ve got Boom Ball: Boost Edition! Oh and hey, this one has a two-player function built in; all you have to do is give one Joy-Con to someone else!
Title: Boom Ball: Boost Edition
Developer: Virtual Air Guitar Company
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by developer
Interface: Joy-Cons with Switch connected to TV, as well as handheld with touch controls
Available on Nintendo Switch
• Meet explosive rectangular sheep and much silliness over 60 scenic levels
• Juggle up to 24 balls simultaneously
• Cheerful arcade action with manic multiball mayhem
I love destroying stuff in games. I can’t help it; I’d rather sit there and blow buildings apart than continuing on with the main story. Games with fun physics get a nearly automatic recommendation from me just because they’re just FUN to play. So when I saw Boom Ball: Boost Edition, I was already cautiously excited to get my hands on it.
Luckily, my expectations weren’t too high after all. It’s a blast to hit the ball(s) back at all of the blocks, and the level design is terrific. There are 5 sections, and each one has a different theme with some excellent block layouts. For example, the second area is underwater-themed, and one of the levels has you face off against Poseidon in a castle with doors that open and close like a minigolf course. Other levels involved explosive birds, a “What’s in the box?” level where you had to cause boxes to blow open by hitting them in the center, and all sorts of other animals and shapes.
Your job is always the same – destroy everything that can be destroyed. Aside from a handful of (mostly) invincible objects, everything is destructible with a hit or two from a ball. There are blocks that blow up everything near them, powerups that give you added destructive power or additional balls, and some of the blocks even replace any blocks you destroy around them very quickly until you put them out of commission.
Boom Ball: Boost Edition gives players 60 levels to conquer, each of which has at least two rounds of blocks to destroy. While there are two ways to play the game, both are incredibly simple: you can either use your finger(s) on the screen itself or use the Joy-Cons. Using your fingers is as simple as you’d think, but the Joy-Cons are a little tricky: the position of the paddles seems to be based on how the Joy-Cons are lying in your hands at the beginning of each round, not the way they’re aimed. Luckily I quickly figured out that if you pause the game, you can move the Joy-Cons however you’d like before unpausing it and the paddles will be re-centered on the screen. It wasn’t a major issue by any means since I have similar issues with Move Controllers while playing PSVR games as well, but it did take a little time to get used to it.
With that said, even though the game is just as playable (and even more accurate) with touch controls, it’s so much more fun with the Joy-Cons. They add a whole extra layer of interaction and physicality, and it feels so much more awesome when you smash a ball into an explosive block and demolish a bunch of stuff. I’ve got to admit though, being able to merely touch the screen with four fingers to pause the game is brilliant for players using touch controls: not only does it prevent people from merely covering the whole screen so they can’t ever lose, it makes pausing a breeze as well.
The game has a terrific balance of risk and reward. Each level gives you up to four medals for completing it, and three of them are quite a challenge. You get one guaranteed for beating a level, but the others require completing a level without losing any balls (multiballs are okay though), completing it in a very short amount of time, and completing it on turbo mode. Turbo mode speeds things up and reduces your “lives” from 5 to 3. The gameplay itself has a lot of risk/reward as well: for real control over where the ball will go, you need to SWING the paddle rather than just using it like a bounce pad. Think of it like tennis: if you want to hit the ball somewhere specific, you have to swing your racket at it when it gets near you, you can’t just block with it and hope to be an effective player. You can also press the trigger on the respective Joy-Con to boost the ball, causing it to move much faster for a bit. So while you may complete a level without any problem (I only had to restart levels three times), getting the medals is far from a cakewalk. Heck, when I completed the game I only had 28% of the medals!
Medals are used for more than bragging rights as well: they’re used to unlock new paddles and bonus levels. Only 50 levels are part of the “main game”, the other 10 are bonus levels, the last of which requires you to collect over 97% of the medals in the game. If you want to unlock everything, you’ll probably need to replay levels a LOT, but that’s okay because they’re all short. The developer definitely knew the pain of having to hit those last few blocks, because once you clear most of the blocks on a level you go into a special mode where you hit rapid-fire fireballs at the remaining targets. These fireballs home in on their targets, so the last 10-15% or so of almost every level is a breeze.
I didn’t get to play the game with anyone else, but I know it’s something my teen and pre-teen niece and nephew would enjoy. It’s also something I could see having loads of fun playing with my gal, and I plan on going through and replaying quite a bit to unlock the other 5 bonus levels too. The music is fun, the physics are great, and I loved that creatures with faces looked scared when the ball got near them and upset when they were hit. If you or your kids love to joke about eating the head off of a chocolate bunny first, you’ll find similar fun here as well.