Monday, July 21, 2008
Why Blast Works is Awesome
posted by JMinor
Blast Works Review
I mentioned this before but it cannot be stressed enough how much of a Nintendo fanboy I am. However, recently I’ve been wrestling with thoughts of getting another console. It’s not that I’m mad at Nintendo’s new casual direction (something that’ll be discussed in another editorial) but rather considering how engrossed I am in the industry it’s hard not the notice spectacular looking games like GTA 4 and MGS4. Then I look at my massive collection of Wii games and play a hidden gem to occupy my time. The game for today was Majesco’s Blastworks.
The game shares a lot in common with two other games on other platforms I was interested in, Katamari Damacy and LittleBigPlanet. With that comparison one would be surprised to learn that Blast Works is a 2-D shooter (I refuse to use the word “shmup”) like R-type or Gradius. Throughout the game’s campaign you control a ship flying across a horizontal plane shooting down enemies while avoiding their bullets. Then there’s the Katamari Damacy element, after you shoot down a ship you attach its corpse to your own simply by running into it. These ships fire automatically as well as act as shields. By pressing a button these ships can be hidden and protected since they can be destroyed when out in the open. However, then all you left to shoot is your own gun. Creating a mass of ships can be fun but it does make the game easier than most hardcore 2-D shooters. Also there is no save option. For most shooters this is fine considering how short they are but Blast Works is surprisingly long. However, unlimited continues can ruin otherwise great arcade games which seems to be the feel Blast Works is trying to evoke. This can be seen in the bright colors and angular designs of the ships as well the neon glow that bathes the playing field. This can also be heard in the game’s simple arcade-style techno music though the music is a little quiet compared to the sound effects. Also, for a game all about creation, a custom soundtrack would have nice. The game supports four players and has some nice unlockables like TUMIKI Fighters the inspiration for Blast Works by Kenta Cho as well as some of Cho’s other games. If it seems like I rushed through Blast Work’s single player mode it’s because that the campaign mode, while interesting and certainly competent, is rather pedestrian compared to the real appeal of this game, the spectacular game editor.
The developers of Blast Works have said that the editor included in the game is very close to the actual editor used to create the campaign. That means every level, every ship, every enemy and every bullet pattern could conceivably be recreated through the editor. Potentially, someone with enough time and skill could create an even better game. Since the editor gives so much freedom to the user it comes with a fairly steep learning curve. Simple ships and levels could be created easily enough but in order to create something truly great one would have to be able to effectively combine geometric shapes and orient them properly in a 3-D space to create ships and enemies. Then one would have carefully go about creating a level thinking about everything from difficulty balance to enemy placement, enemy flight patterns, boss encounters, musical cues, screen rotation and more. It’s a very daunting task and something not many people outside of the game development community would be able to accomplish. However, once these levels are created (and trust me, they already have) other players will be able to experience them thanks to the magic of http://www.blastworksdepot.com/ All you have to do is enter in your Wii console number. Then you can place anything uploaded from levels to ships into you queue. Once you connect Blast Works to the internet this new content will be yours. Thanks to Nintendo and their lack of a hard drive space is limited. However, once you create a Blast Works save file the game smartly blocks out 128 blocks of space in your Wii for you to fill up similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Elebits. This feature alone raises Blast Works’ lasting appeal exponentially. To think that you could always go online, find something new and download it instantly and effortlessly is amazing for Wii owners and is proof that a near-perfect DLC service is possible on the system with or without Nintendo’s help.
Like LittleBigPlanet, Blast Works brings Youtube-style appeal to a video game. The main game suffers because of this but it is a worthy sacrifice. Since a lot of that appeal is based on quickly messing around with the editors and checking out what people have done, Blast Works isn’t a game to be played for hours and hours, unless of course you’re expertly crafting your own level. However, once I’ve beaten Zelda, Okami or any other long and engaging game, Blast Works is a game that be revisited and stay fresh for months or even years to come. Plus it’s only $39.99