Blinx The Time Sweeper
System: Microsoft Xbox
Genre: Action Platform
Release: November, 2002
It’s amazing to think that Microsoft has only been in the video game console business for about a year, because its presence in the industry has been so pervasive and the marketing machine is in full effect. But beneath all the hype is still a company struggling to find its niche in the gaming universe.
Its latest step to define itself is with Blinx: The Time Sweeper the first major Xbox-exclusive action platformer for the system. Designed by some of the originators of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Blinx boasts incredible graphics and innovative new gameplay elements that utilize the Xbox hard drive ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” an advantage that Microsoft has over both Sony and Nintendo.
When Blinx starts up, everything will seem pretty familiar. The story is incidental ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬” Blinx is a janitor and has to use time crystals to save the world. Or whatever. Platform games are not story driven, and the gameplay starts out almost right away.
Blinx controls very well, with responsive controller motions and intuitive button schemes. The gameplay is largely based around Blinx’s time sweeper, which is a glorified vacuum cleaner. Blinx can suck up many items in the actual levels, and then use them as projectiles to defeat enemies. There are various different sized objects that pack varying degrees of punch, ie a large item does more damage than a small item.
Platform jumping plays a large part in Blinx, and is probably the second most important gameplay aspect behind the time control. Blinx has a jump and a double jump, and precision jumping is often needed to pass levels.
But most importantly, he can suck up one of five colored crystals, which if picked up in the correct combination, earn him a time stopping power. Using the Xbox’s hard drive, Blinx can use a rewind, fastforward, record, slow mo or pause to alter the time of the game universe. At first, these are used one at a time, to get the player adjusted to using time altering elements to control gameplay. But as the game progresses, they must be used in tandom, creating strategy to collecting the correct crystals to be able to use the correct time altering abilities in the correct order. In truth, the difficulty in some of the later levels is almost excessively hard, because if the player doesn’t have the correct crystal, there is no recouse other than to restart the level. In addition, there is a level time limit of 10 minutes, which for the more complex levels, doesn’t seem like enough time, and causes even more level restarts. This kind of frustration can get irritating after dozens of restarts.
In a nice change from the free roaming world based structures of platform games like Mario Sunshine or Ratchet and Clank, Blinx has a rigid level progression. The player must complete the ten worlds in order, doing each of the three levels and boss level in order to move on to the next stage. In a time when finding the next level is sometimes a challenge in itself, a traditional level structure like this is welcomed.
The graphics in Blinx are among the games’ highlights. Blinx himself is intricately detailed, and it seems like he really has a coat of fur. He has a wide variety of animations and movements that are fluid and fun to watch. Everything on the screen seems to burst with vibrant and varied colors.
As far as levels, they are also gorgeous. Each world has a look and feel of its own, with incredibly well detailed backgrounds and environments.
The only drawback of the game graphically is the relative slowness of the gameplay. Whether it was the intent of the developers or not, Blinx moves very slow, and even a full press of the analog stick wont speed him up. Its especially noticeable on early levels, and not as much in the more complex later levels.
Overall, the graphics and animation of Blinx are top notch, putting it at the top of the pack as far as the current action platformers on the market.
It would have been nice if Blinx had some in game speech, either in English or Japanese or a gibberish language, but sadly he doesn’t. In addition, the enemies themselves are largely silent.
The soundtrack is pretty varied and offers up different tunes for each level. Some of them get quite repetitive after restarting a level over and over, but that’s not the fault of the music.
The first few worlds of Blinx are pretty easy and fun, a lighthearted platform romp with sparse use of the time controls. But after the easy honeymoon, the difficulty and complexity of Blinx ramps up quickly, making for a frustrating experience. Massive replay of levels is necessary to get the correct strategy to pass them, and replay of already completed levels is almost compulsory to be able to get enough gold to buy stuff.
There is something missing from Blinx, and it’s difficult to pinpoint. Blinx himself exhibits very little character, as he doesn’t speak and has very few unique mannerisms that would endear him to the audience.
The fundamentals of the game are there, and the graphic beauty cannot be denied. But the difficulty ramps up to very high levels, and there just isn’t the emotional attachment with the game that there is with the most successful games in the genre, like Mario, Sonic or Crash. Blinx is a good game, a very good game. But it just isn’t great.
Fun Factor: 5