Review: Blinx: the Time Sweeper

January 31, 2003 1:35 AM PST


Ex-Sonic Team Presents...?

It's been obvious to me that Sonic Team have been slowly moving in a direction away from what initially made them great. Sonic Adventure 2 probably being the best example of this. Shortly after SA2 was released, I discovered the reason for this... Naoto Oshima, Sonic's original artist and assistant in level design had left Sonic Team shortly after the completion of the first Sonic Adventure. Apparently, Oshima had wanted to create and head his own small software company. Thus, Artoon was born.

So what's a "Time Sweeper"?

A Time Sweeper's job is to maintain temporal flow and stability, or in other words: clean up time (yep, a janitor). According to this universe, there is an entire corporation comprised of anthropomorphic cats who keep track of time in all dimensions and worlds. If time is wasted, it becomes small crystals and if too many crystals coagulate they transform into time-monsters. The time sweepers run small reconnaissance missions in each world to keep time flowing neatly. That is, until a thieving band of pigs named the Tom-Tom Gang infiltrate the temporal flow in world B1Q64, stealing the crystals to sell on the black market. The number of crystals stolen breaks all records and the result is all that wasted time starts to form huge monsters. The Time Factory has no choice but to cut off time to that world. Blinx doesn't agree with this and decides to rescue this world all by himself.

A Temporal Paradox

Gameplay: 8.7

Blinx's playmechanics focus around our hero's ability to manipulate the flow of time. Armed with his trusty Time Vacuum, Blinx must clear out all of the resulting time monsters and restore temporal cohesion. In each stage, various occurrences and obstacles need to be temporally adjusted in order to proceed past them. For example: a bridge in front of you will collapse before you get a chance to cross it and the resulting gap will be too far for Blinx to jump. In this case, there are two options open to you, either use a Pause and stop time completely or let the bridge collapse and then use a Rewind to reverse the temporal effect. As one progresses through the game, the need to use multiple time manipulations in succession becomes necessary to reach the goal-portal at the end of each level. This is eased somewhat by the fact that you can carry time-manipulations between levels (not to mention you can buy slots to hold more of them at the various stores). You need to collect 3 time jewels of the same kind (for instance, 3 orange octahedrons and any other jewels for a Fast-Forward) to gain one time manipulation while grabbing 4 of the same kind will give you two. Some time jewels are naturally strewn around the levels while others can be had from destroying time monsters.

Time monsters are Blinx's other concern. Each one must be destroyed in order for the warp gate (the goal) to open. The time vacuum can suck up items such as flowerpots, benches and barrels to use as ammo against the many miscreants littering the different stages. In the first few stages, all the enemies only take one hit, but upon reaching level 3, many of them require multiple attacks to destroy. Another aspect that I should mention is that Blinx's Time Vacuum can only hold 5 items at the onset (with the ability to hold 10 after you buy a power-up). When confronting multiple enemies, this starts to become a factor.

Speaking of levels, there are 3 in each stage (8 stages in all, not including the final boss) with a fourth being strictly for a boss (Sonic Team, take note, this is how Sonic Adventure 3 should be). Between levels 2 and 3 of each stage is a store where Blinx can buy upgrades to his health, his Time Vacuum and even some new clothes (I'm currently running around each stage wearing biker-boots, a black leather jacket and desert-camo pants... armed with a violet time vacuum... yeah.. go fig). Caveat Emptor, (Let the buyer beware) when you buy something like a new outfit or a new vacuum at the store, you instantly hand over your old one. This got on my nerves a bit... As later on in the game I had to buy a water vacuum (level 2) to get the two Cat Medals I was missing in stage 2-1. This meant giving up my level 3 vacuum which I then had to buy back after I had picked up the secret items in question. Oh yeah, the Cat Medals are the superfluous secret hidden items in this game. Every time you collect so many (the number keeps going up each time), you open up a special comedy cinema that can be viewed in the collection room. There are 80 Cat Medals total, although there are more than 10 cinemas to unlock.

One last thing, unlike many other games, Blinx's health isn't simply how much damage he can take... it's how many times he can go back and try something again. Each time you are hit, Blinx dies, but his time vacuum completely rewinds time and the events that lead up to him being hit. This may sound like a "Rewind", but it isn't (if you hit an enemy during a Rewind, it takes the hit), its a "Retry" (if you hit something, the damage is completely removed as your item will be sucked back into your time vacuum). This doesn’t seem like much at first, but it becomes incredibly important during boss battles where your ammo is often limited and taking a hit roughly at the same time as the boss means you lose the damage you just did to him.

Piloting your Time-Sweeper.

Now, for everyone's favourite subject: Play-control. I might add that this seems to be a big factor with many players as there's tons of argument over Microsoft's pad designs. First off, the game only uses 3 primary buttons (one for jump, one for vacuum/attack and one to bring up the time manipulation menu), so switching between either the US or Japanese-style pads isn't in issue (I played with both and didn't have any difficulty). Other than that, you use the left analog stick to control Blinx and move through the various menus. This is very welcome after playing some of the football games on the system (which require you to use practically every button and stick/pad), as a simpler control-scheme equals quicker intuitive play. Although, there is one slight problem I have here: Blinx has a tendency to strafe when you don't want him to. Many times I found myself jumping to correct his direction because he was aiming at the last enemy I killed instead of the other enemy that I now wanted to focus on.

Graphics: 8.8

In this respect, its very easy to tell that this game was programmed by members of Sonic Team. Very lush and colourful textures cover the backgrounds while solid colours coat the various enemies. Blinx, himself, is fantastically detailed, having a very fuzzy appearance as well as reflective goggle-rims and boot-tips. Using the time-manipulations causes everything to be blanketed in a monochromatic hue of red, purple, yellow, green or blue depending on which one is used. One small thing I'd like to point out though (and I'm not necessarily complaining here, mind you) is that many of the objects in the game have a very plastic appearance (there's often too great a shine along creases and such). This really stands out with Blinx's sweater, which almost looks like its made of rubber. Other effects such as sand and lava look pretty good though. Water is a totally different story: it splashes and ripples with frightening reality (perhaps one of the coolest effect is using a Pause and then plowing through a river, leaving a spread wake which immediately "heals" once the temporal effect wears off). One thing that I'm not too crazy on though is the over-abundant use of focal proxemics: if Blinx is too close to the camera, especially in replays, he fuzzes as the camera focuses somewhere in the middle of the visible play-area. It just sorta erks me because its too artificial (real cameras don't de-focus that much).

Sound: 7.9

Music: 8.2

Just like the graphics, the music is very Sonic Team (probably because Naofumi Hataya of Mega CD Sonic CD fame helped out with the composition): plenty of up-beat, bouncy techno/rock. Its non-intrusive and you'll probably find yourself humming along to it after a level or two. Even the between-level music is pleasing to listen to. As for sound FX, well, I'm sure you've all heard what a vacuum-cleaner sounds like, and Blinx's sounds the same. The enemies themselves don't make much noise though, which is in-line with many of Sonic Team's games. Blinx and his fellow feline compatriots speak their own language which sounds sorta like Czech spoken underwater. Weird, yes, but I never grew tired of hearing him yell "Hei Y'Pah!" at the end of each stage.

Mascotability: 9.0

I'm rather pleased to hear that Blinx has officially been made the X-Box's mascot in Japan as he has the right stuff to stand next to the likes of Sonic, Mario, Crash and countless others. Hopefully he won't go un-noticed in the US. Although lets face it, in the States, he's not entirely the image that Microsoft want to portray. :/

Overall: 8.0

So, when compared to the current work of the company he left, Oshima's newest contribution to the world of furry-game characters leaves me very impressed. I can only hope that Artoon continue to seek classic play-styles mixed with current technology. I guess we'll find out when Blinx 2 comes out in a about a year or so.

Charles Mugg


Pros: Design, gameplay, music.

Cons: Camera problems, minor gameplay grudges.

Graphics

8.8

Sound

7.9

Music

8.2

Gameplay

8.7

Accessibility

8.4

Mascotability

9.0

Total

8.0

 

Developer
Artoon

Publisher
Microsoft

Release Date
October 9, 2002