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Blinx 2: Masters of Space and Time
game: Blinx 2: Masters of Space and Time
three star
posted by: Laurie Taylor
publisher: Microsoft
developer: Artoon
date posted: 12:00 AM Sun Dec 5th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Sun Dec 5th, 2004

Click to read.Neither of us had played the first Blinx game, so we were fairly optimistic about a game of cute cats who support time in the universe. Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, and other games vying to create gaming mascots had upped our expectations, which Blinx 2 quickly dashed. This is not to say that Blinx 2 is a bad game, but it's a failed game in many ways. Blinx 2 offers a number of fairly innovative options, but these options are implemented poorly, making the game interesting rather than sustainably fun. It's frustrating because Blinx 2 really could have been a great platformer with a witty narrative, fun characters, and loads of gameplay options. The game does have decent sound, if a bit repetitive, decent but unexceptional graphics, and innovative and fun gameplay for when players aren't trapped in tutorials.

Instead, Blinx 2 would probably only interest players who like easy, simple games, and who are very fond of tutorials; perhaps children or new players would find Blinx 2 fascinating for casual play.  A couple of the later levels proved somewhat more difficult and made the intended audience even less clear. We did enjoy the more difficult levels, but we would not have continued playing through the tedious tutorial-easy levels had it not been for this review.   

Blinx 2 focuses on a team of cats, known as the sweepers, who help control and regulate time. The initial cut-scene shows the Tom Tom gang of pigs destroying a time crystal so that the cats must find and restore the pieces of the time crystal to keep time running smoothly. In an interesting twist, the Tom Tom gang's leader has dreams of Mina, one of the Fates controlling time, who tells him to fix the time crystal. Then, the player alternately plays as both the cat-sweepers and the Tom Tom pigs to steal the time crystals. This could have been really fascinating and cute, and it almost is, but it just doesn't quite make it from an interesting idea to a working concept.

The initial cut-scene also establishes the cats as part of a corporate group with the controlling cat called the CEO and the other cats in ˜teams',again in the corporate sense. While this could have been a humorous take on gameplay as work, or cats at work, or a critique of corporate structures, it simply isn't. Despite the shallowness of the plot, it's still fairly interesting; it just could have been so much better.

Gameplay itself begins with the player choosing to play as a pre-set character or to design a unique cat (and later a pig) character and team. Unlike most games where players design characters in terms of skill-sets as in RPGs, or in terms of body sets or clothing as with games like Tony Hawk and RPGs, Blinx 2 allows players to choose clothing colors, appearance, and body style, size and appearance. Players can manipulate ear size for long or short cat ears, eye color, fur color, fur patterns, leg sizes with long or short legs, arm size with long or short arms, broad or narrow shoulders, tail length and width, and so on. While this is an interesting manner of character design, the manipulations just tend to stretch or shrink the available pixels to make the character appear distorted. Nevertheless, it is an interesting idea; albeit one that has no effect whatsoever on gameplay.   If a player creates a tall, muscular cat with a sizeable tail, this cat does not perform any better than a short, fat cat with a stubby tail.

After designing the character, the player can choose a team appearance style or have the game auto select the style. The team seems to have no bearing on the game itself, but perhaps it was a planned feature. In several levels, players do play with the team, but the team play dynamics are nearly identical to single-player play. In terms of character usage, one of the oddest points of Blinx 2 is that the player never plays as Blinx. Instead, players play with the custom-designed character and see Blinx only in cut-scenes where Blinx reports on his work to restore the time crystal. While playing another character instead of Blinx could have been a really interesting move, it instead leaves the player-character a bit flat.

After putting together your team, the game begins with a tutorial that is determined to teach you each and every aspect of game-play. The tutorial does a great deal of hand-holding, which is fine for a tutorial, but which continues throughout the game, and throughout the nine or so other required tutorials. The tutorials do cover the various possible skills that your character can use to play the game, including shooting enemies with garbage, hitting enemies with the vacuum, pausing time and rewinding time in a Prince of Persia fashion, sniping, stealth moves, and more. While the gameplay does manage to take advantage of the majority of the XBox's buttons and it does allow the player a variety of gameplay styles, it doesn't enhance gameplay significantly enough to warrant all of the tutorials.

Another consistently annoying feature are the persistent in-game helps that pop up and tell the player exactly what to do next and how to do it. In the actual levels, arrows and signs point the player in the direction of play, and the CEO or Tom Tom bosses chime in with hints and directions. If the game wasn't so determined to avoid a clear sense of personality or narrative, or to make sure that players can't make mistakes or be confused, then the game could have been much more interesting.

Blinx 2 does succeed in trying to present a classic platformer with innovative play through multiple ways to win each level and through multiple gameplay styles available through the different options and weapons. The game also offers combination moves like time controls and attacks and combos from the different time controls. While these are interesting and fairly useful, they don't manage to compensate for the game's other failings.

The game does offer additional options like challenges, rewards for collecting medals, and multiplayer and versus play. The multiplayer play is identical to single player, except with additional flaws. The multiplayer play isclearly added-on. Multiplayer creates a unique shared team play because even though the players are playing on a traditional split screen, the two characters' health is linked.  So, if one player gets hit, both suffer. They do not share time controls or items, though. Multiplayer, like the rest of Blinx 2, appears interesting yet still fails.  Versus battle is standard competition between teams using levels from the game. Versus also uses the team-play where a player controls a player-character and an AI team for the battles.

Overall, Blinx 2 is an interesting, yet unenjoyable, game to play. The very players who  Blinx 2 could target would be the same players who would be alienated by the lack of gaming personality and the lack of a clearly intended audience. Even given its failings, Blinx 2 still manages to be interesting for its attempts at innovation and for a few decent levels. For younger or new players, Blinx 2 could be a useful way for them to learn the game controls because of the numerous tutorials. For platformer-addicts, Blinx 2 does offer a couple of fun levels and its attempts at innovation could be important for platformers in the future.

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