Saturday, September 3, 2011

N64 Month: Blast Corps

Blast Corps

  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Rare
  • Release: Nintendo 64, 28 February 1997
  • Players: 1
  • Saving: Controller Pak, 14 Pages / 4 files
  • Genre: Action, Racing
  • Rarity/Cost: Common, US$1-10
 "They" say it is easier to destroy than to create, and in Blast Corps, this certainly rings true.  (Helps that you can't create anything in the game anyway.)  In fact, destruction is your prime objective.  The main missions have you demolishing buildings with all manner of cars, trucks, and other machines.  Yeah, something tells me this wouldn't fly in our post-9/11 world.  But would you believe: you're doing it for a good cause.

The story in Blast Corps is much like a disaster movie (and not in that phoney-baloney Seltzerburg way).  A truck carrying nuclear material has lost its crew and control in a freak accident, and has been locked in a straight course.  Collision with any object would cause the carrier's contents to detonate... somehow.  I'm no nucular scientist.  The only solution that could possibly be the lesser of two evils is to clear a path for the carrier so that it can detonate safely in a remote location.  That includes any buildings that stand in its way, which is where the titular organisation comes in.  With a varied assortment of vehicles at your command, you're tasked with demolishing select buildings in order to create a safe path for the carrier.  From repurposed construction vehicles, to humanoid mechas, to cars which... pretty much just take you around faster than walking, you'd be amazed at the ways you can make things to boom.

Each of these vehicles comes with its own control scheme and learning curve.  The Ramdozer (bulldozer) is by far the most straightforward and easiest to use: just drive into things and it'll take down most obstacles in one hit.  The mechs - the J-Bomb (stomps on targets from above with a jetpack - you're welcome), Thunderfist, and Cyclone Suit (both tumble into targets) - are generally fun to work with, but require practice to perfect the necessary timing.  Some vehicles mix it up with limited-ammo weapons, namely the Sideswipe (a truck with side-mounted battering rams) and Ballista (a motorbike with rocket launchers).  And then, there's... the Backlash, a dump truck which you have to drift and crash into targets with the back end.  Even in the tutorial mission, it's way hard to get the timing down, and worse still is the fact that it's used the most out of any vehicle in the game. *sigh*  In missions where more than one machine is available, you can get out at any time and walk to another one, which is innovative considering this game came out before Grand Theft Auto - as in the old 2-D ones.

Top row: Backlash, Cyclone Suit, Ballista, J-Bomb.
Bottom row: Ramdozer, Thunderfist, Sideswipe, Skyfall.
Have fun.
Once you've saved a map from the carrier, you can go back to it at any time for full completion.  You can trash all the remaining buildings, free the remaining survivors from said buildings, and light up Radiation Dispersal Units (RDUs), collectible dots strewn about each map, in order to collect extra Gold Medals.  The main carrier missions only make up 21 of the game's 54 levels; the remaining ones are timed destruction or racing challenges, which have their own target times and medals.  All this should contribute a fair bit of replay value - insanely so, when platinum Medals are involved (you have to get all Golds before they show up, though).

If there's anything that could hold this game back, it's the controls, which aren't nearly as fine-tuned as they should be.  For one, invisible walls are everywhere, and hitting one makes your vehicle bounce back a few feet, sometimes re-creating pinball physics.  The camera rarely ever hangs back wide enough to let you see everything you need to; even though you can rotate (by 45-degree increments) and zoom (again, very slightly), it's usually not enough to give you the optimal viewing angle.  And the less said about the Backlash, the better.  Graphical quality is around par for an early N64 title, although slowdown is not an uncommon happening, especially if the camera hangs low enough to show the horizon.  But while some fine-tuning would have been much-appreciated, the quality that exists is more than enough to make the novelty of this concept worthwhile  It's just a shame that dump truck...


...had to cause so much backlash.

+ Novel, cathartic concept.
- Limited camera control.
- Awkward collision detection.
- That freakin' Backlash truck.

Control: 2 RDUs out of 5
Design: 5 RDUs out of 5
Graphics: 2 RDUs out of 5
Sound: 3 RDUs out of 5
The Call: 70% (C+)

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