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Blast Corps

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Being one of the original dozen games that debuted with the Nintendo 64 back at the 1995 Shoshinkai show, Blast Corps surprisingly emerged on the scene. Developed by Rare, who were recently accustomed to making countless DKC and KI games, Blast Corps has given the company a chance to hark back to its 8-bit days and make an original, addictive game. Blast Corps can best be classified as an action/puzzle game. The action takes place in a 3/4 overhead view. The camera can be rotated 360 degrees and can zoom in and out several levels. All levels in the game (except the bonus levels) require a path to be cleared for the runaway missile carrier. However, some levels also require a puzzle to be solved along the way. Herein lies what makes Blast Corps so original, addicting and challenging. You are a member of Blast Corps, the leader in the field of heavy duty demolition. A pair of defective nuclear missiles, en route to a safe detonation site, have begun to leak. Badly damaged, the carrier automatically locks onto the most direct route. The flood of radiation prevents anyone from getting close to the runaway carrier, and people fear that the slightest jolt could trigger a catastrophic explosion. It's now up to the Blast Corps to clear the way, gather a team of six scientists, and ultimately counter the threat of nuclear winter. There are a total of 12 to 15 vehicles (depending on how you classify them) at your disposal. These are the vehicles that can do damage: the Ramdozer, which can push items and destroy small buildings; the Backlash, which can only to do some major damage if its back-end slides into a building; the Skyfall, which can only do major damage if it jumps down from above; the Thunderfist, which is a large, one-handed robot that somersaults into buildings; the Cyclone Suit, which is a small robot that can tumble into buildings; the J-Bomb, which is a third robot that does damage by rocketing above buildings and stomping them; the Ballista, which is a two-wheeled cycle that shoots missiles; and the Sideswipe, which is a weird hybrid vehicle that punches buildings from its left and right sides. There are also several vehicles that cannot do any type of major damage but are useful for other tasks. There are the race cars (two types), van (seemingly inspired by the A-Team), police car, train, boat and platform crane. The race cars, van and police car may be used as a means of moving from one location to another very quickly. The train is useful for transporting vehicles to previously unreachable, far away locations. The boat may be needed so the runaway carrier can cross a river. And the platform crane may be used to lift something from one side to another. Each of the vehicles in Blast Corps has slightly different control, but they are all essentially the same. On the vehicles with wheels, the A button is to move forward, the B button is to move backwards, the C group is the camera control, and the Z button is used to stop and exit the vehicle. You can use either the Control Pad or the Control Stick to move on most, and the shoulder buttons (L & R) are used to sound the horn, slide, turbo, shoot missiles or activate side punches, depending on the vehicle. The robots do have slightly different control, however. With the Thunderfist, press the A or B button to do a somersault. With the Cyclone Suit, press the A or B button to tumble. With the J-Bomb, press the A button to activate jets and the B button to stomp. To different people, the control in Blast Corps will mean different things. Some vehicles are easy to control (Ramdozer), while others are downright difficult (Backlash). Most vehicles have more than adequate control but can be a little imprecise at times. The major problem is that the Backlash is one of the major vehicles in the game. Many people will experience a lot of frustration trying to control it. After all, the gameplay is supposed to make the game challenging, not the control, right? However, some may see mastering the vehicles as an added challenge to the game. Blast Corps really shines in the most important department of any game: gameplay. The actual game exhibits many qualities that can be likened back to the 8-bit days. The game has clever level designs, multiple vehicles to master, several tasks to accomplish, lots of little secrets, and many other subtle touches that keep the game fun, fresh and original. Every main level in Blast Corps contains two tasks. The primary task is to always make sure the runaway carrier makes it safely to the end of the level. The secondary task is to destroy all buildings, free all survivors and find all items. In a very, very smart move, almost every detail in each level is saved. For example, say you cleared a path for the missile carrier. You can then go back to that very same level and explore it without having to worry about the carrier. That's right, the game keeps track of which buildings you knocked down and which ones you didn't. It also keeps track of the various items, survivors, etc., which you may or may not have found. To ensure all these details are saved, it's highly recommended you save your game on a Controller Pak rather than the Game Pak. All of the main levels contain buildings, survivors and RDUs (Radiation Dispersal Units) that you can find and/or knock down. Every time you complete or exit (through the 18-wheeler) a level, the game will bring up an information screen that displays the percentage of what you have found/knocked down. Some levels also contain Communication Points that open up bonus levels. Even more lucrative are the six scientists hidden in the game. You must find all six so they can dispose of the nuclear missiles. Doing damage and finding items will give you commendations. Commendations come in gold, silver and bronze. The gold one is worth three rank points, silver is worth two, and bronze is worth one. Depending on how many rank points you have, you are assigned a title such as "Rookie Wrecker" or "Expert Destroyer." You will receive a promotion for every 12 rank points. One gold commendation is given per level for clearing a path for the carrier. A second commendation is awarded based on how much you found/destroyed. Your second commendation will only be gold if all survivors were rescued, all RDUs were found, and all buildings were destroyed. Besides the aforementioned ways to get commendations on the main levels, there are commendations awarded on the bonus levels. These are given out based on how much time it took you to complete the bonus level. Furthermore, if you get gold on all the levels, then other levels will become available. These levels will also reveal the platinum commendation. Getting all platinum commendations is the only way to truly complete the game. Just to get an idea of the type of gameplay Blast Corps presents to the player, I will use the "Echo Marches" board as an example. To start off the level, I had to use the J-Bomb to clear out a haystack and a few buildings. Then I had to rocket to this part with a train track. After a little trouble figuring out what to do, I realized I had to go over to this cave, get out of the robot, and walk through to the other side. On that other side was a train that I had to move back over to the other side so the runaway carrier could cross the train tracks. Next I got off the train and had to move the race car that was on the train so it wouldn't get hit. Besides, I needed to race over to my J-Bomb suit that I left by the tunnel. Now there were some big buildings I had to destroy to clear a path. After doing that, there was another tunnel. This time, I had to rocket over it in my J-Bomb suit and saw some water. I then had to rocket to this boat and move it between the gap. That way the carrier could cross the water. But there was also a car on the boat that had to be moved. Finally, after clearing a few more buildings with my J-Bomb suit, the path for the whole level was cleared. The graphics in Blast Corps are sweet. Although it can be difficult to tell at times, everything in the game is made of polygons. This is actually meant as a compliment. The polygons are so realistically modeled that one might think they are sprites. The explosions in the game are very cool, with multiple colors and patterns. And the game just moves along at a very quick pace. There's no pop-up, clipping or slowdown, either. The vehicles with tires also leave real-time skid marks on the ground if you peel some rubber. Some might wish there was more detail and animation, but the amazing amount of variety helps make up for it. One of the biggest concerns of Blast Corps for many was how the view would be implemented. As mentioned higher up on the page, you can rotate the camera 360 degrees and zoom in and out. The bad news is that there are only several levels of zoom. Most will pick the farthest out zoom that is not the "missile cam." However, one might wish it was still even farther away. On the plus side, some later levels have intelligently pre-programmed camera angles that automatically zoom in and out. Speaking of the missile cam, it enables you to look where the carrier is at in the level from a sky-like view. Since it only shows the location of the carrier, this view cannot really be used to destroy anything unless you so happen to be around the carrier itself. Still, because of the difference in control in this view, no one will want to use it to play the game. Like usual, Rare has done another fine job with the sound in Blast Corps. The sound effects of the buildings blowing up are decent, some of the vehicles have horns, and the music is pretty nice, too. There's some techno, hard rock, etc. -- the typical Rare mix. Somewhat surprising is the amount of voice in the game. The other members of the Blast Corps talk to you, and there is even a recycled "Warning" sample from the Killer Instinct series. The characters say such phrases as "I hope this works," "You're just trying to impress me," "You running away or something?" and more. It's a nice touch. What can I say? There's not much that needs to be improved in Blast Corps. Some may wish the Backlash's control was different, but I personally like the challenge of mastering it. Even though half of the game's levels are bonus levels, this is still one of the longer games for the next generation systems. And although a two-player mode may seem cool, there just may not be any way to implement it without hindering the game. The only real improvement that would need be made is to include much more animation in the levels, assuming that wouldn't hurt the frame rate. There are not very many pleasant surprises in the video game world. However, Blast Corps is just that -- a pleasant surprise. The solid graphics that will take you back to your days playing in the sand, the rich and varied sound that gets you grooving, the different vehicles that beg to be mastered, the cunning level designs that will test your every skill, and all the items that can be found and destroyed make Blast Corps a thoroughly enjoyable gameplay experience. Though it seems as if you don't get your money's worth in video games anymore, with games relying too much on eye- and ear-candy, Blast Corps is truly an exceptional value. The game may even make you think back to the NES days. Back then, it was the gameplay that made the game. And the gameplay certainly makes this game.

Graphics: 4.3 out of 5 Sound: 4.3 out of 5 Control: 3.8 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.5 out of 5 Lastability: 4.1 out of 5 Overall: 4.5 out of 5

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