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Blinx: The Time Sweeper

Developer: Artoon | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/07/02 | Genre: Platform

Late in 2002, the Xbox was blessed with a decent platform game called Blinx: The Time Sweeper. Blinx, with his maniacal grin, had attracted the attention of gamers around the world with his unique time-control abilities. The game has finally been unleashed, and Xbox owners are left with a fine gaming experience that takes the traditional platform genre and expands upon it.

Blinx plays similarly to most other games in the genre, with the exception of the time controls. He has the standard assortment of moves including jumping, double jumping, and a few evasive maneuvers that look like they were pulled straight from Mario's bag of tricks. Your main objective is to destroy all the monsters in an area and reach the goal before the ten-minute time limit runs out. To do this, Blinx relies heavily on his trusty Time Sweeper; a vacuum of sorts that sucks up various items and launches them at enemies. The enemies themselves cannot be sucked up, but there's plenty of garbage lying around that you can use to launch at them. The bigger the object, the more damage it will inflict.

Along the way, you'll find valuable gold gems scattered throughout the levels that you can collect and use at the item shop to purchase different power ups. It's a good idea to upgrade your Sweeper from time to time as the more powerful ones are able to suck up larger, and therefore more deadly, objects. Also, different Sweepers will work more effectively against different types of enemies. For example, the Flame Sweeper is very effective against ice-based enemies (uh-duh). In these shops you may also purchase time holders which allow you to carry more time controls, or retry holders which increase the number of attempts you have to conquer any given level.

Of course, the thing that sets this game apart from the crowd are the time controls. As you make your way through the game, you'll need to collect time crystals which enable you to use the various time controls. Collect three of the same gem and get one of the respective controls; collect four and you'll get two. The time controls are essential to the game, and many times they're more of a necessity than a luxury. They are also used to find the secret cat medals hidden throughout the stages. Collecting these medals unlocks little rewards, which in all honesty, are completely pointless.

One of the game's greatest strengths would have to be the absolutely brilliant level design. The stages that Blinx must traverse are among the most unique I've seen in a game. There is plenty of variety to keep things interesting, and the graphics help bring the world to life. The environments will suck you into the game and keep you there for hours on end. Assisting in this task are the rather excellent musical score and sound effects. The pop/techno beats in the game are catchy at worst, and downright awesome at best. The sound effects of the Sweeper are appropriate and Blinx speaks in a rather humorous alien cat language. All-in-all, the game's technical aspects do a great job of immersing the player.

While Blinx is a good game, it does have several flaws that keep it from being great. For one, the enemy character designs are weak; I mean, how many times have we gamers had to destroy a formless blob of jelly? Far too many by my count. Another problem is that the hit detection is terrible at times. On several occasions, the item I launched at an enemy just went right on through the little guy and he, of course, was unscathed. Also, items launched become stuck on the surroundings very easily which more or less means you shoot it at an enemy, and it drops at your feet the moment it's fired. This happens a lot more often than it should, and may lead to some 죨eapeaths, grrr.

Speaking of death, there is a problem with how the game handles that as well. You see, when you lead Blinx astray and get him whacked, the game rewinds a bit and places you where you were just before you were killed (most of the time, anyway). Usually, this is not a problem as you're temporarily invulnerable to attacks, so you don't have to worry about dying immediately after restarting. However, much to my dismay, I found that if Blinx takes an especially long plunge, the game rewinds a bit... and you're still in the midst of falling. No matter how many retries you have, they'll all be gone in a matter of moments. Your only hope is that sooner or later the game decides to rewind a bit farther and place you on solid ground; which actually does happen, believe it or not.

Despite its short comings, the game still offers a fun playing experience. Some gamers may be turned off by the later levels and bosses which cross into stupid hard territory, but even while I was yelling and cursing at Blinx, the *$!% stupid &$%#! cat who couldn't do anything right to save any one of his nine lives, I had not the slightest urge to quit playing. If you're up for a challenge, then I heartily recommend this title; it does have its faults, but the rest of the game more than makes up for them.

By Ryan Schaefer - 01/03/03
ESRB Details: Mild Violence

Screenshots for Blinx: The Time Sweeper

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