Release Date: November 16, 2004
Buy 'BLINX 2: Masters of Time & Space': Xbox
Platformers are notorious for their traditionally crazed presentation. From the giant mushroom power-ups and radish tossing from the Mario games to the angry echidnas and flying foxes of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, something about jumping around and collecting things makes developers come up with some truly crazed concepts. Artoon’s Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space follows this tradition nicely, with it’s time-controlling cats and nutty stealth pigs.
The first Blinx game was not a critical success; it only rarely obtained any above average scores from most publications. The game presented interesting ideas, but was marred by mediocre control and lifeless level design. This time around, Artoon made a strong attempt at improving upon their original vision. Blinx 2 is much more centered on action than before. It has improved level design. Overall, it simply plays better than its predecessor. Still, all of these improvements are incremental, at best. The game feels new, but it still is not the incredible platformer that many gamers were hoping for – and considering the fact that one of the creators of the ubiquitous Sonic the Hedgehog is an Artoon staffer, those hopes were not completely without base.
Blinx 2 presents a direct continuation of the previous game. Two opposing groups of animals are on a quest to obtain all of the many shards of the Big Crystal: The pig-run Tom Tom Gang, and the familiar feline-filled Alliteration Assault— erm, I mean, Time Sweepers. The pigs are an expectedly brawnier bunch, while those crazy cats (okay, I’ll stop) are a bit more reliant on their brains. This is reflected in the Sweeper’s greater knowledge of the workings of the Big Crystal in comparison to their porky counterparts.
This time, Blinx himself is not a playable character. Instead, members of both the Tom Tom Gang and the Time Sweepers make their way through the game under the control of the gamer. Each team is filled with extremely customizable characters. With a Phantasy Star Online-esque character builder, you can modify everything from hair color to tail width. This may seem somewhat inconsequential, as the effort could have been put more towards fleshing out other aspects of the game (which is true), but once you get into the multiplayer matches, it all makes much more sense.
The Time Sweepers play just like Blinx did in the first game. You have complete control over time: Fast-forwarding, pausing, rewinding, basically control that you would find on a conventional VCR. The Tom Tom Gang, on the other hand, have the ability to control space. These abilities are not nearly as intuitive or fun to use as those relegated to the Time Sweepers. The Warp Tunnels and Void Traps are nicely applicable to the puzzles that the Tom Toms will run into, of course, but then again, these puzzles aren’t as fun as those that involve manipulating time. Since one of the major flaws of the first Blinx was Artoon’s failure to truly exploit the time-controlling abilities of the main character, it is hard to understand why the sequel wouldn’t have focused on making something that could have been great even better, instead of giving it slight improvements and adding in another slightly above average new form of gameplay. Instead, Blinx 2 splits up the gameplay in a way similar to what revoked any claim to classic status that Sonic Adventure 2 could have had, and makes it somewhat difficult to get through for players who do not enjoy playing as the Tom Toms.
The levels themselves are somewhat improved this time around – at least enough to guarantee a purchase of this game for anybody who had any amount of affection for the first game. The levels are kept short, which is something that many developers have been ignoring lately (brevity can be very important, guys!). A healthy amount of puzzles are spread about, most of which make use of your character’s specific abilities, although as I previously mentioned, the Tom Tom puzzles are decidedly less fun to play through. Out of the two difficulty modes available, the game is not a joy to play on Easy mode, since the puzzles are made so simplistic that it is nothing more than a boring cakewalk to play through them. Keep this game on Normal if you want to get any enjoyment out of it!
Multiplayer games are where the most fun is to be had with this game, despite the fact that it does not contain Live support. (Microsoft runs the servers for you, Artoon, come on!) Thankfully, co-op games have become more popular this generation, likely due to the overcoming of many technological issues, and Blinx 2 brings this play-style along with it. The game can be played through normally, which is much more fun to do with a friend than taking it solo, or set on Specialist mode, where players can choose to play games focused on either fighting or manipulating time. These can be played through with the Tom Toms, also, but as always, they are not as enjoyable as using the Time Sweepers. The battle mode, which is a four-player endeavor, is not as fun as playing through the adventure with a friend, but it still makes the grade by changing up the ways in which each of the powers work, even making the pigs fun to play as this time!
Blinx 2 is fantastic visual playground. Bright colors clash with sometimes drab backgrounds, giving it a good artistic appeal, and it packs a lot of solid technology, too. Reflective surfaces are everywhere, and the ever-popular soft focus technique is put to good use here. And the character designs are simply classic – not extremely original, but still classic – though they are kept from any sort of classic status because of the game they are attached to, sadly.
Blinx 2 sounds just like a new-age platformer should. Old-style videogame music makes a return, and while it is given a shiny new coat of, uh, sound, it still feels like a throwback the sounds of ye olde days of gaming. These are the kind of tunes that get stuck in your head – the kind that haunt you and make you hum them frantically while an unseen audience watches you, appalled. The voice samples and sound effects are not half as amusing. They work, they sound okay, but something seems to be missing.
Blinx 2 may be one of the best platforms on the Xbox, but looking at the amount of such titles that are available on the system, there is not really much competition. Not enough improvements have been made over the original to merit a full endorsement of this sequel, and the additions are weak enough to detract from the overall experience. Fans of the previous game will fall in love with Blinx 2. Even if you only slightly enjoyed the first game, you will find enough in its sequel that you should probably pick this one up, especially with the inclusion of a co-op multiplayer mode. If you hated Blinx before, Blinx 2 is basically more of the same. Maybe Blinx 3 will be the classic hit that puts Artoon on the map? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but Blinx 2 is not it.
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