As I sat down to approach this review, I started thinking about all the platformers I’ve played. I remember the sheer awe I felt powering on Mario 64, the first game with a fully realized 3D world in which gamers could run, jump and explore without the limitations of a 2D sidescroller. Many games have come and gone since then, all trying to outdo the rest by finding ways to break new ground like the first 3D platformer.
The original Blinx: The Timesweeper tried its hand at the “outdo” concept by allowing gamers to manipulate time. Players could rewind, fast-forward, pause and record time, all of which provided different ways to play through a level and achieve new objectives. The sequel, Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space, follows that same model by opting out of the traditional platformer staples of running and jumping, instead favoring the use of gadgets and overly complex time-manipulation abilities.
Blinx 2 continues the adventures of the heroic cats called Time Sweepers, a race that’s battling the Tom Tom Gang, which has discovered the Time Crystal and set off a series of events. If the felines fail to find the missing shards, they face, you guessed it, total extinction. As unoriginal as the game’s core story elements are, the characters are compelling enough to keep you pushing forward. But what surprised me most about this game is the fact that you never play as Blinx himself. Instead, you play as a team of felines for which you have more than 100 customizations, ranging from ear length, eye color and shoulder width to flag and emblem design. Also, following the latest gaming trend of playing good or bad, you also have the ability to control the evil Tom Tom Gang, switching between the two groups, and the two gameplay styles, as the game progresses.
After creating your team and establishing a leader, players are thrown into a training arena where they learn how to control the timesweeping masters. At first I was annoyed that they would throw in a gratuitous training level, but there is more to the controls than expected, particularly for a game that’s much more geared toward kids this time around. Ironically, one of the newest time-manipulation features, slow motion, is the least real-time power in the game, with an arrow on screen advising players which direction on the D-pad to push. Since it’s so different from the other controls, this is definitely awkward, and it really takes away from the excitement of the moment. Likewise, the “rewind” function is used much less temporally than the original Blinx, because it’s not just used to rewind a death or specific event, but to fix broken buttons and bridges that may have been broken hours, days or weeks ago. Some kids might “get” the concept, but far others are more apt to be frustrated trying to figure out how to achieve what they want.
When the game switches to the Tom Tom Gang levels, players learn a new set of controls and powers, because the pigs don’t have the abilities that the cats do. Instead, the swine are much more stealthy, with interesting moves at their disposal such as warp tunnels, cloaking, void traps and bubble shielding. Sam Fisher it’s not, though, and playing as the pigs can be a bit cumbersome, especially when you have to learn entirely new controls and moves for a “species” that has far less screen time, and is therefore much less familiar, than the cats.
What is familiar is the top-notch graphics. As in the original Blinx, there’s no debating that Masters of Time and Space is an Xbox-exclusive title. Levels are filled with beautiful bloom effects, tight water textures and reflective surfaces, and all the characters and animations have an incredible level of detail. This is an amazing feat, if you ask me, because the developer could have easily recycled the animations without kids noticing the difference. The environments suit Blinx’s cartoon world, offering sharp textures and amazing lighting effects. The enemy design is also impressive, especially some of the larger enemies, like the giant rock monster in level four, which players can defeat only by sucking up bombs in their timesweeper vacuum and blowing out his legs to bring him down to cat’s-eye level.
Blinx 2 could definitely have used new sound direction, though. The music falls into cheesy, electronic loops like those found in Japanese modern jazz, and I couldn’t help but wonder what this game would have been like with a sweeping symphonic score you’d find in a hero popcorn flick. One could argue that this treatment fits the cutesy characters, and I’d have to admit I did hum a few of the tunes while I was walking to my car. But ultimately I find Japanese techno painfully awful.
Blinx 2 does support co-op and battle modes, both of which are actually quite fun, but neither of them is online. This is a shame, since I can imagine picking between cat and pig and battling it out with my Xbox Live friends. Perhaps this decision was made to keep the younger target demographic from being corrupted by old fogies like me, but online play would’ve definitely extended the life of Blinx 2 for mom and dad when junior went to bed.
Overall, Blinx 2 is more of the same from the original Blinx, with a slightly younger target demographic. With that in mind, I was surprised to come away liking it, but there’s nothing in the game that amazed me. On the one hand, I could safely say this is a kids’ game, but some of the difficult character controls would be quite difficult for a child. On the other hand, the level design, boss battles and use of gadgets to solve puzzles might seem like an adults’ game, but there isn’t quite enough to convince many adults to buy it for themselves. If you’re a fan of the Ratchet and Clank or the Jak series, you may want to buy or rent Blinx 2. But if you’re a passive platformer or really just like to hop around in Mario’s more-traditional style, you’d better look elsewhere for your platforming fix.
- Gameplay: 7.6
- Deep customization and two-pronged gameplay, but overly complex controls for kids.
- Graphics: 8.9
- Beautifully realized cartoon worlds, bloom effects and awesome reflective textures.
- Sound: 6
- Looping Japanese happy-sappy techno. Enough said.
- Replay: 7
- The two-player co-op and four-player battles are fun. Too bad there’s no online support.
- Overall: 7.8
- Controls are a bit complex for kids and too unoriginal for adults. You’re better off renting this one.
— Jason Thomas