Space Invaders was released all the way back in 1978. It’s hard to believe that the top-down shoot ‘em up has been around for so long. The well-tread formula is simple - supply a steady stream of enemies and give players enough room to dodge a storm of bullets. While developers have innovated and pushed the genre to infinite horizons past the original arcade title, baKno Games created Blast to take us back to our roots. The end result, though, is more disappointing than nostalgic.
The game’s website says that you’ll “spend hours … protecting your planet from invasion” but that back-story never shows up in-game. Who cares, though? The player-controlled ship shoots everything that moves and doesn’t need a reason to do so. Since there is no install and no menu screen, it only takes a few seconds to load up the game and jump right into the action.
Different colored alien vessels snake onto the screen to line up in a style reminiscent of Space Invaders. As they trudge methodically toward the bottom of the screen, you have a small amount of time to shoot as many as possible. Groups of aliens start to break rank, veering off to fly unpredictably around the screen. After a seemingly random amount of time, they’ll fly back into formation and continue the slow descent.
While aliens are haphazardly buzzing like bees, they’ll be hard to track. The edges of the screen contain a small area from which the ships can shoot at you but aren’t visible. It’s also possible for them to fly behind your ship and remain impossible to shoot. It leads to many instances where you are avoiding fire and enemy ships but unable to respond. What’s the fun in that? It could be a result of your armament.
The primary weapon feels slow and underpowered in all of its single-shot glory just like it should. After all, the joy of fast-paced shooters comes partly from the power-ups available. Unfortunately, Blast only partially delivers in this area. Temporary upgrades only come from shooting a particular alien type. You’ll earn a shield, a laser that blasts through an entire line of enemies, two different multi-shot weapons, a weapon speed enhancer or the ability to momentarily stop all moving enemies. Like it or not, upgrades automatically equip and have no indication of when they are about to run out.
It just doesn’t feel as rewarding as I expected. There’s no way around the fact that Blast has mediocre enemy explosions and weapon effects. Sure, it hearkens back to the early days in the arcade but it feels like a crutch used by the developer to cut corners. There isn’t even a way to pause the game. I tried to go to the options screen to pause the action but it automatically started a new game upon leaving the menu.
There are a few different options to play with such as difficulty settings, hiding the cursor, and “auto fire” mode. These don’t do anything to change the actual experience. A “Relax Mode” just takes away the score counter, which makes absolutely no sense. Gaining a higher score would be the only reason to keep coming back, so why take it away?
According to the loading screen, Blast is actually that stands for stands for baKno Lethal Attack Space Trainer. The acronym makes little sense and so does a lot of the design choices for it. The graphics are unimpressive and the gameplay is bland. With such an abundance of excellent shoot ‘em up titles available for free on the internet, I couldn’t recommend this title to anyone.