If you are unaware that Microsoft has released a follow up to 2002’s Blinx: the Time Sweeper, don’t feel bad, the game was snuck out with almost no fanfare in one of the most crowded holiday seasons in history. But unlike a lot of other good games that suffered the same fate, Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space probably deserves to be lost and forgotten.
If you missed the first installment, it featured Blinx the cat with his vacuum cleaner on a quest to defeat the Tom-Tom Gang. But Blinx wasn’t just about making things nice and clean, he harnessed the power to manipulate time. The problem is that the game just wasn’t all that much fun, and the story was excruciatingly lame. The idea of shifting time was a good one, and on year after the launch of Blinx another game, Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time, showed us how it was supposed to be done.
Now Blinx is back with a sequel, actually, Blinx isn’t back, but there’s a sequel. See, you don’t actually play Blinx at any point in this game; instead the game starts out with you designing your own character. Choosing from various sizes, colors, and shapes you make your cat look just the way you want him and giving him that special name. Once ready you’re set up with a team and thrown into boot camp where you learn all about your powers and attacks.
The game play is pretty straight forward and anybody who has played a 3D platformer before will feel right at home. Team Blinx’s attacks involve using their vacuums to suck up various objects around the stage and blowing them back at the enemies. You can lock onto your foes or simply use the first-person crosshairs to help you aim; either way defeating your enemies is a breeze.
Things get a little trickier when using the various time techniques, though. Here you get a chance to manipulate time in a number of interesting ways, such as pausing the action so you can avoid enemies or climb moving objects. You can also make everything Slow-Motion as well as speed things up with the Fast Forward. If you’re looking to change events that have happened already (such as bridges being blown up), you can simply push the rewind button to alter the outcome. And there’s the record button, which is there just in case you really need two characters for a puzzle.
Since most of the enemies can be taken out without the aid of these time techniques, most of the time you’ll only be using them for puzzles. Each level provides you with an interesting set of objectives, but none of them are especially difficult. In fact, even in later levels the game insists on explaining how to complete every puzzle practically before you get to it. The puzzles themselves are so laughably easy that you’ll wonder why they even bothered putting them in the game in the first place.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse, you completely stop playing as Team Blinx and play as the enemy, the evil Tom-Tom Gang. That’s right, half of the game involves you playing as the people you’re trying to defeat the other half of the game. This isn’t done for style or to fill in the background story, rather it’s an attempt to try out a new style of game play that has absolutely nothing to do with time manipulation.
The Tom-Tom Gang are a bunch of evil-doing pigs that dress as if they were cast in a Monty Python remake of Road House. Their missions involve your character (which you get to create in the same fashion as the Blinx Team character) sneaking past guards in what can only be described as a bad variation on Metal Gear Solid. Although the Tom-Tom Gang can use weapons like mallets, guns, and rocket launchers, most of their levels revolve around you trying not to be seen. It’s merely a get in, get the treasure, and get out mission, which gets old awfully quick.
Thankfully the Tom-Tom Gang have a few tricks up their sleeves, including a number of super spy gadgets and ways to manipulate space. You can turn yourself invisible to help you slip out of sight or make decoys to get the guards off your scent. As you progress through their story the Tom-Tom’s abilities will become more useful and occasionally pretty cool, but not nearly as useful as what you get on the Team Blinx side.
In fact, the whole pacing of the Tom-Tom Gang missions are so completely different from that of Team Blinx you it could be a jarring experience. What is fast and some-what exciting with one character suddenly turns into a painfully dull experience you’d rather not be going through. Being that these levels add almost nothing to the overall story I found myself constantly wondering why I was even playing them in the first place. This is supposed to be about Blinx the Time Sweeper after all, not the poorly-conceived enemy characters.
Each of the teams gets to experience the different levels, each in their own way. The levels themselves are all pretty bland experiences that seem to riff on a lot of other famous platformers. A lot of the levels start to look alike after awhile, which happens even when the game introduces snow in the most predictable fashion. It’s not that the levels don’t offer new and occasionally interesting challenges, it’s just that they don’t go far enough to set themselves apart. Couple that with some unfortunate level design choices and you have yourself a pretty boring game.
Unless you haven’t picked up a new game in a couple years, chances are you won’t be very impressed with the graphics in Blinx 2. The characters look fine (if not a little on the ugly side), but nothing really stands out. None of the bosses will wow you, and chances are you’ll be more disturbed by the look of the talking cats than impressed. There are a few characters in the game that look downright creepy when they talk, and not intentionally. Still, it’s hardly the worst looking game on the Xbox and the visuals are never so bad you’ll want to stop playing. The game play takes care of that for you.
Although Blinx 2 does feature a number of two-player options it does not feature any Xbox Live support. Instead you get a two player co-op mode and a full on versus mode to contend with. In the co-op mode you get to play with a friend at any time, even if you started the game one-player. Ultimately the only real differences are the puzzles, which are slightly altered to make up for the two players. The versus mode, on the other hand, plays much like all versus modes, where you team up and try to get the most kills. You can have up to four players in the versus mode, but none of the levels are especially flashy and there is no chance you’re friends will ever want to play this over, say, Halo 2.
In a season filled with so many great games, it’s hard to recommend Blinx 2 even if you’re a die hard fan of platformers. The game itself is long, but without an interesting story, fun characters, or even challenging puzzles, this version of Blinx just misses the opportunity to make up for the first outing. Just move on, there’s nothing to see here.
Microsoft sneaks Blinx 2 under the radar for a surprise launch, but unfortunately it probably should have stayed lost and forgotten.