Blast Off may not look like much at first glance. It's an unassuming action game with simplistic graphics and a cheap price tag. It's one of those PSP Minis, a collection of inexpensive games you can play on both your PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3. But don't be fooled by the look and price tag, because Halfbrick's new game is one of the most exciting games I've played on the PSP in months. With a $3 price tag, Blast Off may be the game that gets people to take a serious look at the PSP Minis marketplace.
The gameplay is deceptively simple. You control a small egg-shaped rocket ship, the kind of ship that can only hold a few sightseers and nothing else. Your goal is to blast off from your home planet and collect the stranded astronauts in space. While that may sound simple enough, the game throws a lot of obstacles in your way that makes this rescue mission extremely hazardous. As you might imagine, you don't have a whole lot of control of your craft while flying through the solar system. You have your thrusters that will propel you forward, plus you can aim where you want to go, but that's about it. This is a game all about mastering your thrust and steering, two things that, if done right, will get you far in this game (and in life).
Thankfully there's a little more to this game than just blasting off into space, avoiding a few rocks and picking up some guy floating in space. Along the way you'll have to put up with a number of space-related situations, such as the pull from large planets and that sucking sound coming from a black hole. You'll quickly discover that you'll have to factor in the orbit surrounding planets, something that will change depending on how close you are and how big the planet is. At first this is simple enough, but by the end of the game you'll discover that even the large planets are stuck in an orbit and everything is moving is such a way that it's hard to predict the perfect time to blast off and collect your friends.
Thankfully there's more to it than what I'm describing. The game is constantly throwing new challenges at you, which keeps the different levels varied and exciting. Your score is judged based on couple of different things, such as how much time it takes (or rather, how much air you use) and how much fuel you burn through collecting all of your colleagues. If you can snatch them all up AND get to the safe point without wasting too much time/fuel, then you will be rewarded with a gold star, everything else nets you a crummy silver star.
Considering the game's cheap price, there is a nice amount of levels to blast through. The game comes pre-loaded with four different difficulties (easy, medium, hard and insane), each with around a dozen unique levels. When all is said and done, there are around 50 levels to play through over and over. That may not sound like a lot, but I have absolutely no complaint with the game's length. Compared to the length of Halfbrick's other PSP release, Echoes
, this might as well be an epic role-playing game. Even the most casual gamer will get their money's worth just by playing through the game once.
What makes this game so much fun is that you can play each level in a number of different ways. The fact is, you don't even need to rescue all of your missing men in order to complete a mission, which definitely makes the later missions a little more doable. What I found is that the further I got, the better I was at controlling my little ship. No longer was I getting trapped by the gravity of a particular moon or planet, instead I was able to blast my way around them with the greatest of ease. After completing the very hardest level, I had no problem going back and beating my old score. And best of all, the game gives you a score to beat (generated by the developers), so there's always incentive to go back and beat those scores. Each level has a surprising amount of replay, I have easily put more than ten hours into this simple little $3 PSP game. The only thing that would have made this game more addictive is if there was an online leaderboard system in place. Perhaps that's asking too much.
The graphics are extremely simple, yet they definitely get the job done. Even though everything is small and repeated constantly throughout the course of the game, there are a lot of cool details here and there. The art direction is solid, which is not something I often say about one of the PSP Minis. The audio is also well done, though it sides a little too heavily with the new age music. The sound effects are solid, though completely unrealistic. The whole presentation is simple, but definitely strong throughout the journey.
Because of the short levels and simplistic gameplay, this makes for a perfect portable game. But I also found that Blast Off works well as a standalone PlayStation 3 title as well. Blast Off is a great concept that is only helped by the deceptively simple gameplay. Even though I had much larger, more expensive games to play, I found myself sucked into getting gold stars in this tiny little $3 game. Even with only 45 levels, there's more than enough here to keep you coming back for more day after day. Not only is Blast Off well worth the money, but it's easily the best of the PSP Minis. If this is the type of games we can expect from Halfbrick, then I can't wait to see what they come up with next.