reviews\ Oct 27, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Blinx: The Time Sweeper - XB - Review

Have you ever found yourself saying, "If I could turn back time, I wouldn't [enter mistake here]."  Maybe you don't want to relive the past -- perhaps you'd rather slow things down.  Or maybe you think the day is too long, and would like it to pass by twice as fast.

Microsoft took that fantasy and made it a reality in their first action/adventure game, Blinx: The Time Sweeper.

Blinx is not like your typical 3D action/adventure.  The levels are structured much differently than you'd expect, starting with a stage that's set up like an old town, filled with houses and other old buildings.  This stage is fairly narrow and very linear -- other than the hidden items, there is only one goal: go from point A to point B, and kill all of the enemies along the way.  That is essentially the goal you'll have throughout the entire game.

To kill his enemies (ugly, blob-like monsters, among other strange-looking creatures), Blinx uses a vacuum cleaner.  No, he doesn't suck them up like Luigi; he sucks up junk (rocks, barrels, old furniture, garbage cans, etc.) and regurgitates it whenever necessary.  Basically, your vacuum cleaner is a Junk Launcher.  Only five junk items can be held at a time, but you can purchase a junk expansion pack at the Shop.  (Vacuum cleaner and attribute upgrades can also be bought at the shop in exchange for gold, which is acquired by finding it or by defeating enemies who have it.)

The most intriguing aspect of the game is obviously the one you've heard about most: Blinx has the ability to alter time.  This is accomplished by collecting three or four time control icons of the same color.  Collecting four blue icons will earn you two Pauses, but it's generally easier to go for three, which gives you only one pause.

The time-traveling controls are set up like a VCR: Rewind, Fast Forward, Pause, Record, and Slow.  Although each function is the same as a tape recorder, their purpose is a little different.  Early on, you're likely to pause the game the most, which freezes the world and all of its inhabitants except for Blinx.  Once paused, Blinx can move about his world without restriction.  Waterfalls stop flowing, platforms stop spinning and enemies stop attacking (but can still be killed!), etc.  The really cool part is how the world still reacts to all of Blinx's actions.  Since water is now frozen in time, touching it will make it disappear.  The water is hard, yet extremely vulnerable, resembling a jello mold.  This is definitely one of the graphical highlights of the game.

As I said before, Blinx can kill enemies when time is paused (all of them except for bosses).  Some of the stages have steep, slippery platforms that must be climbed, while others have a steady flow of bouncing barrels that could knock you into a deadly spiked pit.  When time is paused, the barrels lie in place, making decent platforms for climbing up high areas.  Sand/water stop flowing, making it easier to traverse those areas as well.

Similarly, Rewind sends your surroundings back roughly 20-30 seconds.  It all happens in real-time, too.  With all of the enemies moving backwards, it's impossible for them to attack you, since every action is reversed.  Platforms spin in the opposite direction, and weirdest of them all, water flows backwards!  All of these things are great bonuses, but the reason the rewind button exists is so that Blinx can pass areas that have been blocked/destroyed.  The world Blinx has come to is in turmoil, and with monsters running free at all hours, a lot of bridges are being destroyed.  By rewinding near an abolished bridge, Blinx can restore the bridge for a brief moment and cross it.

Fast Forward speeds up everything, including Blinx.  Running is great while fast forwarding, but jumping is kind of a pain.  Blinx moves so fast that by the time he's high enough to reach a platform, he falls!  Remember, the game is supposed to simulate the fast forward action of a VCR, and it does it pretty well.

The Record feature is very clever.  Blinx has two benefits here: recording makes him temporarily invincible AND it creates a clone of himself that enables Blinx to be in two places at the same time.  If a door has two switches, two cat people (that's what Blinx is, incase you couldn't tell) will be needed to press them both simultaneously.  Blinx doesn’t have a sidekick, so this is where his clone is really beneficial.  If you record yourself pressing one switch, you can press the other in real-time when the clone is being played back.

Blinx is slower, mellower and a bit tamer than the current crop of action/adventures, but its unmistakable charm and unique and challenging gameplay prevail, making Blinx a standout Xbox title.  The relentless monsters, simple, yet frustrating puzzles and the enormous boss battles will remind you of the good old days when Donkey Kong Country reigned supreme.  If you had reservations about Blinx's use of a vacuum cleaner, fearing that it would "suck," rest assured that this game does not.  Yes, the vacuum sucks, but the gameplay is up there with Bomberman Generations, and is in many ways on par with Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot and Sonic Adventure.  Play it, enjoy it, and see if you can unlock each and every secret that's hidden inside this game.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8
Blinx: The Time Sweeper should "catify" your need for a great, Xbox-exclusive action/adventure.  It is slower and mellower than Mario, so I wouldn't recommend playing Sonic or any other speedy action/adventure immediately before playing Blinx.  Once you get into it though (which shouldn't take long, given how compelling the gameplay is), the slow movements are less noticeable.  This isn't a rush-through-it-as-fast-as-you-can kind of game.  There is a time limit for every level (10 minutes), but you're mainly intended to take things slow, do some exploring and see ALL of the level, not just a fraction of it.  Blinx is not perfect, but I'm sure you won't be the least bit disappointed with it.

Graphics: 8.8 
Time-stopping, gelatinous water; fur-shading; colorful levels and stellar character animation (just wait till you see Blinx's dizzy eyes when he gets knocked down) make Blinx one of the best-looking Xbox games out there.  Very few have matched its beauty, and NO other video game has done what this game does with water!

Sound: 5
Happy-go-lucky kiddie music and strange cat voice-overs (the cat people speak their own, Japanese-ish language) are entertaining enough to make you hit the TV’s mute button and put on a Blinx 182 CD.  "Stay Together for the Kittens" is pretty emotional, so be sure to grab a few tissues before playing it.

Difficulty: Medium
At times, Blinx is easy...then it gets difficult...then it gets so frustrating that you may begin to wonder if the developers have secretly taken over your Xbox and are just ending your game for fun.  Regardless, you'll always be compelled to come back and complete that seemingly impossible-to-beat level.  You'll also want to come back and find any of the secret items that you missed.

Concept: 8.5 
Artoon has done something that no one else has done.  As far as game releases go, no one else has even THOUGHT of the concept behind Blinx: The Time Sweeper.  The ability to manipulate time, in real-time, with no restrictions other than those that fall in line with time's all extremely clever.

Overall: 8
Whether you love the action/adventure genre or not, Blinx is one of those games that you just have to play at least once.  I mean it, the time control elements are so unique and the corresponding graphic effects are so cool that you'd be a fool to miss out on them.  If you bought Xbox because you wanted a different kind of gaming experience, Blinx will be further proof that you made the right choice.


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