Blinx: The TimeSweeper


Why is it that animals make the best lead characters in platform games? Have you ever seen a game where Mrs. Smith jumps over a cliff and then fights a giant hermit crab? Yeah, I haven’t either, but it would be a nice novelty idea if any developer wanted to try it (anyone touches it and I’m going to sue them into oblivion). Basically, it just seems developers stick with animals because it is much more plausible to imagine a bandicoot riding a motorcycle through a jungle as opposed to a balding executive.

Which leads me to believe that whoever came up with this idea over at developer Artoon was puffing the magic dragon. I mean, let’s see…a cat…in a fantasy world…with a vacuum. Wow, the idea for plain, unimaginative games must really be getting dry! Now, I have nothing against that, I think it’s great that the developer tries some new concepts in the stale platform genre. How did Artoon pull it off? Let’s just say that while Blinx is definitely very, very good, a simple press of the “rewind” button could have made this game superb.

Gameplay

Blinx: The TimeSweeper is a platform game. For those who don’t know what that is, think Mario. You know, jump on platform, jump on bad guy’s head, do some running around, collect some stuff…the platformer. As you may or may not have realized, the most recent Mario, Super Mario Sunshine, was criticized by many reviewers for being more of the same, despite the “innovation” of the water/jet pack. Artoon must have seen this one coming, because they designed Blinx with originality in mind, and that is a certainty.

Oh, and one more thing, if I compare this game to other platformers, don’t be surprised. The standard by which platform games have been compared over the years has always been each other (and most notably Crash Bandicoot and Mario). With that said, let’s take a bite outta Blinx.

The story is a little…perplexing? Blinx, a feline of some sort, is a “time-janitor”, a mystical species of cat-thingies that have to clean up monsters made by accident in the screwed-up Space-Time Continuum. Lost me? You probably didn’t take astronomy in high school or something, but the space-time continuum is that big scientific “blanket” by which all time is stretched across all space and yadda yadda. Anyway, that’s not important. What is important is that you understand that it all goes bad when the Tom-Tom Gang shows up on the scene and screws everything up. In the end, he’s gotta save a princess. Oh, how clichéd!

Relating back to Mario, it’s important we realize this game is NOT a clone of Mario. While the princess storyline seems so Marioish, the actual gameplay turns out to be the anti-Mario, with the ability to redo fatal mistakes and take your time at certain events. A lot of people think of Blinx, a title that is really held in high regards by Microsoft, the innovation of the time-machine, and piece them together and then they somehow arrive at the conclusion that this is the best game ever. Really, Blinx stands on its merits alone, but it definitely has some problems worth mentioning.

The most important aspect of Blinx is that you realize just how vital the hard drive is to this game. EVERYTHING you do is recorded onto the Xbox’s harddrive, whether it be falling off a cliff or completing a level without getting all the collectibles in that area, everything is saved to the Xbox’s memory.

Why does it do this, you might ask? Well, in Blinx, the vacuum-cleaner that Blinx lugs around is capable of manipulating time to his advantage. The important part is realizing Blinx HIMSELF is not affected, just the environment around Blinx. What this allows is some really neat gameplay. If Blinx ever meets his un”time”ly death, for instance, he can rewind a little of the game to avoid that occurrence, at the cost of a continue, of course.

This is where Blinx pushes past anything any of the other consoles have to offer. A lot of people think that this can be pulled off on the PS2 or the GameCube, but realistically, it cannot. Because Blinx has the ability to manipulate such a wide-range of time, the console must save tremendous amounts of data to be replayed at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, this is really the only way Blinx uses the hard drive. Still, it is a tremendous innovation at that, as previously the hard drive was only used to store music (and Linux for some people).

There are ten worlds in Blinx. Each world has three stages and one boss battle. The size of the levels is fair, but Artoon was restricted by making the levels huge like Mario’s levels simply because a time limit is imposed on each level.

?!?!?!?!? A TIME LIMIT!?!?! WHAT IS A TIME LIMIT DOING IN A APLATFORM GAME?

I’m not sure, actually. Maybe the Xbox can only save up to ten minutes of data. Regardless of why, it’s there, whether you want it to be or not, and while the levels may seem small at first, they become increasingly more challenging, especially with the time limit imposed. Blinx is a tough game, even if it looks kiddy because of the cat. In honor of the great Cityson, I’d say this game looks like a Ninkiddo Gaycube title. Au contraire, cityson-dumbo, Blinx is quite the difficult game indeed.

You use the vacuum cleaner (or TimeSweeper, depending on what part of the south you are from) to suck up enemies in a very, very Luigi’s Mansion-style way. For some reason, Artoon wanted to copy Luigi’s Mansion in a number of ways. Just like LM, all monsters must be defeated before you can move on to the next level. This is an incredibly frustrating parameter. It’s very possible to miss one enemy while rushing to finish the level, only to fail the level because you missed someone who was stuck under a staircase. Bah. LM sucked, I don’t know why anyone would even want to be remotely similar to it.

Use the TimeSweeper to fire things you suck up at your enemies. Now don’t tell me TimeSweepers suck things. Vacuum cleaners suck things. Therefore, it’s clearly a vacuum cleaner. Bah again! Also, since the VacuumSwiffer can only hold so much garbage, you must plan out what you are going to kill and when. This is a platform game that requires the player have some kind of working brain. Nice, Artoon! Good job alienating half the population!

Cityson letter to Artoon:
Wut ded j00 do!!! Heez!!! Eye kan’t play et!!! ARGHAHG!! GC IS KIDDY!! Eye WET teh diaper again!!


The game is linear, so you have to complete levels in the order in which they are presented. Unlike Mario Sunshine, where you can jump around and sample a bit of every level at time, Blinx is a stubborn kitty that doesn’t want to stray from the litter box. Linearity in a platform game is a no-no, Artoon.

You’ll want to pick up the time-crystals scattered around the various levels, because they offer Blinx cool powers like:
Rewind: Go backwards in case you screw up. And you will screw up. Often.
Fast forward: This is the bastard stepchild of the game because no one uses it. If you are running out of time, however, this can be your greatest asset. Just don’t run out of time and you’ll get a nicer stepchild.
Pause: Stop the game and take a breather. If you have a billion enemies coming at you, this is rather nice…
Record: Allows two Blinxes to get into the game environment. Yay. Two Blinxes! Twice the fun and twice the camera issues!
Slow-motion: Slow down the game. If something is shooting projectiles at you, this is nice.

There are some problems with aiming in Blinx. The one area they should have taken off LM was the ability to separately control the vacuum arm with the second joystick. Blinx players will have much difficulty aiming the neck of the MopSwacker thing. Also, the camera seems to swing around like its on drugs. Another magic dragon sign, perhaps, a definite let down, yeah. When the action gets tough, the camera screws up. A real shame, because a following, focused camera would be nice. Oh, and Artoon: don’t copy Mario, their camera is worse. I’d go so far as to say it blows ass. Some work needs to be done here.

The animation is nice and fluid, but god Artoon, Blinx moves so slowly! This kitty must weigh eight thousand pounds, because moving with him is like moving a truck! I often thought I didn’t have the thumbstick depressed all the way, but I did! Why is it that we can’t have a platform game in where the main characters are not slow and fat? Member before how I told you it was annoying if you missed a monster and had to go back? Don’t even bother going back—it’s gonna take at least a year.

Sadly, unlike Mario, Blinx just isn’t a FUN platformer. Sure, it is definitely fun to play, but you just don’t get that vibe you get from it when you play Mario or Crash Bandicoot. Maybe it is because you have to use your brain. Regardless, the feeling just isn’t there. Overall, however, Blinx plays rather well.

Graphics

Blinx is one sexy kitty, and no, I’m not a narcissistic pervert. The game is filled with color; thick, lush scenes or blues and greens are omnipresent amongst the gaming environment. Something that truly sets this game apart from Mario is its worlds, which look totally different and ten times more awesome than Mario’s common scenes of castles and underwater dungeons. Blinx resembles Kingdom Hearts a little bit, and that’s a good thing, since Square totally rocked in that game.

Blinx himself looks great. Being a feline, he’s the recipient of some nicely modeled whiskers and fur, and his vacuum is a reflective surface of which his appearance is always gleaming off of. Blinx, his enemies, and his environments look fantastic, which feature cool lighting effects, reflective water, snow, and rain. Blinx genuinely looks good.

Artoon lives up to its name with graphic design, because Blinx really has some great art design, and that is clear it its environments. Blinx is such a cute kitty and his monsters are such vicious…blobs that there is a definite style to them. Overall, I’m just really, really pleased with Blinx’s visual appeal. Great job, Artoon.

Unfortunately, Blinx’s obesity bites him in the large rectum as slowdown plagues this game like the loser in high school with the rolly backpack that follows you around. It’s understandable, being all that goes on in the level, but it is unfortunate and it DOES affect the gameplay.

Overall, Blinx is one nice looking Xbox game.

Sound

The themes of each level (and they are different for every level) are very upbeat, melodic hums of different instruments being put together to form a soundtrack. My only complaint is that the game sometimes loops the music. Even though the levels are only ten minutes each, try playing one level five times. That’s 50 minutes of the same music…over…and…over…and…AHHHHHH!

Sound effects are kinda nonexistent. I think Blinx has downwards of four phrases in the entire game. I’d kill to here a monster make a noise at all. I think they go bloop every once in a while. Bloop. Oh wow. I’ve almost blooped my pants.Time-changing sound effects are nice. The game also supports 5.1 Dolby Digital. So shove it, Mario, we have Dolby Digital!

Replay Value

Blinx is a fairly long title that you will find yourself playing at least twice, if not just to take in each level twice. With around thirty levels at 10 minutes each, that is a guaranteed three hundred minutes of play at the very least. You’ll be playing for at least five hours!

Also, a Blinx Store is available. You can use gold you collect in the game to buy things like new outfits and other tidbits that Blinx can use throughout the game. A nice touch by Artoon to lengthen the game, even if it is only by a little bit.

Closing Comments

Blinx is the first REAL platformer to grace the Xbox. Blinx honestly is a very innovative game that uses the power of the Xbox to truly enhance the gameplay experience, something Mario can’t claim. Through great art design, Artoon has created a platform game that you really want to play in. Blinx isn’t perfect by any means, but it is a huge step towards freshening up the platform genre.

Any Xbox owner with any relative interest in Mario-type games or just a plain desire for a quality Xbox title can’t go wrong with Blinx. I suggest picking this one up.

Kevin Ciok