Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space Review
While there's definitely a deeper overall package, it still lacks captivating gameplay, or characters you can even begin to care about--the two things you need most in creating an enjoyable platformer.
- More modes and gameplay variety than its predecessor
- Some occasionally challenging puzzles
- You don't actually have to play as Blinx.
- Too much hand-holding makes the game mostly a total breeze
- Graphics and audio are generally not impressive
- The multiplayer components just aren't very much fun, competitively or cooperatively
- The whole game is still just very, very boring
- Completely devoid of personality.
As Microsoft's first attempt to attach its name to a cute, cuddly, and double-jumping mascot platformer, 2002's Blinx: The Time Sweeper basically fell flat. Aside from the fact that Blinx, a Cheshire-looking kitty with time-control powers, was not a character with much personality, the gameplay exhibited multiple flaws that dampened the overall experience. Now, Microsoft and Artoon have reteamed to deliver Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space. First and foremost, Blinx 2 is a much less restrictive and significantly deeper game than its predecessor. The addition of cooperative and competitive multiplayer does add some girth to the package, and some of the silly gameplay conventions that mucked up the last game are gone or have been retooled for the better here. However, while there's definitely a deeper overall package, it still lacks captivating gameplay, or characters you can even begin to care about--the two things you need most in creating an enjoyable platformer.
Perhaps the weirdest thing about Blinx 2 is that, despite the title, you never actually play as Blinx. Though the feline does make an appearance in a cutscene or two, generally, he's barely in the picture. So, who do you play as? Basically, a character (or characters) of your own design. Essentially, Blinx 2 begins with a storyline not too dissimilar from its predecessor. A giant time crystal has shattered, leaving tiny fragments all over the place. The heroic Time Sweepers--a team of time-monitoring cats who run a magical time factory--are on the hunt for them to prevent a temporal apocalypse. However, the archenemies of the Time Sweepers, the vile Tom Tom gang, are also on the hunt for the time crystals. Throughout the game, you play as the leader of a squad on either side of the equation--one of the Time Sweepers and one of the Tom Toms.
When you begin the story mode, you'll create a new Time Sweeper and a posse of Sweepers to accompany him. There's actually a pretty wide variety of character customizations you can make, from varying shapes and sizes for body and facial features to tons of different costume combinations. The same goes for the Tom Toms (you'll be able to create a team of them a little bit later in the game). The actual team initially consists of three other characters you can also adjust and edit as need be, though you won't see a whole lot of them during the actual story mode.
Essentially, the entire game is a back-and-forth storyline between the two sides. Both sides feature a very specific style of gameplay; the Time Sweepers, being the masters of time that they are, can control time much like Blinx did in the first game. Each Sweeper is equipped with a vacuum cleaner-like weapon that sucks up trash and then blows it out again as a projectile weapon. The Sweepers can also use collectible time crystals to use time to their advantage. You can speed time up, slow it down, stop it altogether, record a specific patch of time, or rewind it--all just like the last game. There's also a new melee attack that lets you simply whack at a nearby foe. However, the bulk of the new gameplay comes on the side of the Tom Toms. Most of the Tom Tom missions are stealth-based, requiring you to duck around and hide from Sweeper guards. Similar to the time powers, Tom Toms can use an assortment of special tools. These tools range from simple banana peels that trip up guards to grenades that open black holes.
While the two gameplay styles are different, all in all, the game plays very much the same the entire way through. Both teams are required to solve an assortment of very ordinary platforming puzzles, almost all of which are removed of nearly any critical thinking on your part, thanks to the game's relentless method of handholding. Most of these puzzles revolve around each character's time-shifting and spatial abilities, so sometimes you'll have to freeze time in order to set off a series of switches, or use a special spatial portal in order to navigate an obstacle while carrying some loot. These puzzles are not terribly tough on their own. However, for some reason, whenever you come upon a specific obstacle or puzzle, one of your team members pops up in the form of a little talking head, explaining to you exactly what you need to do. There are a few levels where the game inexplicably decides to actually let you think for yourself, but generally speaking, there is just no opportunity for you to ever really solve a puzzle on your own, as the game is dead set on practically doing it for you.
A lot of this seems to be partly a response to one of the biggest criticisms about the original Blinx--that it was just too frustrating. Of course, a big part of that criticism had little to do with the game's puzzles or gameplay, and rather it was that the game put a 10-minute time limit in which you had to reach your goal on each level. That time limit is totally absent in Blinx 2, though your completion time does factor into your grade at the end of a level. It seems like it would have been a fine balance for the developers to simply remove that time limit and add more challenging puzzles, but instead they decided that players need their hands held through every presumed challenge, and it is extremely irritating.