Puzzle games have always been somewhat of a paradox. A good puzzle game is simple enough that anyone can pick up a controller and enjoy a level or two, but it must also have an inner complexity that appeals to the hard-core puzzle fanatics - like those of us who actually solved our Rubik's Cubes instead of rearranging the stickers or prying them apart with a screwdriver. As such, there are few puzzle games out there that really appeal to the nonpuzzle gamer. Charlie Blast's Territory, however, isn't one of them.
The concept is simple enough, although horribly flawed logistically. Since there's no intro, you must figure out the gist of the story from the instruction booklet. You play Charlie Blast, an overweight demolition expert who looks exactly like one of those construction workers you see whistling at attractive women. You're somehow stranded on a series of islands filled with all sorts of dangerous items. Since you're not man enough to pull objects, you push them about, lining up bombs and TNT crates to create a chain reaction that destroys all the explosives, leaving you on a somewhat smaller piece of the island. Why you'd want to get rid of most of your island and cramp your living space even further is beyond me, but hey, I guess you just have an uncontrollable urge to blow stuff up.
My television almost met its demise in the form of a flying N64 controller several times while I was playing this game. Unfortunately, its most frustrating element is not the extremely mind-bending puzzles, but the horridly touchy control. There's many a time when you'll have progressed halfway through a difficult puzzle only to accidentally push a block into a corner and be forced to start all over. While there is an "undo" button, it only takes back your last action, so if you push a block in a corner and then turn around, undo is gracious enough to turn you back around, but it won't unmove the block. Get used to starting your puzzles over, because you'll find yourself resorting to that option a whole lot.If you're looking for splendid cutscenes, detailed lighting, or breathtaking special effects, you had best look elsewhere. The graphics in this game are best described as simple. While they don't dazzle you with visual stimulation, they get the job done. The islands look pretty similar to one another, except for a few different patterns to the ground, and the water is just a blue plane in the background. Your island's climate changes as you progress through the game, and occasionally a school of fish swims by, but not much else changes.
The sound follows the game's seemingly "less is more" philosophy. The music consists of a mild, somewhat tropical melody that is thankfully hardly noticeable. What are noticeable are the short clips that play every time you win or lose. The sound effects are plain enough - bombs make booms, you make a springing sound when you bounce over a box, and Charlie gasps in pain when he steps on a spike. The sound doesn't really make a difference in the gameplay, so feel free to turn it down and listen to your stereo instead - though you might just want the kind of concentration that only total silence can provide.
The multiplayer mode doesn't exactly open a new dimension in the game. You're put on a larger concrete island where you and your teammate combat it out for territory. You each start with a small area that the other can't enter. It's from this area that items spawn, and you push them about and line up explosive chains, either to gain more territory or kill your opponent. The biggest flaw with the multiplayer is that it's too easy to accidentally lock up your spawning area, and you must concede all your territory to unlock it. This won't be a game you'll pull out at a party.
The puzzles in this game are what really prevent it from getting a lower score. They are all extremely well designed, and some of them are even sadistically difficult. Thankfully, the game displays your level when you pause it; I found myself putting the game on pause just to figure out which object I was going to push next, especially in the levels that had tight timers. Unfortunately, this game seems like a generally decent puzzle game in a substandard package. Presentation is everything, and this game doesn't come through in that department. While I'm sure puzzle fans would be thrilled to take on some of the puzzles, mediocre graphics and sound prevent it from having the draw of Tetris or Super Puzzle Fighter.