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E3 2002Blinx: The Time Sweeper impressions

We drop by Microsoft's booth to play Artoon's new platformer for the Xbox.


Officially revealed at Microsoft's pre-E3 conference, Blinx is a platformer featuring a cat named Blinx who's equipped with goggles and a vacuum, hence the subtitle, The Time Sweeper. The game is currently in development at Artoon, which includes members of the original Sonic the Hedgehog team. On the surface, Blinx seems like any other platforming game, as Blinx's main goal is to get through every level unscathed by the monsters that reside within them. Like Luigi in Luigi's Mansion for the GameCube, Blinx must use his vacuum to suck up objects in the environment that he can later shoot at his enemies. Blinx can hold a variety of objects in his inventory that he can shoot with his weapon, including bombs, barrels, benches, large brick flower pots, and just about anything else in the environment.

But unlike any other platformer, Blinx's gameplay is dependent upon the flow of time, which is made possible via the Xbox hard drive. Whenever Blinx collides with a time monster, the game will briefly stop and then start to rewind, placing Blinx in the same situation he was in just seconds ago. Think of it as a restart of sorts where you're given a chance to correct your mistake and avoid that very same enemy. However, if you make contact with an enemy three times within a level, the game ends. The concept of adjusting time is extended even further by Blinx's ability to manipulate time manually by recording, rewinding, fast-forwarding, pausing, or using slow motion. To use these functions, Blinx has to collect four of the corresponding items for that function. For example, if you want to use pause, then you have to collect four blue moons before you can press the X button, go into the menu, and then use it.

The time aspect in the game is actually handled quite well. We only had a chance to use the pause feature, but it came in handy in an early level when Blinx was able to pause time and avoid numerous enemies as well as dozens of barrels that were frozen in time.

Graphically Blinx has its good and bad points. The character model of Blinx is quite detailed, and it features reflective effects on the goggles as well as the fur-shading technique that has been used in other Xbox games. However, the environments we saw looked somewhat bland as did the general design of the enemies--most of which were just green blobs, reminiscent of the slimes from the Dragon Warrior series. Also, the camera presented a few problems, particularly when trying to navigate Blinx around corners or in small, confined areas. But these situations only reflect a very small portion of the game.

While the basic gameplay in Blinx borrows heavily from other games, the time-control aspect presents an interesting new feature and one that appears to work quite well. Blinx is scheduled for release near the end of the year. We'll post more information about the game as it becomes available.

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