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Hands-onBlinx: The Time Sweeper

We get an updated look at Microsoft and Artoon's upcoming platformer.


We spent some quality time with Blinx at today's X02 event in New York, where Microsoft showed off a bit more of this promising game. Developed by Artoon, a Japanese studio founded by one of the artists responsible for bringing Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog to life, as well as for the Game Boy Advance game Pinobee, the platformer stars a vacuum-toting cat named Blinx.

We had a chance to explore Blinx's gameplay, which is distinguished by the cat's ability to manipulate time. As shown when the game was first unveiled at E3 2002, Blinx will possess the ability to stop, pause, fast-forward, rewind, slow down, and record time when he has collected the right combination of crystals. While we were only able to check out the "pause" ability at E3, we had access to the full range of the furry one's time skills at X02. We were quite impressed by how integral manipulating time seems to be to the actual gameplay.

Platformer fans will be right at home with the standard aspects of Blinx's gameplay, which includes basics such as platform jumping, exploring, and triggering switches. The time manipulation actually complements the game's platforming by offering players new options that are quite ingenious. For example, if you can't make it up a river because of the current, it may be possible to just reverse time and ride the water back up to its source. Can't reach a new area or platform? Find a seesaw, "record" yourself jumping on one end of it and then "play" it back when standing on the opposite end of your ghost image to be catapulted upward. If enemies are a hassle, you can choose to "fast-forward" and tear through an area at high speed or "pause" to make it through an area. If a collapsed bridge is making it impossible to get somewhere, stand on the wreckage and "rewind" time so the bridge is temporarily restored and you can walk across it.

The levels we played were timed, and they required us to destroy a set number of monsters in order to make the exit appear. Taking out our foes required us to use Blinx's vacuum to suck up debris strewn throughout the level and shoot it at our enemies. Fighting bosses proved to be a bit of a challenge, but it wasn't as daunting after some practice using the record feature.

Graphically, the game is looking good. Blinx is a sharp-looking little guy in a natty outfit that animates nicely and shows off some of the Xbox hardware's cool tricks. The levels in the game feature some very trippy areas for you to explore that only add to the game's quirky charm. The various effects for Blinx's powers are well done and feature unique visuals that are reminiscent of scanning around a VHS tape using a VCR.

From what we've played so far, Blinx is definitely shaping up to be a title that fans of platformers will want to watch for when it ships this fall. We'll have more on the game soon.

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