Xbox software: Blinx: The Time Sweeper

There’s a lot of innovative, nifty ideas floating around in Blinx: The Time Sweeper… but wonky controls, an unforgiving level of challenge, and a bizarre case of feline schizophrenia keep this cat from changing platform gaming history. If you dive into Blinx thinking you’re about to embark on a Mario Sunshine or Ratchet & Clank-like journey, think again. While this cat shares a few jumping and platform-hopping traits with his fellows, Blinx is less about exploration and more about mixing monster-hunting with logic puzzles.

The levels are small and divided into little conceptual ‘rooms’ where enemies dwell: your usual goal is to destroy all enemies in the room by hurling items you’ve sucked into your vacuum, and then figure out how to move into the next room through use of your time controls. The time controls are easily the game’s best feature — they let you rewind, pause, fast forward, and even record and replay segments of a level to stop barrels in their tracks, repair collapsed bridges, or make replicas of yourself to run errands. It makes for several cool, marginally mind-bending situations.

Alas, while Blinx is definitely different, it’s not necessarily a whole lotta fun. The first set of levels is pretty straightforward, but later levels are extremely unforgiving. You’ll frequently find yourself restarting the level because you don’t have the necessary time crystals to progress to the next area.

Worse, you’re saddled with a strict time limit on every level — a difficult milestone to meet even once you know a stage inside out, and that doesn’t include making a grab for all the secret stuff. It’s actually hard to tell who exactly this game was intended for: the cutesy weirdness will appeal mostly to a younger crowd, but the hardcore thinking that goes into some of these stages doesn’t quite seem to mesh with the market. Of course, no one ever said that Time Sweeping was easy.

The game’s controls are another sticky point: for a man on a 10-minute mission, Blinx doesn’t walk like he’s in much of a hurry, and his main weapon — a garbage sucking-and-chucking vacuum pack — seems needlessly slow. Blinx can’t move while he sucks, nor can he suck up more than one item at a time, both of which add contrived challenge to the monster hunts. Compare Blinx’s vacuum to Luigi’s ghost-sucker or even Ratchet & Clank’s suck cannon (just one of Ratchet’s two dozen or so weapons), and it’s like pitting a Dustbuster against a black hole.

While Blinx earns big bonus points for its unique and ultra-cool time control mechanics, level and control design wind up breaking the flow of time. This cat has one frustrating mess to clean up.

Publisher: Microsoft Developer: Artoon URL: www.xbox.com.au

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