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Blitz Breaker / 7th of February 2016

I find that a lot of games these days are not nearly as challenging as they could be. Many mainstream titles seek simply to fill in the needs of the general consumer market and thus blandness and unoriginality clutter the gaming market as a general paste of boring grey, ‘fill in the tick box’ type of game tends to be the most popular with the general public. Thus the indie game market attempts to fill in that void, the missing challenge, and after playing Blitz Breaker and finally completing it after playing until around 2AM last night, I must say some developers still remember the roots of gaming and just how hard they were.

The story of this game is a fairly simple one. You play as Blitz, a weird…cat…human…robot…cube hybrid thing who has been developed in a factory to have the incredible ability of flinging himself at extreme speeds against walls… and that’s about it. Blitz, unfortunately, can’t actually move normally. Instead, in order to get around in this platform game, you must fling yourself up, down, left or right in various ways in order to get around traps, hazards and the dreaded insta-kill spikes. Along the way you are greeted by the computer ‘Chip’, and as you attempt to escape the factory from which you were made you don’t really know if he is your ally or not. It’s a simple concept in the story but it is helped hugely by how the game looks, with it seeming very much like a mobile game (in fact I think a mobile version is coming out at some point) and so, in the style of Angry Birds and the likes, you are given an initial narrative and are sent out on your way to beat levels. Not exactly the most engaging storytelling method but it gets the job done.

The presentation in this game is charmingly retro. In many ways it reminds me of the old Mega Man games with its 16-bit style graphics and chirpy chip tune music. The game is incredibly colourful and makes full use of the graphic style that it is working with, however, being in a factory the environment design is kind of…well, bland really. You don’t really see any other types of environments except from factory interiors, which is ok in a simplistic type of art style, but it does make the endless rooms you go through seem a bit tedious. I absolutely loved the music though as it really hit the nostalgia bones in me, bringing memories of playing Super Mario World or Mega Man flooding back which really helped to fit the retro theme of the game.

The gameplay in this Blitz Breaker though is what makes it so unique. As I mentioned you can’t actually move in this platformer and so instead you must bounce in one of four directions in order to get to the end of each level. It sounds like something which would be just a gimmick, but it really makes the level design important and changes up the mechanics of the standard platformer. What may look like a simple level from the standpoint of a typical example of the genre, quickly becomes makes a monumental task out of getting from one end of a room to another by bouncing at certain angles and at a certain velocity to get yourself through traps. It brought some much needed variety and innovation to the standard platforming genre and really helped to cement the game as something truly different. Of course, as I mentioned the game is also incredibly difficult with new mechanics being thrown at you with each new world which you have to get used to and master before you face the boss of that particular area. It reminded me a lot of Super Meat Boy as a lot of the challenge comes from learning a new mechanic and mastering it. You become the best at this game by understanding fast paced techniques and quick thinking, along with learning patterns in traps and bosses alike, akin to the older games I lamented over earlier. The last world in particular (simply named “The Gauntlet”) uses everything you have learned over the entirety of the game and throws you into some of the most challenging platforming levels possible, yet the developer, Boncho Games, ensures that the difficulty is not extreme because the game is being unfair, it is simply teaching you to master the skills you have learned in order to overcome the challenges it presents. While you may feel frustrated after dying over thirty times on a single level, you don’t ever feel like it’s the fault of the level design. However, this game does like to throw you many instances of insta-kill spike corridors which require you to have pitch perfect angle judgements which did tend to get very frustrating.

Blitz Breaker certainly does have its flaws though, as I mentioned the environment design is quite bland and the game often at times doesn’t explain to you what things actually mean. The best examples of which include the collectables you can find on each level that provide an extra challenge in getting them while still also completing the level. It’s never really explained what a lot of them do (I didn’t even know coins extended the timer until the last few levels!) and it means that you don’t spend a lot of time collecting them. You can also unlock new costumes for Blitz which can turn him into a variety of characters, however, aside from the simple visual change they don’t really seem to alter anything meaningful, there are no gameplay benefits or rainbow stream differences. It’s a shame as this could have provided a reason for people to spend more time with the game, collecting all the hidden items to unlock all the new characters, but with little reason to do so it just means that they are there exclusively for bragging rights.

Overall though, this game is superb; from its quirky and upbeat design, to the challenging but fair gameplay, and the sheer variation to be found in its ever evolving mechanics that really help to make the game always exciting, Blitz Breaker proves to be a blast from start to finish. You may not get to the end of this game (I considered quitting and doing the review at various points, but I pressed on!) but it is still a great experience nonetheless. If anything, the game is dirt cheap, so why not try it out!

Blitz Breaker certainly does have its flaws though, as I mentioned the environment design is quite bland and the game often at times doesn’t explain to you what things actually mean. The best examples of which include the collectables you can find on each level that provide an extra challenge in getting them while still also completing the level. It’s never really explained what a lot of them do (I didn’t even know coins extended the timer until the last few levels!) and it means that you don’t spend a lot of time collecting them. You can also unlock new costumes for Blitz which can turn him into a variety of characters, however, aside from the simple visual change they don’t really seem to alter anything meaningful, there are no gameplay benefits or rainbow stream differences. It’s a shame as this could have provided a reason for people to spend more time with the game, collecting all the hidden items to unlock all the new characters, but with little reason to do so it just means that they are there exclusively for bragging rights.

Overall though, this game is superb; from its quirky and upbeat design, to the challenging but fair gameplay, and the sheer variation to be found in its ever evolving mechanics that really help to make the game always exciting, Blitz Breaker proves to be a blast from start to finish. You may not get to the end of this game (I considered quitting and doing the review at various points, but I pressed on!) but it is still a great experience nonetheless. If anything, the game is dirt cheap, so why not try it out!

Jack McKay
 
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