Blast Off in review Ė Have You Seen My Astronaut?
Blast Off in review Ė Have You Seen My Astronaut?
I never realised that being an astronaut was such a dangerous profession, but apparently itís pretty easy to get lost and end up floating around in space. At least, thatís what Blast Off would have you to believe. As captain of a space ship itís your job to retrieve lost astronauts and get them back safely to wherever it is they belong. Thankfully thatís not important to complete the game, but if it makes you feel better just make up a home base for them. Blast Off combines physics, thought, determination, and tiny but cool little graphics to make a fun outer space puzzle action / puzzle game.
There are two game modes to Blast Off: Endless and Classic. Endless has three levels, and the objective of each is to travel around collecting astronauts until you run out of fuel or air or collide into a planet. In Classic mode you also face the aforementioned obstacles, but now you have three sets of levels designated by Easy, Medium and Hard difficulties, and your objective on each level is to collect enough astronauts to open a gate to get to the next level.
Since I prefer objectives to a mission without end, I spent most of my time in Classic mode. You start out with the easy level set, and once youíve mastered all those levels you move to medium. Likewise you can play the hard levels once youíve proven you can finish the medium levels. Each level has a gate with a number of lights on it, and each of those lights is activated when you pick up an astronaut. Once all the lights are active you can use the gate to move on to the next level. Not all levels will require you to gather all the astronauts to complete the level, but you naturally get more points for more astronauts.
You also have an air meter and a fuel meter. The air meter is constantly depleting, and the fuel meter empties as you fire your jets. The trick to conserving fuel is to use the gravitational pull of objects like planets and black holes to move you around. Just be careful that you donít abuse it and end up getting sucked into a black hole or crashing on a planetís surface. The only way to not run out of air is to finish the level before the meter is empty. In endless mode you can actually pick up refills on air and fuel (it is endless, after all). Along the way, other things like meteors will try to impede your path, and impede they certainly will if you make contact. Just remember: astronauts, refills and gates are good -everything else is bad.
In endless mode your score is simply based on the number of astronauts you pick up. In classic mode your score on a given level is a combination of how many astronauts you got and how much fuel and air you have left over. You can earn bronze, silver and gold stars for scores that are close to the halfbrick score, which is the developerís high score. If you actually beat the halfbrick score you earn a brick award. My collection is sadly deficient of such awards, though I am proud to say that I have mostly gold stars so far. There are also several achievements to be earned through OpenFeint, mostly geared towards the more elite players. I donít have many of those, either.
You launch your ship by pressing the screen to set an initial thrust and dragging to rotate the ship until itŪs in the position you want it to go. To guide the ship once itís launched you simply tap the screen and the ship will turn and follow where you tap. Itís really quite simple, as long as you donít fall into the trap of waiting until the last second to turn and thrust away from a planet or other large object. Gravity is not always your friend in this game.
The visuals will not blow you away. In fact, the organic elements feel like they were generated using one of those ďbuild a galaxyĒ programs you can download off the internet. The spaceship is okay, but the astronauts are hard to identify as such unless you see them from the front. I think the biggest problem is that nothing is big, and that makes details difficult to see. The sound effects are decent enough, but no more inspiring than the visuals. I do like the noise the gate makes when it is activated, but thatís always a fleeting thing. The saving grace in the whole aesthetic department is the music. Itís a cross between some epic space travel sequence in a movie and the soundtrack to a documentary (even the most boring documentaries seem to have great music): the kind of thing you can keep listening to even when youíre not playing the game.
Blast Off is a fun game with simple, yet challenging mechanics. However, itís not for those who like to simply beat each level until the game is over. If you take that approach, the game will be over way too soon. Blast Off is for those that thrive top scores, which in this case would earn them the brick award (Iíve gotten one so far on all the levels). Itís more about long term fulfillment than immediate gain. If youíre that type of person, youíll have a blast with this game. Otherwise, the initial play through might not be worth your time.
iTunes: Blast Off
This review of Blast Off was brought to you by TMA's eerie Eric Pankoke.