Hello all! Last time, I wrote about a classic PC RPG. At least, it was to other people; I love it, but I didn’t get into it until later than most.
This week brings us an N64 classic, recently revived through Rare Replay on Xbox One.
Blast Corps is a sort of action-puzzle game and one of the N64’s earliest titles. It was developed by Rare and released in 1997. You play as a nameless, faceless member of a team who is in charge of preventing the detonation of a runaway nuclear missle-carrying truck. In order to do that, you need to destroy every building and structure in the truck’s path, using a variety of vehicles, including mechs because why not. If the truck so much as touches anything, it detonates. Mission failed, try again.
That’s a perfect premise for this game; It’s zany and light enough to justify the gameplay, which consists of you smashing buildings, mostly. It’s not so much “just smash buildings,” though—Blast Corps is more of a puzzle game. The idea is to clear a path for the missile truck, yes, but you need to do it in an efficient way, not to mention certain levels have you pushing boxes and moving bridges so the truck doesn’t drive off a cliff. In earlier levels, the solution is generally in front of you, but later on, it can get tricky to figure out, particularly if you’re going for a high score. It’s an old-fashioned game with scores and medals for each level—getting the platinum medals is insanely tough.
I first played Blast Corps way back in 1997, having rented it from Blockbuster. I was intrigued by it, being an 11-year old kid (smashing stuff is fun no matter your age), but I don’t think I fully “got” the game at the time. That’s probably because the rental copy had a save file going, and I didn’t feel like starting from the beginning, because I was a dumb kid. So I kind of just jumped in, and despite Blast Corps’ somewhat simple premise, I feel like I didn’t quite figure out what to actually do. Smash buildings, yeah. Clear a path for the truck, I guess?
It’s also worth noting that this was a time when Blockbuster only let you rent a game for three days, which sucked, in addition to me growing up with two brothers who would routinely occupy the N64, so my time with Blast Corps was quite limited. In recent years, I’d sort of get back into it via YouTube videos, but I never touched the game again until I got Rare Replay last year. It’s amazing, to me, how this game still holds up; its extremely simple premise and charm lend it a timeless quality. The physics are, of course, dated and wonky, but that’s really a nitpick when you’re playing a game from 1997.
That’s really the best thing about innovative titles like Blast Corps: they never really age. Blast Corps endures not only because it’s a unique premise even today, but also because it plays great. It doesn’t rely only on its “smash buildings” theme—it builds a great, fun, challenging title around it. It’s a complete package, yet it could have easily been half of one; a game that’s mostly one idea without being fully baked (see doomed PS3 shooter Haze for a great example of this).
It’s another great example of how getting a bit older and evolving as a gamer can change your taste in things. I was kinda “meh” on Blast Corps when I first tried it, only to love the hell out of it as the years went on. It’s probably because the game has a sort of indie feel when compared to games of today (even though it was an expensive Rare title in 1997). It’s a premise and aesthetic that likely wouldn’t be made into a AAA title these days, and that’s why playing it today feels so refreshing.
I’m super glad Rare Replay came out and included Blast Corps, letting me revisit this bonkers, silly, insnaely fun game. It holds up perfectly well, and the soundtrack is awesome; it’s something like a cross between old disaster movies and southern music, full of banjos and jaw harps (I will accept no argument on the soundtrack, friends). It’s worth a play.
Oh, and there’s also this. I think it’s nuts, and also awesome.
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Next week, we look at a game based on a movie. I had high hopes for the game and it kinda sucked--exactly like the sequels to said movie!