Is This Such a Good Idea!?
At one point in my life, Rare was my favourite game developer. Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Perfect Dark; they were all extremely quality titles that I enjoyed thoroughly. It’s probably because of Rare that I became more aware of the developers that make the games I play. For some reason, though, I never really got into Blast Corps. I played it during the software starvation that usually comes with a newly released console, but it didn’t set my world on fire. It wasn’t until I finished college when my roommate cited it as one of his favourite games on the Nintendo 64 that I finally gave it some attention.
What really struck me about Blast Corps is how original it is. I can’t think of another game quite like it. The game’s premise is paper thin, but it works well. Basically, a truck carrying a pair of experimental nuclear warheads (that look like hot dogs) is headed towards a safe detonation site. Along the way, however, the hot dogs start leaking, and the driver is forced to lock the carrier onto its course and bail out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of buildings and other obstacles between the carrier and the detonation point, and it’s up to you, a member of an elite demolitions team, to clear everything out of the way before the carrier collides with something and explodes.
To do this, you’re provided with a large number of demolition vehicles which range from straightforward (like a bulldozer) to bizarre (like a car that destroys buildings by ramping into them). Most of the vehicles are very unique and require a different strategy to get the most out of them. Some of them are very easy to use, while others require a lot of practice. Although many of the levels force you to use a specific vehicle, every now and then you’ll be required to switch between a few of them to accomplish your goal. Other times, you can find a simpler vehicle stashed away somewhere on a particularly difficult level, which will make things easier for you, if you can find them.
The game’s concept works surprisingly well on the N64’s limited hardware. Considering that destructible environments still aren’t entirely commonplace in video games, it’s interesting to see them done on the N64. Sure, the buildings were basically just made of exploding blocks, but it was a start. The vehicle control is similar to a lot of top-down racers like Micro Machines, and even Rare’s own R.C. Pro-Am, which can be awkward at first, but will feel natural as you get used to it.
The music and sound is also a high point of Blast Corps. What struck me was the wide variety of music. The game features light-hearted and twangier banjo music, driving hard rock, and even a super-serious synthesized beats. Interestingly, it all fits the context. The explosions have a nice impact to them, and there are a number of comprehensible voice samples. All of it has gone through the N64 muffle filter, but I feel it’s forgivable considering how soon after the system’s launch that the game came out.
The camera in Blast Corps is rarely what I’d call a team player. It’s almost always locked at a three quarter angle, except the odd time when it swivels to give a more cinematic view. The C-buttons are used to control the camera, but fiddling with them is usually just an exercise in futility. It is almost guaranteed that it will never zoom out to a pleasing distance, and it’s a matter of luck if you manage to pivot the camera to a good angle. Every so often, the camera will slide its way down to ground level, giving you a glorious view of the play field, but it never stays that way, almost as though it’s teasing you.
If you’re a completionist, this game may frustrate you. Hidden under the meat of the main game, there are a lot of collect-a-thon objectives. The optional objectives include: destroying all of the buildings, activating all of the RDU’s, and rescuing all of the trapped hostages. There are a lot of hidden areas lying in the middle of empty fields, but since the camera doesn’t like to show anything useful, they’re easy to miss. To add to this, there are a number of optional side missions that are never quite as fun as the main story missions. Of course, the key word here is optional, so there’s no use getting upset about features that you can just pass on.
If you do pass on all the collecting, however, Blast Corps is a very short game. In fact, I completed it in two very relaxed sittings. Even if you take the time to complete all of the side missions, the game is still rather brief. The only way to really squeeze the game to an appropriate length is if you try to achieve every gold medal. Then, if it’s still too short, you could always try and obtain the platinum medals, which are near impossible. That may have been the purpose of the game, but it still feels a lot like padding.
There’s also the issue of Backlash, the dump truck. For some reason, Backlash was my favourite vehicle when I was a kid. I guess I must have just really liked dump trucks. See, Backlash has a very different way of knocking down buildings. The idea is to drift into the building so your back end hits them and knocks them down. Unfortunately, the game’s idea of what constitutes as Backlash’s back end differs from mine, and I’d swear it even changes from time to time. So not only do you have to get Backlash’s technique down, you also have to put up with the game’s finickiness, which takes some practice. Rare must have known about Backlash’s stubborn nature, because they used it in all the more difficult levels.
Finally, the storyline might be a turn-off for some gamers. It’s completely riddled with holes and logistical problems. Why, after saving a town from a nuclear explosion, do I have to then demolish the rest of the buildings? How come there’s a set amount of survivors in every area? Why don’t I just clear a new detonation site? Why don’t we demolish the path BEFORE the carrier reaches it? The answer to these questions is simple: I’m reading into it too much. Blast Corps doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should we. The plot is just a thin veil to set the game’s challenge up.
The Bottom Line
I really enjoyed Blast Corps. It’s certainly a unique game design, and the execution is quite solid. It may not be the longest or most memorable game, but its fun while it lasts. It really set the stage in terms of what to expect from Rare. I’d really love to see a current generation sequel to it. I feel it would benefit greatly from modern physics technology. Overall, Blast Corps is a GOOD game, and one that I recommend adding to your N64 library.