Blinx: The Time Sweeper: What happened to it?

Blinx: The Time Sweeper: What happened to it?


What happened to them ... is a regular column that tries to bring to light those franchises that for one reason or another have fallen into oblivion, telling their story, with the hope of seeing them again sooner or later on our screens.

Perhaps the name of Naoto Ohshima may be unfamiliar to some younger gamers, but it should certainly be more familiar to those of a certain age. He was in fact the artist who shaped the characters of Sonic and Dr. Eggman of the iconic SEGA video game series, drawing them since the first Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 for MegDrive. And it was he, together with his then newborn development team, Artoon, who designed a new game exclusively for the first Xbox starring what should have been a potential mascot for Microsoft, namely the "cat" Blinx. Inspired by the figure of Puss in Boots, the latter was in fact the leading character of Blinx: The Time Sweeper, a third-person platform game released by Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox on October 7, 2002, and its sequel, Blinx 2. : Masters of Time and Space, released in 2004.

Tempus fugit

Blinx: The Time Sweeper was a title with great potential but was partially mitigated by some design errors, perhaps also due to the time limits imposed at a certain point in development due to delays on release times. The fact is that the basic concept, absolutely innovative for the time, was unfortunately stifled by some questionable choices in terms of gameplay and game settings. The infinite possibilities that the time crystal system could offer were in fact barely hinted at and what remained was a product halfway between a platform and an action game, certainly fun, but not memorable.

The plot of the adventure was extremely simple, but still functional to the type of game: Blinx was a feline creature employed in the time factory, a place where the passing of seconds throughout the Universe was regulated. Among the tasks of the protagonist and his colleagues, there were therefore the maintenance and repair of time, with the collection and elimination of the crystals that were formed by the malfunction of the mechanism, which otherwise turned into terrible monsters, using small shoulder vacuum cleaners. One day the Tom-Tom Gang, made up of three terrible aviator pigs, steals the crystals from planet B1Q64 and kidnaps Princess Lena, unleashing the proliferation of dangerous creatures and the danger of the world's temporal collapse. It will be up to Blinx to try to resolve the crisis and save Lena.

To do this, he had a particular vacuum cleaner at his disposal that allowed him to suck up objects scattered all over the seabed, and then throw them back at the enemies, so as to kill them and obtain the much coveted gems. The entire game system revolved around these elements: the crystals, in fact, had different shapes and different temporal powers that could be activated like the remote control buttons of a virtual video recorder, namely Rewind, Forward, Pause, Record and Slow Motion. . Through them Blinx could maneuver the passage of time as he pleased, manipulating the situations that occurred on the screen.

A race against time

Blinx had to cross ten worlds, divided into three stages plus a boss at the end of the level and with ten minutes of time limit for each of them, upgrading or changing the vacuum and the look. And it was this having to operate within a certain amount of time, together with a poorly calibrated balance of the different elements that made up the gameplay and an excessive level of difficulty, to make a title with great potential unattractive, as written before. After the first worlds, where there was an excellent balance between puzzles to be solved with temporal powers and brutal clashes with enemies, everything became a frantic run and shoot against an increasingly higher number of opponents and with less and less objects to suck for delete them.

And given the limited time available and the difficulty of facing multiple enemies, at that point the only way to pass an internship was to go through it as quickly as possible, so as not to pay attention to all the surprises and goodies of which the worlds could be dotted, but which from a certain point on were not implemented due to lack of time for development. The fact is that with this ploy, Blinx was a game that from a certain world onwards became frustrating and required you to repeat some sections dozens of times, until you discover the exact sequence of actions that made it pass unscathed. Not to mention that a rather questionable aiming system was chosen, with Blinx automatically orienting itself in the direction of the enemy or interactive object closest to him, without giving the user the possibility to change target.

Yet, despite everything, the game got a good response in critics, with Famitsu giving it a good 31 out of 40 rating. This convinced Microsoft to order a sequel, despite Blinx: The Time Sweeper not having found the same reception in the public, which turned out to be a bit chilly compared to the reviewers. Thus, two years later Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space arrived in stores, also exclusively for Xbox. Aware of the errors in the predecessor, Ohshima and his team tried to correct the errors by enriching the game structure (also adding a fun cooperative mode) and improving the control system. However, they still did not manage to collect the expected success of the public.

Blinx 2

Blinx 2, which was not a real sequel, in fact lacked personality, lacking even the main character due to Artoon's choice to base the game on two teams, one of cats and one of pigs that can be customized via editor, who alternated guided by the player in an attempt to steal fragments of the time crystal from each other. To this aspect were added a structure that was repetitive and devoid of variations worthy of the premises.

Finally, the idea linked to the control of time was not fully developed even this time, crushed by the weight of a platform that was more reminiscent of pure action, and an offline multiplayer mode for four players , definitely negatively conditioned by maps without complex architectural elements and by weapons expressly designed for the single player. Failed this second attempt, Microsoft decided to "freeze" Blinx, leaving it suspended in limbo from where who knows that one day it will not be pulled out again, this time hopefully with better luck.

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