As someone who thought the original Blinx fell far short of its potential, I came into Blinx 2 with relatively low expectations. I was mainly hoping that the problems plaguing the first would be fixed here, leaving us with a top-flight game. Sadly, that has not fully happened. While quite a bit of progress has been made (like the addition of multi-player modes, multiple gameplay styles, and the ability to make your own character), a few things don’t live up to their full potential. My prevailing thought…throughout the game was that it could be more than it is, which isn’t to say that it’s a bad game, as it’s far better than the first Blinx, it’s just not everything it could be.
Blinx 2’s visuals certainly pack a punch. The cat fur for the time sweepers looks fantastic, while the pigs certainly have their revolting charms through the work done by Artoon with their visual style. The levels look fantastic too, full of lighting effects and wordly touches. Nothing really looks bad here, except for some odd collision problems that pop up from time to time. Luckily, these are purely cosmetic problems with the character models, and they never hamper play. As good as things look, they aren’t a massive leap forward from the original’s visuals, which might disappoint some. Personally, I’m happy with them, considering all the stuff you can customize, I’m surprised they turned out as good as they did.
I’m also surprised at how well the audio came out here. The music, in particular, does a fantastic job at getting across the overall vibe of the area you’re in, and/or, the side you‘re playing on. When you’re playing as a time sweeper, you’ll usually hear upbeat, jazz-type music, which will vary in intensity as the level goes on, and the action heats up. With the Tom Tom Gang, expect some heavier fare, with some drum work that increases as your objectives get harder. The sound effects also do their jobs rather well. While the basic sound effects (such as those for coin collecting, jumping, etc.) are nothing special, they accomplish what they need to. The real stand-out here lies in the voice work, which gets across the emotion of the plot, and (amazingly) makes you actually care about these seemingly generic characters.
It’s worth noting that you’ll never actually play as Blinx here, but he will interact with everyone in cut scenes. Instead you play as a customizable time sweeper (from a team of sweepers) You can choose the color of his fur, jacket, goggles, boots, pants, and even the team’s flag, which also allows you to assign a logo to it. As you progress, you’ll also be able to play as the pig space pirates, the Tom Tom Gang, with the same level of customization, but a different role in the game.
Each side will get their fair shake at their goal, as Artoon has done a great job at managing to make two completely different styles of gameplay (stealth for the evil pigs, and platforming/time sweeping with the time sweeping good guys) work well. The time sweeping works well for the good guys. If you never tried the first Blinx, the gameplay uses a combination of platforming, trash sucking with the time sweeper vacuum, and time altering effects using the hard drive. It fits their goody two-shoes nature, and is a nice blast to the past with a modern spin on it.
The Pigs’ stealth stuff is done well, too, featuring some clever items where the time altering stuff would usually be, and new weapons, as well as some platforming. Quite frankly, I’m amazed at how well Artoon was able to blend platforming into both styles, and then be able to pull off the good/evil side-centric style as well as they did. While things aren’t perfect by any means, I came into this expecting a disaster, and came out of it pleasantly surprised.
The only real problem with things lies in the camera, which can be user-controlled with the right thumbstick, but even that doesn’t help sometimes. Even at its worst, the camera is still better than most, and works better than I thought it would. The levels themselves aren’t hampered much by the camera problems, thankfully, but a few areas have the cramped quarters that give it trouble. I must say that I love how spacious the stages are, there’s never a feeling of claustrophobia, although with the pig stealth levels, there is certainly a sense of tension, and quite a bit of panic when you are caught.
Aside from the right thumbstick qualms, there aren’t many problems with the controls. For the most part, the button response is magnificent, and the left thumbstick works like a dream at moving your characters around. For the time sweepers, some problems arise with the R trigger, as it’s used for both sucking up trash, and for shooting it at foes. There will be times when you shoot things when you didn’t mean to, or suck up things you don’t need. The d-pad works well for choosing time altering powers, while the face buttons work well at activating them, and making use of your offensive attacks.
For the pigs, the R trigger controls a slingshot attack, with the L trigger targeting your foes, as is the case with targeting the time sweepers’ weaponry, this particular aspect of the game works as it should. The face buttons here are used to crawl on the ground, slide along walls, or make use of the items that only the Tom Tom Gang can use. Yet again, I’m surprised at how everything meshes, and I’m even more surprised that the newly-playable Tom Tom Gang features better control than the time sweepers.
In an effort to extend the life of the game, Artoon has added some multi-player action to keep things interesting after you’ve finished the game. While this may have been their intention, the end result doesn’t work quite as well as it could have. For one thing, these modes are just BEGGING for Live support. They’re perfect for it, and I’m incredibly disappointed that this feature isn’t in. The multi-player levels are okay, the core play doesn’t differ all that much from the core game, but things just aren’t as fun in multi-player as they are in single player. This style of play just doesn’t lend itself well towards multi-player, but that could just be due to the split screen style really cramping things.
At the end of the day, Blinx 2 surprised the living daylights out of me. I didn’t expect Artoon to overhaul things like they have, and I commend them for doing so. I hope they can iron out the rough edges in a future installment, and add in some Live play next time. Nearly everything comes off really well here, but the few problems due hamper it a bit. Thankfully, they don’t hurt it much, which stands in stark contract to the original, in which every flaw had a negative snowball effect on the game as a whole. Should Artoon get the chance to make a third Blinx game, they can easily hit a home run, if they don’t, this isn’t a bad note for the series to end on.