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Blast Chamber (Saturn) artwork

Blast Chamber (Saturn) review

"In this release, you're in control of a red suit contestant placed inside a series of giant, cubed-shaped rooms, or chambers, where a female-voiced AI occasionally utters something."

With 3D gaming gaining momentum during the mid-90s thanks to consoles like PlayStation, a flood of interesting concepts came along for the ride. Some developers bravely tried their hand at creating games with unique or oddball ideas, either because they weren't possible before or it just didn't cross their minds until 3D came into the fray. Enter: Blast Chamber. In this release, you're in control of a red suit contestant placed inside a series of giant, cubed-shaped rooms, or chambers, where a female-voiced AI occasionally utters something. The goal is to find a crystal and bring it to a red reactor before time runs out, and failure to do so will result in your body exploding... since there's a bomb strapped to your chest. Sounds basic enough, but here's the catch: the reactor is usually on a wall or ceiling. How do you reach said reactor? Rotate the chamber! You do this by finding green arrows scattered around the room, and from there, figure out the right path around a collection of death traps and button switches.

Blast Chamber is a game I wanted to try for quite a while, i.e., when I first saw ads in gaming magazines, since, for the time, it had a pretty cool approach for a puzzle title. I wouldn't put it past the dev team if Blast Chamber's inspiration was taken from a certain M.C. Escher drawing. But when I finally had the opportunity to play it, well, I got sad; sad that a good concept is plagued by one unnecessary flaw after another; sad that some of these flaws were done on purpose; sad that this could have been a genuinely fun game.

Now, I brought up 3D for a good reason, and that's because it's why Blast Chamber is in ruins. However, it's really due to the dev team not using 3D in a very smart manner. The damning issue at play here is how you're seeing each chamber from a distance with a mostly-fixed camera angle. I mean, you can tilt the camera somewhat, but not enough for any significant difference. Anyone who's played a 3D Saturn or PlayStation title will tell you that watching these graphics from far away is an unflattering sight, since objects become a pixelated mess, blending in with one another. Suffice it to say, being presented this scenario in a timed puzzler is a nuisance, especially when you're trying to navigate around floor traps, spikes, or up a stairway placed in an awkward spot. While unfortunately irritating, you do kinda get used to the forced perspective during the first dozen or so chambers.

Then something tragic happens: excessive platform jumping. And most don't even concern hopping from one big platform to the next, but usually tiny pieces that can barely contain your character. Oh, and they're normally hovering above or below objects that will kill you. No amount of practice in the world can train you to jump on these distant, pixelated platforms without a hitch; you're taking a gamble every time you make a leap. Horrifyingly, another issue crops up when it comes to positioning your player for jumping, and that's the fact your character model is actually 2D. Considering your contestant is a borderline stick figure, you think collision detection wouldn't be a hassle. Sadly, it's only through mass amounts of deaths that I realized the 2D model is likely surrounded by a barrier-like invisible hit box, which explains why I keep getting killed by objects two inches away and how I inexplicably keep sliding off platforms when jumping towards them.

They seriously expect you to jump on these three tiny platforms without a problem...

As an attempt from flatout giving up on Blast Chamber and its single-player mode, I gave multiplayer a go. Again, the objective sounds basic enough, where you collect crystals appearing in random places, and take'em back to your own reactor to gain more time or points. Or, you can deliver the crystals to a rival reactor to reduce their time, and vice versa. But, again, the developers managed to suck the fun out of an interesting premise. You'd figure that, with a tagline of "The 3-D Rotatable Deathmatch" plastered on the front cover, they would ensure it had been more enjoyable. Or playable.

The flaw with multiplayer, which up to four players can participate in, is that the chambers are the same size as in single-player; crowd the field with more than one contestant and it immediately becomes too cramped to do anything productive. 99% of the time, making any sort of progress boils down to luck, being at the right place at the right moment, since, really, multiplayer is just a silly shoving match. If you grab the crystal, you get knocked down, then that person gets knocked down a literal second later, and so on, until one close to a reactor gets a shot. That's not fun. There's no fun to be had here.

Agitated, I returned to single-player for one last push for completion. Wasn't happening. I couldn't stand any more of the awkward view and pixelated graphics, the horrid jumping parts, and the borked hit detection. There's also the frustration that the developers used the fixed view to screw with gamers. They weren't afraid to place spikes or electrical trap shutters right behind a piece of structure, which you won't know they're even there until, say, four deaths. Speaking of replaying chambers, you can only save or obtain a password every five levels. This disc is just loaded with artificial challenges... Blast Chamber is another example of a game that could have been completely fine had one or two issues been easily rectified: add a zoom-in option, exclude jumping, or make the whole thing 2D.

But, that's 3D gaming in the 1990s for ya. Everyone wanted a piece of the action, but not everyone was able to utilize it properly, and as a result, a lot of good ideas starred in crap games.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 27, 2013)

Do I wish there was a sequel to Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe? Sure. But not if nothing new or drastic was added. We don't need another Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move mess on our hands.

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