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Blinx: The Time Sweeper (Xbox) artwork

Blinx: The Time Sweeper (Xbox) review

"I find it rather difficult to write a review for Blinx: The Time Sweeper, because many of the words that come to mind in my struggle to write a non-troll review for the game just aren't very acceptable. Crap, trash, rubbish, garbage, sucks, worthless, junk, catastrophic, mess, sludge, grime, feces, pitiful, nightmarish, devilish, disgusting, stupid, moronic, idiotic, dumb, mindless, thoughtless, train wreck, nuclear waste… All of those words scream “troll review,” and thus, let's see if w..."

I find it rather difficult to write a review for Blinx: The Time Sweeper, because many of the words that come to mind in my struggle to write a non-troll review for the game just aren't very acceptable. Crap, trash, rubbish, garbage, sucks, worthless, junk, catastrophic, mess, sludge, grime, feces, pitiful, nightmarish, devilish, disgusting, stupid, moronic, idiotic, dumb, mindless, thoughtless, train wreck, nuclear waste… All of those words scream “troll review,” and thus, let's see if we can get through an entire Blinx critique without using any of those words.

We will, we will use the game's time-traveling mechanics to come up with as many uncreative and wasteful puns as is humanly possible. Fast-forward through this turgid platformer! I paused halfway through Blinx to ponder over the horrible game I was playing! I wish I could rewind time and warn myself not to play Blinx! This game is a waste of time! Slow-motion is the only thing that could make Blinx worse!

I think I’ve made my point.

Now let me ask you a question, but don't answer. Just think about it. What, in your opinion, is the point of videogames? What should be the number-one priority for any videogame? Are you thinking about it? Do you have your answer? Because it's not a difficult question. The answer, of course, is to entertain. The reason videogames were created in the first place is not to deliver a thrilling story or to look good (though such things certainly help), but to establish a world of interactivity and fun. When I sit down to play a videogame, I expect to have a good time. If you're not enjoying the game that you're playing, it's not doing its job. This is, I assume, why I feel that Blinx is a 1/10-worthy game. It's a failure on that most basic level of videogame achievement in that throughout the course of the adventure, I was not once, ever, at any time having fun.

Blinx is one of those horribly generic platformers we see every now and then that is obviously an attempt at a new mascot and thinks it can pass as unique or original by presenting one interesting little gimmick, a gimmick that doesn’t even have to be executed well – in this case, time travel. The mascot attempt in question is one of the lamer character designs of the generation, a goggle-donning, turtleneck jacket-wearing, vacuum-packing “time sweeper” orange cat named Blinx. It's before we even take control of the little guy for the first time that developer Artoon nails us with the first cliche: Blinx has to save – wait for it – wait for it – a princess. I realize that plot depth isn't a major priority for members of this genre, but only a Mario game can still get away with that, and that's only because the Mario games have now started making fun of themselves for it. But anyway.

The setup is rather simple. In every level, players have to find their way to the exit in less than ten minutes. (For some reason, this time limit remains the same for each stage, even though stages vary in length and difficulty. So in some cases, ten minutes is ridiculously generous, while in other cases, it's way too little.) There really are no objectives along the way, save for don't get lost and try not to get killed. The second is easy, but that thing about getting lost… Well, I think Artoon (developer of the completely forgettable Pinobee) was aiming for this sort of pseudo-open-ended level design, and instead, it's something of a jumble. Levels lack direction or coherence, which leads to a lot of backtracking, circling, and endless wandering around. It's like a treasure hunt (or, in this case, an exit hunt) without a map – good for you if you can get to the exit, but damned if you can actually find it.

Of course, I'd like to think that we're past the age of time limits being used as a central play concept – this kind of thing was okay in the SNES days but only makes Blinx far more tedious than it needs to be. There will be times when, if you have the patience, you'll be forced to play through the same level over and over again in order to find the exit that just wound up being in some completely illogical, how-the-hell-was-I-supposed-to-find-it-there place.

I find it weird that, in a game so focused on completion within a time limit, Blinx is such a slow character. He runs, but his stubby little legs don't carry him at a fast pace. I often knew I'd have gotten through a level more quickly had Blinx just put his ass in gear and floored it to begin with. Play control is simple, I guess, with the basic move and jump functions pulled off easily enough, even if the attack function (in which Blinx has to suck up trash and fire it at enemies) is completely broken thanks to the targeting system, which never aims where you want it to aim. Blinx also tries to be all RPG-like with some upgrades you can purchase (pimp my vacuum!), but this in no way improves the game or adds a sense of accomplishment.

Also notable is the health system. Blinx can only technically take one hit before he dies, but you're given several "rewinds." The idea is that when you take damage, the game rewinds a few seconds and allows you to correct your mistake. But if you're in a position where you can't avoid getting hit and need to rewind more than just a few seconds to stay healthy, you'll just get the chance to watch yourself die several times before you finally get the game over. Gee, thanks, Artoon.

The obligatory gimmick in this case is time travel, and as the console renditions of Prince of Persia later proved, time travel can successfully and enjoyably be applied to platformer mechanics. Here, though, it's completely wasted. Whereas the time abilities you're given are potential for great puzzle-solving, the most it boils down to is “use rewind to restore this collapsed bridge and cross.” And even then, the mandatory use of time abilities is rare. The effect is boring and uneventful. Even the bosses (which, had they been handled well, could have put time manipulation to good use) are completely unoriginal and can be downed using the same “pause and shoot” strategy every time.

And leave it to a really dreadful platformer to utilize the get-to-the-end-of-the-level design and still turn into a collect-a-thon anyway. For some reason, Artoon decided only to give these powers to you if you can collect colored gems in the right sequence, instead of just, you know, giving them to you. Gems correspond with certain time-based powers, and are collected in sets of four. They work like this: If you can get three gems of a certain color and one of any other color, you'll get one of X ability, while if you can find four of a certain color, you'll get two of X ability. But if you mess up the sequence, even by accident – get two yellow gems and two blue gems, get three gems of different colors – you have to start over, and the gems you collected and worthless. So most of the time, you'll just find yourself trying to avoid contact with certain gem colors. Hmmm… Do we have a new platformer sub-genre here? The “avoid-a-thon”?

To its credit, it's a pretty decent-looking game. The textures, animation, effects, and color palette all deserve to be in something better, and it slightly lessens the blow of an otherwise bombastic experience. Sound isn't too bad, either – though nothing memorable, the music isn't bad. But that's as far as the positive stuff goes, I'm afraid.

I can best sum up Blinx as a game that I cannot recommend to anyone under any circumstance. How this miserable little title managed to choke up a sequel is beyond me, as that seems to indicate that either the game has a solid fanbase or sold exceedingly well, and both of those scenarios terrify me. This is one of the worst Xbox games I've ever played. If Microsoft is looking for a mascot… C'mon, what's wrong with good ol' Master Chief? I guess I was never a cat person anyway, but this is one character with whom I hope to avoid all contact in the future. There's no hope for Blinx. This game is simply garb–

Damn. Almost made it.

Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (July 06, 2007)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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