symphony's Blast Corps (Nintendo 64) review

Not quite a classic but still fun

Blast Corps has a strange sense of nostalgia attached to it. Myself and those I know all remember it fondly as a great N64 launch title -- maybe not on quite the same level of Mario 64 or Waverace 64, but pretty high up there. Looking back now, I can't help but wonder -- "What the heck made us think it was so great?"

Ohhhh, right! The fact you could destroy stuff with vehicles and giant robots!

Shoryuken!
And that's the premise of the game -- you're given an assortment of vehicles to blow buildings up with in order to (usually) clear a path for some truck carrying a nuclear device that will explode on the slightest impact. There might be a story behind it all, but honestly, that doesn't matter one bit. You play Blast Corps to blow stuff up! Doing so can range from being incredibly fun to incredibly frustrating based on which vehicle you're required to use for any given mission. If you're given a giant robot to control, you know you're going to be in for loads of fun. On the other hand, if you're forced to use the dump truck, you're going to be in for a headache.

The dump truck works like this -- you need to charge at something and at the last second do a sharp turn so that the back end of it slams into the object you wish to demolish and takes it out during a controlled drift. The problem is the controls don't seem to like letting you drift, especially not near buildings -- even the computer-controlled demo of the dump truck does a terrible job! Another vehicle with so-so controlling is the motorcycle with rockets... It will often have a mind of its own and suddenly decide turning left will, in fact, make you turn right, and then switch back to turning left the next time you try it. It feels clunky, but when it works, it's fun.

The robots are by far the easiest to control and destroy things with -- generally speaking, walking into something and hitting A (or B if you're in the flying robot to smash down into things) makes things go boom. It might be mindless fun, but who cares? It's the same sort of "I'm destroying things! Mwahaha!" guilty pleasure that Rampage was back in the arcade and on the NES

For a launch title of a "next-gen" console (at the time) the graphics were pretty good. The vehicles and robots looked great, though the scenery was relatively bland and the textures not of the same quality as Mario 64. If you had played Waverace 64 before Blast Corps, the water also left something to be desired, but who cares about the water when you just wanna blow things up!

The music was definitely some of the catchiest tunes around at the time. I remember downloading midi versions of them and listening to them on repeat, way back when (wow, I feel so old). Even today they're still catchy and bring with them the whole sense of nostalgia.

Blast Corps also boasts a ton of hidden things to find and unlock. You unlock extra levels by finding radars hidden throughout levels; you can get bonus vehicles, also by finding them throughout levels; and gettting 100% completion on levels awards you extra medals which boosts your demolition license which, as you might have guessed - unlocks more levels.

BTW, the bulldozer rocks, too.
You're not confined to just making a path for a nuke-carrying vehicle. There are also levels that have you blowing everything in sight up within a time-limited as well as racing levels that have you doing X number of laps in a certain amount of time, often giving you the option to choose which vehicle to use. While the racing levels feel really clunky, they can be a nice break from the exhausting job of blowing things up real good.

"So it sounds like this game is pretty awesome, aside from the few poorly controlled vehicles. Why such a low score?" Two words -- The camera. The camera is horrendous. You can only rotate in static 45 degree turns and only zoom out slightly. You could do a birds eye view of the path that the nuke-carrying vehicle was taking (on levels where that applied) but if you are no where near that path, you wouldn't see your vehicle on the map.

This becomes especially frustrating when you're trying to go for 100% on larger levels that have hidden buildings or objectives off in some far corner and you're traversing an area of nothing more than repeating grass textures. On many occasions I found myself wondering if I was really moving, or coming up against a wall as I had no points of reference to tell me where I was going. Rotating the camera or zooming out did nothing -- all I saw was grass texturing (or water) as far as the eye could see.

To be fair, the camera was pretty bad on all of the N64 launch titles. Let's be honest -- even Mario 64's could be cause for frustration at times. Unfortunately for Blast Corps, when one of its core features -- the medal system based on getting 100% completion of its levels -- relies heavily on being able to locate those items and not being able to do so because of a poor camera, a lack of points of reference (just gimme some rocks or trees, that's all I need!) and no mini-map, trying to get the gold medals can become a real chore.

Another, albeit smaller, frustration is the controls on the level-selection screen. Navigating between some of the levels can be downright impossible, with the controls not recognizing diagonals very well -- especially down-right, for some reason. With the levels often located diagonally of each other, this can make getting to some newly unlocked levels stupidly hard.

At the time of its release, Blast Corp's flaws may have been easily forgiven as being par for the course. However, that doesn't justify them -- they're still flaws and were part of what held Blast Corps back from being up there with the greats  like Mario 64.  Nevertheless, Blast Corps is an enjoyable game at its heart (or should I say corp? Ahh bad pun, sorry!) and still worth checking out for some mindless "Blowin' things up real good" fun.
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