By Sarumarine 4 Comments
Past expiration is my clever term for talking about a game that is way past its prime. In this case, a high tension puzzle game involving demolition and runaway nukes that came out on the N64 in 1997. Topical!
Blast Corps Blast Corps is a crazy little game from Rare that scratches every itch for blowing things up in creative ways. The story involves a truck carrying nuclear warheads that have begun to leak radiation. The drivers have bailed so the truck is on cruise control with no regard for what's in front of it. One tiny bump will set off the warheads and cause a nuclear explosion. The titular Blast Corps is a demolition crew that have been contracted to clear the way by any means necessary and save the day. However, they aren't your average demo crew. They have access to your standard fare of construction vehicles like bulldozers and dump trucks, but they also use mechs with jet packs, missile launching motorcycles, and rocket powered cars that can belly flop into buildings with catastrophic results. The kind of stuff that would put modern militaries to shame.
But hey, you're here to save the world, not take it over.
Standard levels involve driving a vehicle (or sometimes combination of vehicles) and destroying every structure that's in the path of the warhead carrier truck. You'll get a helpful arrow that changes colors based on how screwed you are and how fast you should move. Early stages are simple pleasures like demolishing a town with a bulldozer. Or dive bombing office towers with the J-Bomb flying mech. Blast Corps vehicles are all pretty sweet and fun to use with the exception of one bastard truck known as Backlash. Backlash is a dump truck that destroys things by drifting into targets with its pointy back end. The mechanics for pulling this off are so totally wonky that nearly every Blast Corps player hates it with no end. Myself included. Of course, it's no wonder that the hardest levels in the game have you exclusively use the Backlash through the whole stage.
One notorious example is Diamond Sands. One of the hardest goddamn levels in video game history. I don't consider myself an emotional video game player. I've never cried due to a player character's death or tragedy in a game. However, Diamond Sands is so totally frustrating that I broke down in tears when failing the stage at the very last second. Of course, I was twelve or so when I played Blast Corps on my N64. But the feeling of absolute hatred and terror for Backlash and Diamond Sands have never left me to this day.
Fucking Diamond Sands!
Unless you have some familiarity with how Blast Corps handles, explaining the level might not have the same effect as actually seeing in action. You drive Backlash around raised train tracks that you can't cross. There are buildings on the tracks that can only be destroyed by hitting them from both sides of the track. To get from one side to the other, you have to use inconveniently placed tunnels. The warhead carrier truck starts so close to the first obstacle that you almost lose immediately unless you're the master of using Backlash. I found a YouTube video of one player doing a speed run of Diamond Sands. I salute anyone who managed to beat that stage, and in awe of anyone who can beat it on a regular basis. Now that I'm rolling up on near two paragraphs talking about one stage, I guess it's a good time to point out that Blast Corps can be murderously hard.
It's not all bad, though. The simple fun of destroying buildings because you're supposed to is great. Using crazy vehicles like somersaulting mech suits to rip through a refinery is followed with all kinds of neat explosions and collapsing effects. Plus, beating the later Blast Corps stages is fist pump inducing for how satisfying it feels to succeed. A few levels have hidden vehicles to make things easier, and I haven't even gotten into the side stages. Racing, obstacle courses, Pac-Man simulations, playing pool with a Bulldozer... this game has some amusing diversions from the carrier stages. It also has the A-Team van you can drive and a knock-off of the Duke Boys' General Lee (complete with awesome sounding horn). You'll also have plenty of stages to hate the Backlash some more. And last but not least, Blast Corps... ON THE MOON!
Blast Corps also has some of my most favorite music. Obsidian Mile is possibly the most upbeat song included in a game about demolition I've ever heard. Although, most people seem to know Blast Corps for Simian Acres. You know the one. The country hillbilly-esque song that plays in the first level. That's one pretty good too. Graeme Norgate does great work in this game. And it's good that he does, because you'll hear songs over and over on harder stages where you're losing every other attempt. If Diamond Sands had Obsidian Mile playing, I think it would have been a much more tolerable stage.
I'm always a little bummed that Blast Corps never caught on and didn't get a sequel or follow up or something. I'd love to see more intricate levels where blowing up buildings takes a little more thought. Maybe how they collapse and such. Some more crazy construction vehicles to roll around in. More awesome music. A new system so Backlash doesn't totally suck. The game was in on the crazy story so getting a sequel up wouldn't take a whole lot of work. Hell. Just reboot the whole game and do it over. The idea of a game playing as a demolition crew working for the betterment of mankind is definitely one of the more original concepts for a video game. And I'd love to see it again.