Taking a break from a steady stream of AAA titles, we thought of trying our hands at an indie game called Blast Off. This game is developed by Australian studio Halfbrick and is available as digital download on XBL Marketplace and the PSN Store for PSP.
Blast Off is a physics-based puzzle game in which you take control of a rocket ship tasked with rescue of stranded astronauts. The astronauts are rescued by simply touching them with your rocket ship; however, there are several obstacles between your ship and your objective. These obstacles come is various forms and sizes—asteroids, small and big planets, and ultimately the enigmatic and elusive Black Holes. When you sum it all up though, you single greatest foe is gravity. Just like in real life however, gravity can also be used to your advantage—using the age old gravitational sling-shot technique to gain momentum and save precious fuel.
This brings us to the two limited resources in this game—fuel and air. Navigating your ship is achieved using a combination of acquired momentum using the gravity force of various heavenly bodies. This of course—as you can imagine—is not the most accurate navigational technique. To help you control your ship’s flight path and trajectory, the game lets you use the ship’s rocket boosters. This uses up fuel however, which is in limited supply. Using up all the fuel does not end the level, but you cannot hope to survive for too long without any kind of control over your ship. The other limited resource is air, which gets used up at a consistent and constant rate from the very moment your ship blasts off from the home planet—so effectively the air gauge works as a timer for each level.
As mentioned earlier, the main objective of the game is to rescue stranded astronauts. Each level has more astronauts than needed to unlock the Warp Gate and take you through to the next level. There is an indicator on each Warp Gate that shows the minimum number of rescues required to progress to the next level. Rescuing additional astronauts rewards you with points and a higher level completion rating— rescuing all of them gets you a Gold rating for that particular level.
The game has an incrementing difficulty setting starting from Easy, all the way up to Insane. Easy, Medium and Hard difficulty settings have ten levels each and you need to beat all ten of them in order to unlock the next difficulty level. According to the game information posted in the PSN store, there are a total of 45 levels. I wasn’t able to beat past “Hard” difficulty setting; so I am guessing there are 15 levels under “Insane” difficulty setting.
Blast Off is a one of those games that shine in its simplicity. The game uses only two face buttons, one shoulder button and the analogue stick (or D-Pad) to assist with navigation. The games HUD also keeps things simple with only two gauges—one for air supply and the other for fuel reserve. Blast Off, with its simple objective of traversing through space bodies to rescue astronauts, requires a surprising amount of patience and strategy. This is all the more evident as you go up the difficulty levels, where you encounter challenges like rescuing astronauts that are orbiting precariously close to giant planet or even Back Holes. This challenging game-play is well complimented by delightfully composed background score that is both haunting and soothing—just like outer space.
The game retails on XBL Marketplace for 240 MS points and for USD 2.99 on PSN Store for PSP. If you want to try the game before investing, there is a demo available on XBL Marketplace, or you could watch the game-play video below.
Microsoft Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable
Distributor: XBL Marketplace, PSN Store
Xbox 360- 240 MS Points
*Game reviewed on PSP