|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sunsoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sunsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 8, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The NES fan favorite, Blaster Master, recently made its way onto Wii's Virtual Console, and now Sunsoft is following up the return of the franchise with a new game entitled Blaster Master: Overdrive (BMO). Does this run-and-gun platform shooter reinvigorate the genre? Read on for the full scoop.
Earth has been overrun by a "polymorphic virus" that has transformed the world's wildlife into ravenous, blood-thirsty terrors. You play as Alex, a scientist-become-world-savior, and with the aid of a spelunking four-wheeler named S.O.P.H.I.A., it's up to you to rid the planet of this vile menace. The story is trite and kind of unnecessary, and it fails at the Contra-esque humor it seems to be going for. Back-story isn't the focus of Blaster Master, though, so there's no real love loss in that regard.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't quite save the adventure (BMO), either. Bumbling A.I., confusing button mapping, along with really bad save locations - it's all here. The platforming can be entertaining, and there are definitely glimpses of retro greatness, but Overdrive never quite hits the spot when it comes to satiating an old-school appetite.
Generally speaking, there are three modes of play in BMO. You'll either be navigating 2D levels inside S.O.P.H.I.A., on foot, or you'll be exploring caves from a top-down view. The game plays much like the original NES classic, utilizing the Wii Remote turned sideways. Movement is handled with the D-pad, and both Alex and S.O.P.H.I.A. have several weapons/tools to choose from, which can be switched out on the fly by pressing the A button. There's quite a bit of platforming involved as well, and jumping is mapped to the 2 button when playing from the side-scrolling perspective.
Since the game has a heavy emphasis on exploration and discovery, you'll spend a good deal of time running around on foot from the top-down perspective. Alex will aim in whatever direction you move him in (rather than locking onto enemies), so strafing is an absolute must. The kicker, however, is that the developers decided to map strafing to the B button, which, simply put, just doesn't work. When you're exploring caves in top-down view, Alex can't jump. Why the developers decided to assign the activation of special bombs (a rare item) instead of strafing to the 2 button during these segments of gameplay is a mystery to me. A much more comfortable fit would have been to switch the two mechanics out with their respective button assignments, but there is no option to set up a preferred configuration.
To make matters worse, the screen often scrolls too slowly to give you a good view of the terrain and enemies ahead, while other times the view is completely obscured, leaving you unable to see what's down below. There's a map system in place, but it gives no indication of enemy locations or the layout of an area itself. Navigation isn't always clear, and you'll spend ample time just noodling around trying to find a save point.
This is perhaps the biggest source of contention I have with the game. You can only save in cave areas marked green on your map, and they're usually in the most impractical locations. There's no auto-save system or checkpoints throughout the game, so if you beat a boss and end up dying on your long haul back to a save spot, oh well - you get to do it all again. To add insult to injury, enemies re-spawn when returning to level areas or even when simply moving far enough to another part of the screen.
In spite of my obvious frustration with the game, there are some things here to love. Platforming with S.O.P.H.I.A. is fun and she controls really well. Her movement and mechanics are almost pixel perfect. She also acquires some neat, little gadgets along the way, and though many of the gameplay elements aren't cutting edge in this day and age, there are plenty of entertaining tidbits to enjoy.