Blast Factor Review

As joyful gamers trudged home on November 17th 2006, PlayStation fans around the world rejoiced. These gamers proceeded to eagerly set up their PlayStation 3’s with the warm, fuzzy anticipation of experiencing all of the “Next Generation” elements of their new machine, primarily an online network that was said to rival Xbox Live. Finally, after setting up their PlayStation Network ID’s, gamers across North America hit the PlayStation Store. Demos, game trailers, and movie trailers were abundant (for launch at least), and as we all searched through the store’s contents, Sony touted its one decent downloadable game: Blast Factor.

Before reading the rest of this review, be aware that although they are purchased separately, I am reviewing Blast Factor with its multiplayer expansion pack at its combined price.

Developed by Bluepoint Games and Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, Blast Factor was an average 2D-esque arcade shooter at PlayStation 3’s launch. However, now that the New Year has come and gone, and January has been shunned from view, Blast Factor received the multiplayer expansion it has been dying for.

It’s 1080p! But wait…
Set within different specimens, you become the pilot of small Nano machine set to obliterate all of the viruses within each “cell’s” fluid. Running in full 1080p resolution, Blast Factor satisfies all the check marks in the visual category, yet fails to impress overall. The fluid animation looks impressive, as can some particle effects when an enemy or your ship gets blown to bits, yet in the end everything ends up looking somewhat generic. To its credit however, Blast Factor maintains a nearly rock solid framerate with the exception of one level with literally hundreds of enemies. While Blast Factor is no beauty, graphics don’t end up hindering the overall experience either.

My ears hurt…
Sound design is a true disappointment for Blast Factor. Although Blast Factor isn’t meant to be a very deep game, the sound is where I would have liked to see a lot more detail. During gameplay, there is no music in the background, being filled instead by an ambient sound. There is the constant clamor of blasts as they fire from your ship, the basic sounds of an enemy being destroyed, and the occasional bleep or bloop as you chain multiple enemies. I found the sound to be like the graphics: generic and boring.

Don’t give up just yet…
Before we shut the book on Blast Factor lets look at what its experience is really about; the gameplay, for this is where Blast Factor starts looking up. Advance through seven different specimens, each with multiple paths based on how well you’ve done previously, a bonus level, and a boss. One upsetting element is that the main formula for the bonus and boss remain the same throughout all specimens. The bonus is simply tweaked in difficulty for each specimen while the bosses attack patterns are changed slightly. Move the ship with the left analogue stick, and fire in 360 degrees with the right. Press R2 or L2 to go into slow motion for a second or two, and a multitude of things will occur. The camera momentarily zooms in, and during that moment a circular pulse rushes out of your ship, making it easier to chain enemies.

Although we’ve seen the formula before, Blast Factor throws us a curveball. The game’s selling point (besides multiplayer) is its motion sensing. By tilting the controller either left or right, you send a wave of liquid rushing towards either side of the cell, pushing enemies along with it. Though very occasionally misinterpreted (the wave goes when you don’t want it to or in the wrong direction) this saved the game from complete mediocrity, and it’s actually a large and necessary part of your strategy. Some enemies can’t be defeated without it.

Speaking of enemies, there are many different types in Blast Factor, all of which are easily recognizable and unique. In particular occasions swarms of enemies can get tough, but some of the game’s three power-ups (3 shot, homing fire, and explosive repulses) can help you overcome them. These power-ups provide some of the game’s most intense experiences, though they don’t show up nearly enough. The one final gripe I must mention that I have with Blast Factor’s gameplay is that the arena, or “cell”, you fight in is just a little too small and makes things feel too hectic for its own good.

It’s time to get some friends…
Honestly, Blast Factor felt disgustingly incomplete before its expansion pack. It was a one hour game, with one of its only redeeming features being online leaderboards in which you could compare yourself to the top scorers as well as your PlayStation Network friends. Now, however, the absolute reverse is true. The cooperative play is a blast with up to four people, and it’s much easier to beat the insanely tough levels in the last two specimens with your friends than alone. The grudge matches are essentially survival bouts in which you have to live longer than your friends chaotic as swarms of enemies. You can also choose to play the main game at increased speeds up to 150%. Though it doesn’t feature online play, if you have some friends that are willing to play this game with you, it is easily worth the $11 the game and expansion cost.



The Final Word

While it’s no Geometry Wars, if you have some friends to play it with, Blast Factor gets a lot more entertaining and is certainly worth the $11 it costs to download. If you don’t have friends to play with, try the demo to determine if it’s worth the money.