Blast Corps

Blast Corps Box

Introduction

Blast Corps was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997. It was one of Rare’s first games on the platform. The nineties was a golden age for the company; at the time, they were for games such as Killer Instinct, Battletoads, and the Donkey Kong Country series. Blast Corps was doomed to be overshadowed, having been released between Goldeneye, the game that revolutionized console first-person shooters and Donkey Kong Country 3, a swansong game for the Super Nintendo. It’s a bit of a shame because Blast Corps is one of the most unique games ever created.

Playing the Game

Blast Corps - Gameplay

Blast Corps is quite a difficult game to pigeonhole into a single genre. I would describe it as an action driving puzzle game with no actual racing played from a top-down perspective if that makes any sense. The premise of Blast Corps is that a pair of defective nuclear missiles en route to a safe detonation site have begun to leak. The carrier transporting the missiles automatically locks onto the most direct course to ground zero. Unfortunately, the route happens to go through several communities. A single jolt will trigger an atomic explosion that will trigger a nuclear winter and kill everyone within the vicinity.

This is where you come in. You are a member of Blast Corps, a team of demolition experts originally part of the military until an accident left one of its members disabled. Because the hazardous material leaking from the missiles prevents anyone from getting near the carrier, the only way to ensure everyone’s safety is to destroy every building in its path and enlist the help of six scientists to control the explosion.

Blast Corps - Vehicles

You’re given an impressive array of vehicles in order to accomplish this task, including a bulldozer, a motorcycle that shoots missiles, and even some giant mech suits. Completing a level will reward you with a gold medal. If you revisit the level, destroy all of the buildings, and find all of the RDUs (Radiation Disposal Units), you will be rewarded with a second gold medal. That feeling of getting to the buildings when the carrier is seconds away from colliding with them never gets old and is the primary reason this game is so good.

In the main levels, you can also happen upon communication points, which resemble satellite dishes. Touching these will open up secondary missions, all of which involve racing against the clock to accomplish a goal. Sometimes it’s a time trial while other times, it’s a test to see how fast you can destroy all of the buildings in the level. The medal you’re rewarded with is based on how fast you completed these levels. Collecting a gold medal in every level will unlock a time attack mode for the main levels wherein you destroy the buildings that block the carrier’s path as quickly as possible. Again, a faster time equals a better medal.

Even though there are a lot of things to like about the game, it’s far from perfect and has three main flaws that hold it back. Most of the vehicles are easy and intuitive to use with one exception: the dump truck. Anyone who has played this game knows what I’m talking about. How it works is that you’re supposed to serve into buildings using the armored backside of the vehicle. It’s even more cumbersome than it sounds and the worst part is that you’re forced to use it for several levels. Furthermore, I get the feeling that this was a game where the creators started off with a lot of energy, but ended up rushing when designing the later parts. The levels of Blast Corps are divided into three tiers of ascending difficulty. What makes the third tier of levels disappointing is that some of them are just reskinned versions of first-tier levels but forcing the use of different vehicles or simply increasing the number of buildings. The final issue I have with the game concerns the secondary missions. Specifically, they outnumber the main levels by a significant margin. This by itself is not a problem, but, with a few exceptions, the secondary missions aren’t as interesting as the main levels. Destroying objects in a certain amount of time doesn’t have the same appeal as clearing a path for the carrier. Also, because Blast Corps was not designed as a racing game, the controls don’t complement the time attack levels very well. It’s nice that the designers tried to introduce some variety in the game, but I don’t think it was implemented as well as it could have been.

Drawing a Conclusion

Pros:

  • Inventive gameplay
  • Good level design
  • Great music
  • Good variety in bonus levels
Cons:

  • Worst vehicle is used too often
  • Later levels have less effort behind them
  • Bonus levels usually aren’t as fun as the main levels

Despite the issues I have with the game, I still think Blast Corps is a lot of fun. Considering that it was released when 3D gaming was in its infancy, it’s amazingly innovative. Because the game provides such a unique experience, it’s still fun to go back and revisit it every now and again. If you have a Nintendo 64, definitely seek this game out because it is worth playing at least once. There aren’t that many games where the heroes actually get rewarded for leveling entire cities. Just don’t try that in real life because, unlike in this game, you probably won’t get paid for doing so.

Final Score: 7/10

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12 thoughts on “Blast Corps

  1. I remember playing a bit of this back in the day, but never getting to finish it. What I do remember though was a lot of fun. That time period was great for Rare, and a nice treat for us players.

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    • It’s been eighteen years and I still remember the good times I had with this game. If you can, try to see if you can finish it. My favorite Rare game is Donkey Kong Country 2. Rare is interesting in that their quality was radically inconsistent in the NES era, making rather dire games such as Super Glove Ball, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Their best works were in the SNES and N64 days. Then the 2000s rolled around and once Microsoft acquired them, their quality seemed to drop like a stone. It’s a shame, but at least they managed to make some amazing games in that short time period.

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      • I’ll have to dig it out, I’m pretty sure this is one of the games I still have, at least I hope so.

        Microsoft buying them was something that should have never happened. That is life though, and it also shows one of the things that make gaming great. Old titles are still around to pick up and play. Especially ones like any old Rare game.

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      • Rare was really an odd duck, back in the NES era. So many licensed games, home game shows and whatever Taboo: the Sixth Sense was supposed to be. Then they hit it big with Battletoads, stuck with that for a while, then out of nowhere started consistently making some really good games.

        I rented Blast Corps once. It was fun, for the most part, but I kept just hitting these big stopping points with all those dump truck levels. It helped after I figured out you could use stones in the level to ramp your truck into a building, and do decent damage without having to use the sideswipe thing, but it was still really slow going, and I don’t think I made much progress before I had to take it back.

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        • Back in the NES era, Rare was basically making licensed games just to stay afloat. As you said, it wasn’t until Battletoads that they finally hit their stride.

          I remember the dump truck levels being very difficult as a kid. Even now, I think they’re really tough because of the somewhat unpolished controls. Though upon reflection, I’d say my least favorite vehicle was that one where you have to drive in between the buildings and use a weird outward smashing attack. The problem is that its hit detection was really wonky; the only way to destroy the buildings on both sides at once was to be almost exactly dead-center. I suspect it’s not as hated as the dump truck because, thankfully, it’s only used in a few levels (in fact, it’s not used in any of the third-tier levels). It’s almost like the developers realized halfway through it was a failed idea.

          Despite it’s flaws, I’d recommend giving it another go if you can.

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  2. It is Rare’s most unpolished effort on the Nintendo 64, but it does not deserve to be as overlooked as it is. It is a decent game with a good deal of creativity, as you nicely put it.

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  3. I finally got to try this recently and really enjoyed myself. I’m not really a fan of Rare’s N64 games (except for Goldeneye, I love that game) but I found this to be a lot of fun. It’s not perfect as you say but this is now one of my favourite N64 games because of its originality and fresh feel. When you buy/dig out an old console, this is the kind of game that justifies that decision – those unique experiences that were overlooked at the time or for whatever reason never had sequels or iterations in successive generations. Even very good games on the N64 are sometimes not worth the trouble because the genre has been iterated on so much: platformers, sports games, or racing games for instance… it’s hard to justify going back. Not so with Blast Corps.

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    • I’d say that Goldeneye is my favorite N64 Rare game myself. Donkey Kong Country 2 is my favorite Rare game overall, being one of the best 2D platforming games ever made. I completely agree with you in that Blast Corps is one of those games I can’t help but go back to because it really is one-of-a-kind. If there’s another game with similar gameplay to Blast Corps, I have yet to hear of it. This fact alone has allowed it to stand the test of time even with its glaring flaws. I would even go as far as saying that it has held up better than Banjo-Kazooie, which was a great game when it was released, but I recently replayed it and didn’t enjoy it as much as I did back in 1998. Because there have been so many 3D platformers made since it came out, there was inevitably going to be a game that surpassed it in every way. I’d say Super Mario Galaxy 2 managed to accomplish that task quite handily.

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      • Wow, it sounds like we have very similar tastes in games – Galaxy 2 and DKC 2 are two of my all-time faves too! Incidentally, speaking of N64 games that stand the test of time, have you ever played Excitebike 64? I didn’t play it when it came out but a few years ago I played it and it immediately became one of my favourite N64 games.

        I enjoyed Banjo Kazooie back in the day too and picked it up again just recently. Got an enormous backlog at the moment so haven’t gotten round to playing it yet but I’m looking forward to it.

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        • Certainly seems like it, doesn’t it? Some critics dismiss Super Mario Galaxy 2 as being a mere token sequel, but I found it to be more enjoyable than its prequel because the level design was more polished and it’s indeed one of my favorite games of all time. I still remember the great feeling of having gotten all 242 stars in that game. I played Excitebike 64 back when it was released fifteen years ago. That is a fun game; it doesn’t get as much attention as the original Excitebike on the NES, which is a shame because it’s better than it in every way. I wonder why it’s not on the Virtual Console? It’s quite an oversight.

          It’ll be interesting to see what games you decide to write about while working off the backlog!

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