Cats are the essence of cool. Like the popular kids at school, cats are aloof, arrogant, and self-absorbed. The ancient Egyptians worshipped them as gods. You don’t get much cooler than god status. So logically, a cat should be a great basis for a platformer character! I’m sure that was the idea with the original Blinx, yet somehow the game fell far short.
So where did Microsoft and Artoon go wrong? Blinx’s first adventure had a few strikes against it. For starters they made him fat. That’s not cool. They also made him a janitor. Now, someone has to pick up our trash and I respect the men and women that keep our offices, schools and parks clean, but being a janitor is in no way cool, hip, or glamorous. It just isn’t. So they start with the coolest animal of all, and then make him a fat janitor. One step forward, two steps back.
Then there was the game design itself. The time powers promised to be truly original and fun to play. Then they made them frustratingly difficult to acquire and failed to build levels that really featured them. One step forward, two steps back.
Now Blinx 2 is here. Like any sequel it tries to build on it’s predecessor’s strengths and fix its problems while bringing some new things to the table. So how well does it accomplish that? Let’s start with some serious customization. That’s pretty cool. Has there ever been a platformer that lets you create your own character? The options here are deep and you can spend a lot of time tweaking your cat to your liking. You don’t even have to be fat! If that wasn’t enough, you actually get to design two completely different characters. Besides your cat character, a sizable portion of the game is spent as this second character which has its own set of moves and levels designed for them.
The levels themselves are colorful, present a fair amount of detail and variety. The time powers are a lot easier to collect and use than in the first game. You can play through the games alone or in a co-op mode with a friend. There are also some competitive versus modes for up to four players.
All of which sounds great, but... there are issues. The second character is a pig. A janitor cat is on the low side of cool, but is still a lot cooler than a pig. The level design is uninspired at best. While most platformers these days feature large, seamless worlds to explore, Blinx 2 labors under the old school sensibility of small, linear levels. Go in, achieve objective, gather some doodads, and you’re done. The multiplayer seems sort of an afterthought and doesn’t add a lot of worth to the game. The save system is ridiculous, designed to punish people with short attention spans or a lack of free time. Other small issues are to be found here and there.
The bottom line is that the game really just isn’t much fun. Ultimately, while Blinx 2 makes some improvements over the first game it still has plenty of its own problems. For everything it does right it gets another few things wrong. There may be a good, maybe even great, Blinx game still to be made, but this one isn’t it. For the time being, the Blinx series has taken another step forward... and two more back.