I busted out the old N64 over Christmas and, wading through the box of cobwebbed cartridges, spaghetti-like tangles of cables and dusty grey peripherals, I found a game that still, today, plays like a relatively fresh and original title that's begging for a re-release. As with many games from that era, it's an old Rare classic from back when the Stamper brothers were still in charge, back when Martin Wakeley (who'd later go on to help form Free Radical) was still designing masterpieces for Nintendo, back when they were a company that hadn't been reduced to minigame collections and avatar tinkering.
Back in 1997.
Blast Corps is a game that's always been though of fondly by critics, if deemed something of an unsung hero on the platform. At a time when Nintendo and their stable of first and second party developers were riding high, spurred on by the Sony's worrying successes with the Playstation to be bigger, better and more unique than ever, games like GoldenEye, Mario 64, and Banjo-Kazooie took the major plaudits, proving to be killer apps for the rather expensive console.
GoldenEye has lost much with age, which in no way takes away anything from its standing in the pantheon of gaming greats nor removes it from its firm place in our hearts. While the two platformers also once stood at the very pinnacle of gaming achievement, they too have been overtaken by other games - in Mario's case, his own - and can perhaps no longer boast of delivering the same thrills as they did before, so much more have we seen, experienced and played since those halcyon days.
But Blast Corps is different. It's always been different and, playing through it once more in the dead of night, blissfully unaware of the time, it's still just as addictive and pleasingly original as it always was. Firing it up once again after several years, it's joys are undiminished, and there really aren't that many game of which that can be said.
Blast Corps' story is an insane B-movie plot that tells the tale of how two nuclear missiles, being transported to a demolition site for controlled detonation, start to leak en route. As soon as it detects this, the missile truck's onboard computer panics, diverting the course of the truck in order to reach the site as quickly as possible...regardless of what's in the way be it trees, towns or even cities. These are sensitive missiles - any contact and they blow sky high, triggering a nuclear winter.
Enter the titular Blast Corps themselves, and its their job to track the truck and destroy absolutely everything in its way. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Abandoned structures, suburban homesteads, office complexes, all must make way for the truck even especially if there are people inside. You wouldn't want a bunch of rabid ghouls wandering around a nuclear landscape would you? Come on, this isn't Fallout.
The action starts with you in command of a bulldozer, but it's not long before you've graduated to controlling a dune buggy, dumptruck, an articulated lorry, a motorcycle that can fire rockets and three different kinds of robotic vehicle, one of which sees you literally uppercutting buildings to the ground, with another having you bodyslam skyscrapers with the aid of a jetpack.
That's right...you can bodyslam skyscrapers using a robotic jetpack suit.
There various areas you have to clear start off relatively easy, but it's not long before the game ramps up the difficulty. Using the Backlash (the slow moving dumptruck) is still just as much of a nightmare to use as it was back then, and towards the end of the game you need to absolutely master the art of powersliding its fat rear end around the place to maximise destruction ithin the time limit. You're ranked on your performance from bronze to gold, with platinum medals available once you've managed to clear all of the levels to a gold standard.
Outside of the main story, Rare implemented time trials, condition-specific levels which either handicap you in some way, such as giving you the Ballista motorbike with limited ammo, or issue the player with precise destructive challenges. There's so much to do along the way, too, with civilians to be "liberated" from their homes, scientists to be rescued in order to open up secret levels that see you smashing things to pieces on far flung planets with varying levels of gravity. None of it makes any sense of course: why would you need to pick up a bunch of Radiation Dispersal Units once you flattened the entire landscape, after all? But the nonsensical anarchy adds to the fun, and this isn't a game that takes itself terribly seriously.
And that's Blast Corps, simple premise but loads of fun. It's crying out for a re-issue and it's a game that would fit wonderfully into the 3DS' library but then I realise I'm dreaming and wake up in a world where Nintendo believe that stereoscopic 3D is an innovation and Rare have turned into a causal dogsbody for Microsoft. And I cry.