Blast Zone! Tournament Review: Simple And Fun

Developed and published by Victory Lap Games, Blast Zone! Tournament is a fun grid-based combat sports title that does everything right with the genre. Using a minimalist map design, partitioned by different themes, the game incorporates the best aspects of the Bomberman genre and turns them on its head with its intricate battle system and coop multiplayer. Forsaking a deep storyline for a bomb based combat mechanic, its developers utilize a minimalistic approach that is both entertaining if at some times repetitive. For a genre to be so heavily ensconced in Bomberman tropes, Victory Lap Games has produced one of the most innovative sports battle games on modern platforms. With a multitude of game modes including a deep-lying customization function, this is by far one of the most joyous indy titles to date. 

The Gameplay

While the game does not feature any notable plot nor protagonist, the beauty that games from this title are in its combat-based bomb mechanics that pits players against each other and AI opposition. The story is based around a futuristic game show where humans fight against androids in a battle of puzzles and explosions. Each grid is separated by a twenty-star achievement system that grants players access to each level after they have completed a certain task either by defeating opponents or completing puzzle battles within a set amount of time. Among these grid-based maps, there are different themes where your customized character fights against robots. There are a variety of themes ranging from a shrub-filled jungle to an old pirate ship, all adding to highlight the level of detail the game’s developers placed into the final product. During battles, competitors can find powerups, lightning bolts, and other items that increase the variability of this sports battle title. The progression can be steady though and at times all together mundane as each grid is unlocked by completing a total of twenty sublevels that culminate in the collection of a star item. During local coop, the screen is filled with the bombastic explosions of hidden items that can either destroy your enemy or even yourself. Plenty of times a game is easily terminated if one is killed by their own bomb, which not only takes away life but also three hundred achievement points.  This is both stressful and at the same time exhilarating during highly intense multiplayer mayhem. A brilliant gameplay design choice truly. After investing countless time into this indy title, one can easily see how its many pros and cons that can be adverse to the casual gamers interest.

The Pros

Victory Lap Games invested a lot of depth into a genre dominated mostly by the Bomberman franchise. A multitude of gameplay choices, from a strong career mode, single match free brawls, and a customization system that changes everything on your character right down to hairstyle choice. Such intricacies really enhance the immersiveness of this title, even for those who are not a big fan of the sports battle genre. The powerups themselves really makes you feel that they serve a purpose, especially a bomb blast item that increases the radius of your explosions to an atomic level. Animation wise, the game does not waste a single frame. The creators made a wise decision in using cartoon-like shell shaded graphics that cover up many of the blemishes common in low budget titles. For a game set in the near future, the gameplay is perfectly ingrained in the past. Each grid is littered with the mayhem that never gets too confusing to push players away. Powerups, robots, champion bosses, all culminate the push the player into completing each grid in a timely fashion. The trophy system is rewarding and full of achievements that alter the progression of your character. For example, if you complete a level without dying or within a certain time frame, you gain access to more stars which in turn unlock hidden stages and upgrades. This encourages players to revisit levels even after they complete the satisfactory requirements for each battle. This aspect, coupled with intricate character customization and multiplayer coop is the fulcrum of what makes Blast Zone! Tournament such a remarkable indy title. But this does not mean that the game is sacrosanct when it comes to its shortcomings.

The Cons

Even with all its depth of customization and map themes, the game holds many faults that could undermine an otherwise joyful experience. Character animations at times can get repetitive and lack variation. The robot opponents, in particular, become mundane quickly, as each mid-level battle enemy is almost exactly identical to the previous one. This sense of repetition becomes disappointing when compared to the level of depth your character can be customized. A shortcoming truly, and surprising considering the extent of world design its creators placed in creating a vibrant and futuristic style game show. The cut scenes themselves are a bit dated, reminiscent of the old 16bit style exposition plot devices that were so popular in the ’90s. From the beginning, one can easily see how the static cut scenes are a tribute more to the lack of imagination from the studio than an homage to gaming past. Disappointing truly, but not to the extent that one can disavow the entirety of the final product.  Hence, while the game itself is nuanced in the way it alters the Bomberman aesthetics it holds some minor flaws that one can easily overlook in the grand scheme of the gameplay experience.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, Blast Zone! Tournament is a fantastic sports battle title that does more than pay homage to the genre. With its whimsical customization system, expansive thematic grid battles, and fun coop gameplay, there is a lot more positive inherent in this product then bad. Perhaps not a complete work of narrative genius, the developers did their homework when it comes to sheer simplistic beauty. Nothing about this product is novel necessarily, but there is enough difference here to warrant it a playthrough. If there is any condemnation of this product it is the fact that it sticks too closely to safeguarding the legacies of its forebearers than actually pushing the genre into entirely new directions. The replayability factor is extremely high and it encourages you to complete each battle to the highest standards of competition. This is by far one of the most enjoyable experiences one can have if they are not expecting too much. Definitely worth the playthrough and it absolutely deserves the attention from fans of indy software. 

About Anthony Frisina 75 Articles
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.

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