Developed and published by Victory Lap Games, Blast Zone!
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.
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.
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.
At the end of the day, Blast Zone!