Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy

Stick it to 'em.

I've been making a space-coot.

It's taken about 45 minutes, but now I've now fixed the balloon to its back with polygonal strings and perfected the crazed stare glaring out death and woe to all who would oppose it.

Now I just need to design a few bullet patterns, slap on some lasers and define a movement schedule. Soon my sleek, black water-bird of doom will join my geometric fleet of killer bees, squirrels and semi-detached cottages. I might design a star-destroying badger too.

Once my squadron of infamy is complete I'll start work on the landscape and incidental objects to complete my level: Up the Garden Path. The level is a tribute to one of the first games I ever played - classic garden-themed Spectrum title Pssst.

It's fair to say I've been enjoying myself.

At first I approached Blast Works in the wrong way. Assuming the level editor was just a bundled-in bonus, I embarked on the single-player campaign, It's based on PC shareware title TUMIKI Fighters and is a solid 2D shooter with a twist. When you dispatch enemies they crumble into their component parts, which can be grabbed as they tumble downwards. You can then stick the parts to the tiny, one-shot craft you control. It's a simple process - just crash into the machinery as it falls and it'll become attached to the exterior of your ship.

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A remarkably sedate four-player game.

This Katamari-esque collecting system improves your chances of survival no end. The extra parts take damage, handy as your craft is otherwise highly vulnerable. They also increase your score and boost firepower. Within minutes of starting the first level I was encrusted with Wright brothers-style wooden aeroplanes, Maxim guns, cannons, mine-laying hot air balloons and more. Looking for all the world like something Heath Robinson invented, my contraption barged its way through enemy formations while flinging projectiles around the playing field with wild abandon.

Well, I say within minutes. I should say within minutes of starting the first level for the 15th time. As it's based on a Kenta Cho shooter, Blast Works is no easy ride. Even the early levels, played on Rookie difficulty, pose a challenge if you're not familiar with the genre.

However, it's not long before you start developing tactics. The scrap surrounding your ship can be knocked away by enemy fire, so it's all about appreciating the 'sticky' mechanic. The 'retract' button, which shrinks all the junk into the body of the ship, is also useful - it leaves your ship exposed, but it becomes a much smaller target. This means you can guide it through small gaps in enemy bullet patterns without taking a hit. That's the theory, anyway.

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The inspiration for BlastWorks, TUMIKI Fighters.

Or you could try amassing as many bits of junk as possible, bulldozing through enemies and using their corpses to replenish lost parts. This tactic works a little too well early on - I ploughed my way through more than a few levels without even needing to pull my trigger, having picked up a piece of auto-firing weaponry.

Once a fair bit of stuff is attached it can be hard to tell where the actual ship is, and it's hard to avoid hits as a result. It also becomes tricky to distinguish between live and dead enemies when the screen is filled. This can lead to kamikaze lunges for juicy pieces of kit which end in frustration as your craft is immolated in a splash of pixels.

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