The rules change when you come up against bosses. True bullet hell is unleashed,and even skilled dodging and retraction won't protect your ship's spare parts for long. The fragile core craft is left to duck and weave through the onslaught, chipping away at the weak points of the giant gun-ships, autogyros, UFOs and pirate spiders you come up against.
The gameplay is solid enough. Although the level design of the five short campaigns doesn't really inspire, the sticky quirk keeps things interesting and makes replays worthwhile. The higher difficulty levels are insanely punishing, offering plenty of challenge for completists.
Throw in the fact that up to four players can take part in campaigns and there's enough here to make Blast Works stand up as a high-end Wiiware title - if not perhaps a boxed release. But the game's true depth and variety is only revealed once you start playing around with the editors.
Almost everything can be customised, even the shapes and colours of bullets. You could make an entire game from scratch, designing enemies, player ships, environmental elements, scenery, level layouts... Or just muck about with the hundreds of pre-prepared objects, which include everything from the campaign mode plus the three user-created levels featured on the disk.
To begin with, editing is a bit of a bugger. The Wii remote doesn't quite offer the level of control required to manipulate geometric shapes with total accuracy. The brief tutorials don't help, and on more than one occasion I was ready to abandon the clunky change in perspective and menu navigation required to build even a basic ship.
But then came the shift from frustration to understanding as I realised just how much flexibility there is, if you have a little patience. It feels like almost anything can be crafted, albeit in chunky, geometric, textureless polygons. The level of creativity on offer is unparalleled anywhere else on the Wii. All right, Blast Works isn't quite LittleBigPlanet, but did anyone expect it to be?
In any case, visiting the BlastWorksDepot reveals an incredible level of inventiveness from a friendly community. There are levels based on Sonic, Mario, Starfox, Rampage, even MadWorld. Hundreds of user created objects, levels and patterns are available for download, all without the need for pesky Friend codes. The offline campaign may be fun, but it's short-lived and not particularly imaginative; the level editor, however, offers real rewards if you're prepared to master it.
And that's without even mentioning the other four games which can be unlocked. Complete the campaign or arcade mode on various difficulties and you'll be rewarded with rRootage, Gunroar, Torus Trooper and TUMIKI Fighters - all worthy as WiiWare releases in their own right.
So just to recap that's four thoroughly enjoyable bonus games, a 15-stage main campaign, three bonus levels showing what the editor can do and a rich set of game creation tools. Plus access to a wealth of incredible user created content.
Up the Garden Path is still in the 'beta' stage of development, otherwise I'd invite you all to experience the true wonder of space-coot carpet bombing. But I recommend anyone with an interest in 2D shooters, expecially if that interest extends to creative urges, to buy Blast Works immediately. It's an innovative, open-hearted example of great game design and creativity.
8 / 10