Over a year into its existence, the number of titles that truly push the Xbox is sadly limited to a handful - and most of those were released at the time of the machine's launch. Since then, Xbox owners have been fed a diet of lame PS2 ports or all format releases that have obviously been designed around the PS2's limitations.
But with Christmas on the way, a number of exclusive titles are finally emerging from the pipe, with the biggest of the bunch a cute and gorgeous 3D platformer by the name of Blinx. Coded by a - shock horror - Japanese developer by the name of Artoon, you'll have no doubt heard by now that some of the key members of the team worked on the likes of Sonic The Hedgehog and the revered Sega Saturn title Nights.
So with that kind of pedigree you'd expect something special, and Blinx certainly does not disappoint. The plot line is kind of like a Japlish take on Monsters Inc, with a cute race of Cats controlling time from the mysterious Time Factory. But an unscrupulous band of evil Time Monsters have been nicking Time Crystals and selling them on the black market. In a nutshell, the daring Blinx storms off to sort them out, rescue the princess (natch) and restore order to the world.
Suck it down
So starts the game, with the extremely detailed Blinx wandering around with his TS1000 Time Sweeper, some kind of vacuum contraption that sucks up more or less anything that's not nailed down, to a maximum of five objects. The general idea is to clear each level of any monsters, and killing each baddie is a case of aiming your Time Sweeper at their sorry ass and firing out any debris you may have on your person. Also lying around are Time Crystals, which come in five different colours. Picking up three of the same colour enables you to affect time in some way, which is the game's key innovation.
Blinx's control over time can be activated at any time during the game, with the game freezing to allow you to select from a panel reminiscent of a standard VCR or audio player. Thus, you get to freeze, rewind, fast forward or pause time in order to subtly affect what is going on around you.
The first three levels are nothing more than glorified training missions, followed by a boss level, which gives you a chance to take in just how gorgeous the visuals are, and maybe experiment with a few of the crystals. And the visuals really are something else - if you manage to catch Blinx close up the detail on him is simply astounding. Also, the levels themselves are packed with twisted, warped buildings that really make the game feel like you're trapped in some cartoon world. By the time you reach the third level, some of the effects are genuinely superb - and remind you that this game just wouldn't be possible on any other console.
But before long you'll be more involved with the actual game, which gets pretty damned challenging after the second world. Suddenly you really have to think about how you use the crystals, with certain sections impassable unless you reverse time and restore them to their former state. Certainly, once there are numerous baddies roaming around tight sections, you'll be grateful to be able to freeze time for a few seconds and bash them in that time. Some monsters, like the frogs, end up eating your projectiles, so you take advantage of their greed by getting them to swallow a bomb! It's humourous touches like this that make you warm to Blinx. At this early stage of play, it's hard to tell how compelling Blinx really is, as it comes across as just a glorified platform game in the initial stages.
Time will tell, and we'll give you the full verdict just before its November 8 release.