Blaster Master: Overdrive (WiiWare) Review
Title: Blaster Master: Overdrive
Genre: Platform/Run and gun
We’ve become spoiled with frequent checkpoints and basically no penalty to dying.
Blaster Master: Overdrive wants to make us remember this. The newest WiiWare title from SunSoft has save points few and far between as you go through various areas collecting upgrades.
Players control Alex, a scientist trying to save his wife, child and the world from a virus, and S.O.P.H.I.A., his tank that has lost all power-ups except for the basic jump, move and shoot. This is all explained in the opening cutscene that looks nice and gives a good summary of the plot.
You take Alex through eight different areas trying to recover the power-ups for the tank and find out the cause of the virus to stop it. Gameplay is split up between platforming with the tank and top-down shooting with Alex.
I want to first focus on controlling Alex. While running around, you’re able to switch between three different guns using A: a machine gun, a homing ball with a slight curve and a missile that lands in front of him. Each of these guns can be upgraded five times by picking up ‘P’s that sit on the ground in some gates or get dropped from enemies. Getting hit once will drop you down to the previous level weapon as well, which can make some boss battles quite a bit harder due to the barrage of bullets coming at you.
Also, some enemies will drop grenades that can be used. Unlike the unlimited grenades in the first game, this one grenade will kill all enemies on screen before going away.
One of the biggest flaws of the game can be seen while controlling Alex: the lack of multiple controller choices. You can only use the Wii Remote in the game. Because of this, strafe has been mapped to the back B button (you hold the controller sideways). Trying to hold B down while moving and shooting tended to be very uncomfortable and caused many hand cramps. While it may seem like strafe could be ignored, it’s required for boss battles to hit them. The lack of multiple controller types is a huge omission, but a patch is in the works to add other controller types to use.
You also battle all bosses while being Alex. The bosses are still big enemies, and range from crabs, bats, centipedes, doppelgangers and fortresses. Some of the bosses you will face more than once. While their patterns are fairly predictable, the battles can just drag on because the weak point won’t expose too often and trying to hit it while dodging a barrage of bullets may only allow for one or two hits at a time.
After beating a boss, new kits will drop for your tank. The anchor will allow you to grapple to areas you can’t jump to, while hovering allows you to slowly descent across gaps to get new items or to a new area. Other kits include diving, walking on walls and tires to grip on ice and go over spikes.
After obtaining the kit, you can immediately try to advance to the next area. However, it is often beneficial to backtrack through areas you’ve already beaten with your new ability. This can lead to getting additional energy boost for the tank and health for both Alex and the tank by accessing places you couldn’t before.
While driving the tank, you’ll be playing more of a platformer. You can jump in the tank and use the gun and abilities by pressing A to switch. Using all of these abilities drain energy, which can only be recharged by not moving. Also, while shooting, you can hold B to lock the gun in the direction it’s facing and still move around. This really helps when trying to aim harder shots to grapple to or to fire at enemies behind you while moving.
A map can be pulled up using the – button to show where you’re at, along with gates in the areas and gates with save points. The map is handy because it’s fairly easy to get lost in this game trying to find the right place to go to get to the next area.
This brings me to my other big problem with this game, the save system. While it is nice to get a save system over the original game, the save points in the game just seemed few and far between. While this may be taken from Metroid, at least in Metroid you didn’t seem to be able to die as easy. Literally a few hits can kill you, and with the swarm of bullets around you you’ll be hard pressed to stay alive.
After you die and sit through the Game Over screen, you’ll start at the last save point you were at. No checkpoints before bosses or before gates. You can lose a lot of gameplay because enemies and bullets swarmed you.
As mentioned earlier, the game features eight different areas with a unique feel, like the Subterranean Lake or Ice Cave. Some feature a swimming area where the tank will move slow until the dive kit is gotten, while others like the Ice Cave will offer slick areas with little traction. These areas were nice to see and explore while progressing through the game.
A problem I noticed during the Subterranean Lake level came when trying to climb a ladder. During this, you can’t jump or shoot, which would be fine, except for the fact that two enemies will attack you as you try to climb. You either have to climb fast past them and take a bit of damage, or try to get them to follow you down and attack them. This is just a bit of annoying programming that wasn’t needed.
Another thing that was nice was the soundtrack. The music is all remixed from the original game and I really liked hearing the music that was unique to each area. The Subterranean Lake really caught my attention and sounded great. All the levels still sounded good, and it really showed how old Nintendo music can shine throughout the years.
One other thing to note, watch your health in the final boss battle. After beating the first form, the final form will constantly drain your health. I didn’t realize it the first time and died while I was shooting it. After beating the final boss, however, that’s it for the game. No new modes unlock and nothing changes. While it may be nice to go back and playthrough again to get all power-ups, most people will probably be done after beating the game once.
Fans of the original game should check out this update. The game brings back everything that made the game fun, plus added a few new aspects to bring it up to date. However, the few and far between save points and cheap bosses can become annoying while going through the eight areas. The game’s good, but the controls and cheap deaths really keep this from being great.