Blasted spin-offs. . .
Spin-offs have one goal in mind: to ride the wave of the original's success and perhaps sell a few copies along the way. Blast Radius is one such perpetrator. Colony Wars was praised for its gameplay, control, and graphics. Blast Radius, however, struggles to keep up with the masterpiece on which it is loosely based.
The game has a similar format to Colony Wars but with major differences. You play the mercenary Kayne, hired by the Vorn to protect their race. Apparently, "you are their only hope." How cute.
You begin by choosing a ship (an option that was not available in CW, but should have been) and reading the mission briefing. However, the text for the briefing scrolls by quickly in a thin, illegible font. If you try and read the font for too long your eyes will start to hurt, but in order to fully comprehend the mission, you have to review the brief four or five times. Plus, there is no audio briefing to accompany the text, so often you will be forced into combat unprepared.
And talk about unprepared. Unlike Colony Wars, Blast Radius offers no training mode. The manual has basic information on the default controls, but other than that it is up to you to figure out the gameplay. The controls and general play are similar to Colony Wars, but a bit quicker, which puts you at an extreme disadvantage in the beginning.
The game is divided into 10 sectors, with each sector containing 4 missions. There is nothing particularly interesting about the missions. You fight. You protect. It's fairly basic, except that it is very difficult. I consider myself a fairly decent Colony Wars player, but after three or four hours of playing Blast Radius I was still only able to complete sector one.
Blast Radius does not offer a changing story line. In order to proceed you need to complete the mission or else the game ends. I spent a good thirty minutes trying to beat mission 1 of sector 2, only to die at the beginning of mission 2. Had I not thrown a tantrum and accidentally kicked the power outlet, I would have had to load up where I had last saved the game (Sector 2, Mission 1). This is a very frustrating game.
I think some boob at Psygnosis thought it might be funny to confuse the player by mislabeling the screen shot of the Heads Up Display in the manual. The HUD is where all of the game action takes place - you would think that it is of great importance to familiarize the player with this screen. Nope. The manual accurately labels three out of nine items on the HUD screen. No, that is not the Primary Weapon Charge Indicator. . . those are the Shield and Hull Meters! This is just inexcusable. If you were suckered into buying this game and want an accurate description of the screen you can e-mail me, but you can also expect a stern lecture.
The button configuration is similar to CW, except that you can now choose to target different enemies with the touch of a button, and instead of reverse you can only decrease speed (you can never stop). Strafing is nearly impossible, since the craft must always be facing the enemy. Being forced to continually move forward is very limiting and renders the barrel rolls useless. I've never heard of a space game that makes you constantly move forward. Wow. Psygnosis is so ground breaking.
The graphics in Blast Radius are nothing special. The background planets and suns look relatively darker than CW, but in general the polish just isn't there.
The sound isn't great, either. Instead of the cool flight talk and sounds that you'd expect, you have to fight to crappy techno/rock. No sir, I'll stay with my boring flight talk, thank you very much.
One area that is sort of cool is the Armory. By accumulating points you are able to "buy" upgrades for your ship. This adds a layer of depth, which is nice.
The best part of this game would have been the 2-player option, but I don't know anyone with another copy of the game and a console link cable. And even if I did know someone with the game and the link, I don't think the game would have been worth throwing out my back carrying my television to a friend's house. I would have gone nuts for a 2-player Colony Wars, but I just can't do it for Blast Radius.
Overall, there is nothing in this game that would make me want to blow forty dollars on it. As for replay value, if you like playing the same Joe-Shmo four missions over and over and over. . . then hey, go for it. But for the normal people who like varying missions and outstanding graphics and game play, run, don't walk, from Blast Radius. Just go buy another copy of Colony Wars or Colony Wars Vengeance.