The litterbox is full.
I have a cat named Winston and he's pretty cool. Granted, he's not a Time Cat, but he's big and friendly and a darn good mouser, which is really all I ask from a cat.
Blinx, on the other hand, is indeed a Time Cat, and he expects far more from cats than me. Not satisfied to have them merely curl up in your lap and make a pleasant rumbling noise, Blinx expects his cats to strap vacuums to their backs, walk on their hind legs, and guard the Time Factory.
Apparently, it's extremely important to guard the Time Factory from the Tom Tom Gang, who are a bunch of pigs dressed like rejects from Mad Max. Not to be confused with the Tom Tom Club, the Tom Tom Gang also suffers from the absence of David Byrne, and is led instead by some sort of king pig with Swiss Miss blond braids.
You see, a sort of space angel appeared to the king pig in a dream and made it clear (at least as clear as anything gets in this game) that he should collect time crystals and possibly assault the Time Factory. The Time Cats set out to stop the pigs, because, well, that's what Time Cats do. Meanwhile, the pigs may or may not be assaulting the Time Factory; there is clearly an assault, but the pigs seem unsure whether it is in fact they who are doing the assaulting.
Must be time to dream about the space angel again. She'll know what's going on.
On the scale of oddly translated, indecipherable Japanese games, Blinx 2 might not quite rank up there with Zero Wing (which, coincidentally, also featured Cats), but someone has clearly set us up the bomb.
Although Blinx 2 retains the Blinx name, the would-be mascot takes a back seat in this sequel. Instead, you design your own character using a fairly impressive Time Cat designing tool. Eyes, face, fur, colors, height, weight, outfit, shoes - just about anything can be modified. I was able to create a reasonable likeness of Winston (stout, fuzzy and orange) to do my bidding. The real Winston showed little interest in this, and began licking himself instead. I would soon follow his lead.
Eventually, you can design your own pig with the same startling number of design options. Many of Blinx 2's linear levels put you in the trotters of the sneaky Tom Toms. Lacking a pet pig to use as a model, I did a fair job of making him look like the gyrocopter pilot from The Road Warrior.
The complex character generator is only the first sign of the strange depth lurking under the fur of Blinx 2. At its core, this is a very standard platformer. You run your cat or pig around different 3D levels, usually trying to open the next door and finally reach the end. Cat levels are more combat-oriented, as you cat can suck items into your vacuum and fire them at enemies, like Kirby or Gordon Freeman. And while the pigs have a number of weapons at their disposal, from slingshots to bazookas, they're the pansies of the bunch and spend most of their time sneaking and distracting on stealth-focused levels.
But much like the vacuums strapped to the cats, Blinx 2 straps on as many odds and ends as it can. The first "hook" is the same as in the first game: time control. By collecting power-ups, your Time Cat can speed up, slow down, pause and even rewind time. This can be used to fight enemies, but is more often used to solve the game's simple puzzles. Did that bridge in front of you blow up? Just rewind time and watch the bridge rebuild itself. The puzzles do get more challenging, but are never particularly inspired.
The pigs have more physical tricks, like throwing banana peels in front of unsuspecting cats. They can also set a number of different traps, release a wind-up decoy, activate a cloak field and use several other gadgets.
But wait, there's more! How about squad-based combat? Yep, some combat levels in the Campaign feature not just you, but three of your fellow cats or pigs. Issue team orders and lead them to victory.
Finally, as you run around in the game, you collect…<insert sound of blaring trumpet>…coins! When you're in the Time Factory or the Tom Tom Base, you can use those coins to buy upgrades like a better vacuum cleaner or new outfits for your whole team. As a Tom Tom you can even get a tank, and then use your coins to trick it out back at the base.
Blinx 2 even gives you a couple ways to play. You can play the whole Campaign solo or in a co-operative, split-screen two-player mode. There's also a split-screen Versus mode in which you can fight against up to three of your friends. I would normally never expect an online mode in a platform game, but considering the number of additional features, it feels strangely missing.
While you're playing through this weird hodgepodge of different game bits, you'll be staring at some pretty average graphics. It runs smoothly and the framerate doesn't falter, but the environments, be they underground bases or winter islands, are pretty bland. There's nothing particularly memorable about any of the characters in the game, either, and my Tom Tom seems to hover a couple inches above the ground.
If only the sound were merely bland. Blinx 2 has some of the worst sound ever. Most of the dialogue in the game, even that of namesake Blinx, is simply written in text. When they are occasionally voiced in gibbering, badly-translated Japanese, you'll wish they had stuck to the text.
And there's simply no excuse for the music. In a nod to old 16-bit platformers, the music is comprised of annoying midi tracks that sound like they were written using the Casio keyboard on display at Wal-Mart by trying to combine the Rhumba and Foxtrot buttons. I found myself dreading the necessity to play more Blinx 2 because of the hideous tunes.
There's a whole lot of game in Blinx 2, but that doesn't mean you'll want to play it. The combination of an indecipherable plot, throwaway character design, 90% standard platformer gameplay and the world's most irritating music counteract what should have been some interesting additions to an old genre. He may not have the ability to rewind time, but I'd rather give the real Winston a scratch behind the ears and leave the Time Cats to defend their own Factory.