In 2004, Kenta Cho (under the name ABA Games) released TUMIKI Fighters, one of his many freeware polygonal shooters. Then, last year, Majesco baffled us by announcing plans to adapt it to a retail Wii game. Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy is an odd candidate for AAA-ness: it's a game in a dormant, extremely hardcore genre, based on obscure freeware and developed by a company whose previous experience has mostly involved ports and licensed games, without any real input from the original creator. It's also published by a company whose success with Cooking Mama inspired them to go "casual."

These disadvantages would lead anyone to the natural conclusion that Blast Works wouldn't end up a great game -- and they would be correct. It is, in fact, two great games. Or, to take the idea to its ridiculous extreme, infinite great games. We'll stick to two for this discussion, and we'll talk about those two separately.


Blast Works the shooting game is a side-scrolling shmup built around the gimmick that every single enemy in the game can be stuck to your ship -- the easiest way to describe the system is Katamari Damacy as a shooter. After shooting an enemy down, if you touch the falling ship, it will attach to your ship in the same position it first touched. This property conducts throughout the parts you attach, so you can stick parts to parts to parts. The enemy parts continue firing in the same patterns they used against you (enemy shots are red and your shots are blue), in whichever direction they happen to be pointing. In no time at all, then, you're a screen-filling agglomeration of random junk, throwing bullets all over the screen.

Junk serves both as weaponry and as shielding for your tiny, vulnerable ship, and it also adds a feeling of relative safety and even power rarely seen in the genre. Holding the Z button on the Nunchuk (or the C button on the Classic Controller) will cause all the extra detritus to retract, in case you want to identify your own ship's location or avoid having your cool gear shot off by a boss.

Blast Works takes this central mechanic from TUMIKI Fighters and expands it into a respectably full-sized game, with 15 missions in three difficulty levels, in both campaign mode (which can be played alone or in 2-player co-op) or arcade mode (score attack for up to four players). The first few missions are uncharacteristically easy for the genre (because you can frontload your ship with shielding!) but later bosses use insane bullet patterns that quickly knock all the cool stuff off of your ship.

The graphical style found in TUMIKI is retained in spirit, but refined: everything in the original game was composed of large pastel blocks with light outlines. The look is retained in Blast Works, but the shapes are slightly more complex, allowing for more detailed, but still heavily stylized, visuals. While TUMIKI's ships were composed of rectangular and triangular blocks with visible space between them, the boundaries between (often smaller) blocks that compose Blast Works' ships are just lines. The game still uses the light-colored outlines that lend a unique look to an otherwise simple presentation.

It looks quite cool, and the capture mechanic is a straightforward, yet utterly bizarre and unpredictable method of upgrading. Every playthrough is different simply because you'll build a differently-shaped pile of junk. And best of all, having this gimmick has seemingly freed developer Budcat of any desire to implement a pointer-based aiming system like other recent shooters.


The game is only one small part of the Blast Works package. The disc also contains a full-featured editor, said to be based on the one used to create the game's assets. Using this editor, you can make new ships, enemies, background elements, levels, and even bullet patterns. As you progress through the game, you unlock the elements encountered as editable works. You can start from any of these for your own works or go from scratch.

The shape, enemy, and ship editors all work the same, and, in fact, the results can be swapped around (an enemy can be remade as a ship, etc.) Using the Wii Remote, you place a selection of (size- and color-editable) shapes in 3D space to create a design. You can move the camera around to look at each item from various angles, which is necessary when editing in 3D. For ships and enemies, you can set the pattern of the new creation's shots and the location of origin. You can alter the hitbox and even the sound effects played upon destruction. My first attempt to create an item (a Wiimote, because I lack inspiration) was generally successful and took about thirty minutes.

You can't create bullet patterns from scratch, but you can combine multiple existing bullet patterns into new effects. For example, combining a spinning windmill shape of bullets with a short burst of straight fire will create a short burst of bullets in a spinning pattern. By layering various effects, you can generate elaborate, bizarre patterns.

The level designer is somewhat more complex, but still drag-and-drop. You can even drop icons to change the direction of scrolling in a level and the camera's zoom level, in addition to placement of all enemies and objects. In the level design mode, you can also turn the game's distinctive outlines on and off, and implement graphical filters including a black-and-white mode, a monochrome Virtual Boy-like mode, and a wavy underwater mode.

The best part? Everything you create can be uploaded from your Wii to a friend's system or to the Blast Works Depot website (subject to moderation, judging by the lack of wangs). You can also browse the website from your computer and send items to the Wii. A creative little community is already blossoming at the site, creating everything from flying superheroes to pixel-perfect representations of classic game characters to food. As you create and download items, your fridge can get filled up pretty quickly, but that's a minor gripe ancillary to enjoyment of the editor.

Being able to create and share content in an easy-to-use, intuitive (I found the pointer-based editor simple even before I discovered the Wiimote button shortcuts for zoom and camera controls) interface means that Blast Works has one of the best online modes of any Wii game. The integration with the Depot website makes browsing uploaded material a breeze, since it makes use of something extremely well-suited to web browsing (the computer) and integrates it with the Wii game.

At first, Blast Works may be seen as commercial exploitation of the (legally free) work done by Kenta Cho -- the co-opting of his concept for monetary gain by a greedy publisher. However, it would be hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to Cho than a game that allows any player to create their own ridiculous shmup and share it for free. Unless that game also included several of Cho's games as bonus material, which this one does. Besides, Cho approves.

For what it is, Blast Works is nearly perfect -- it's an excellent sequel to a great shooter, and a brilliant, easy-to-use system for creating more shooters. But shooters have become a niche genre, and if you don't like them in general, you probably still won't like Blast Works. Although you could easily pass hundreds of hours in the editor without ever bothering to go back out and play the game.

Final score: 9.5/10

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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