North American cover art
Blast Corps is a 1997 action video game for the Nintendo 64 in which the player uses vehicles to destroy buildings to clear a path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier. The game's 78 levels include puzzle elements wherein the player transfers between vehicles to move objects, fill gaps, and create bridges. Blast Corps was developed by Rare, published by Nintendo, and released in March 1997 in Japan and North America. A worldwide release followed at the end of that year.
The game was Rare's first for the Nintendo 64. Its development team had between four and seven staff, mostly recent graduates. Rare founder Chris Stamper had wanted a building destruction game, so the team found a gameplay concept that could support it. Blast Corps 's puzzle game mechanics were based on the 1994 Donkey Kong.
Review aggregator Metacritic described the game's reception as "universal acclaim". Blast Corps was Metacritic's second highest rated Nintendo 64 game of 1997. It sold one million copies—lower than the team's expectations—and received several editor's choice awards. Reviewers highly praised its originality, variety, and graphics, but some critiqued its controls and repetition. The game was released in Rare's 2015 Rare Replay compilation for Xbox One and its reviewers considered Blast Corps one of the compilation's standout titles.
Blast Corps is a single-player action video game. The player drives vehicles to destroy buildings, farms, and other structures in the path of a runaway nuclear missile carrier. The player fails if the carrier collides with an object. Each of the eight vehicles vary in ability to clear structures: the bulldozer rams, the dump truck drifts, the lightweight buggy crashes from higher ground, the tricycle shoots missiles, another truck presses outwards from its sides, and robots mechs tumble and stomp from the land and the air. The game's 57 levels incorporate puzzles wherein the player's vehicles move explosive crates, fill gaps, and create bridges. The player-character transfers between vehicles mid-level to operate other passenger vehicles and machinery. The levels gradually increase in difficulty, combining the puzzle mechanics of previous levels.
The world is portrayed from a three-quarters overhead view. The player can adjust the game's viewable perspective with zoom and horizontal panning functions. Pop-up hints guide the player in the early stages of the game, and other characters audibly encourage the player as each level wears on. The cheery soundtrack increases in tempo as the level's timer runs low. After completing a level, the player can return to explore without a time limit. By finding secrets and activating lights throughout the level, the player raises their score and final medal ranking. There are also secret levels and bonus rounds hidden throughout the game. The player can compete against a ghost copy of their previous path through a level. There are no settings to change the game's difficulty, and the game saves to both internal and external memory.
Blast Corps was Rare's first Nintendo 64 game and began a run of seven critically acclaimed Rare titles for the console. The game's production began in early 1996. Martin Wakeley, a recent graduate, became the game's lead designer. The development team consisted of four recent graduates, though it expanded at times to seven concurrent staff. Wakeley credited the team's small size for their easy follow-through from planning to market. Rare founder Chris Stamper was the impetus for the project. He had wanted to make a game about destroying buildings for years prior to Blast Corps 's development. The team worked to fit his idea to a gameplay concept and devised a "Constantly Moving Object" conceit that would give the levels a time limit. This idea became the nuclear missile carrier.
Wakeley saw Blast Corps as a puzzle game at its core. He was influenced by the 1994 Donkey Kong in which the player begins each level with all the tools they need to finish but must learn how to use them. Wakeley called this Blast Corp 's fundamental game design. He was also inspired by the Super Mario 64 demo at the 1995 Space World, which introduced him to the 3D analog stick and spurred him to "do something great" himself.
Blast Corps 's lead artist, Ricky Berwick, proposed the vehicle concepts, which the team "retrofitted" into the gameplay. The dump truck's drift ability was inspired by the "power slide" in Mario Kart 64. Wakeley liked and defended the truck against the team, which found its controls aggravating. Retro Gamer reported Wakeley's "exhilarating enthusiasm" as a key factor in the game's "eccentric ideas and quirky humor" in light of the game's serious theme. One of the robots was designed without an arm because the developers had run out of computer memory to store the data. They thought the robot "still looked really cool without it". Blast Corps 's environment and characters models are completely composed of polygons. The game does not use distance fog to obscure the draw distance. The idea for high score platinum medals came from a competition between Japanese and American quality assurance teams, who wanted to push the limits of the levels past Wakeley's set "gold medal" times. Wakeley described the platinum medal challenges as "just insane" and said he could only get four himself.
Nintendo published Blast Corps for the Nintendo 64. It was originally titled Blast Dozer in its 1995 Shōshinkai preview. The game was first released in Japan on March 21, 1997, and in North America three days later. Its European and Australian release followed in December 22. The game had been in production for a little over a year.
The game received "universal acclaim", according to video game review aggregator Metacritic, and "unanimous critical success", according to Retro Gamer. Reviewers highly praised the novelty and variety of its gameplay. Peer Schneider (IGN) lauded Rare's new intellectual property in light of other safe and recurring industry trends. Reviewers also praised the game's graphics and sound, but struggled to master the controls. Metacritic ranked Blast Corps among the top ten games released in 1997. It was Metacritic's highest ranked 1997 Nintendo 64 game after GoldenEye 007. Blast Corps was selected as Electronic Gaming Monthly 's May 1997 Game of the Month and an IGN Editors' Choice. Four of six Nintendo Power reviewers recommended the game.
Crispin of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) was struck by the intense premise of Blast Corps. Its best feature, he wrote, was "the palpable sense of suspense" as the carrier advanced on resistant buildings. Schneider (IGN) initially struggled with the controls, but came to appreciate their complexity and the differences between each vehicle. He found the locked camera view restrictive when compared to unrestricted 3D in its contemporaries and wished for first-person perspective levels. Schneider thought the game should have been longer, with less bonus levels and more main missions, though he did appreciate the pacing, design, and difficulty of the included levels. EGM similarly found the bonus stages mediocre. One of their reviewers went further and thought the whole game was repetitive, as did Computer and Video Games. The latter also praised Blast Corps 's level design and difficulty progression.
Schneider (IGN) found the game unpretentious in comparison to video game trends of photorealistic rendering and cartoonish art. He likened the slick vehicle animations and metallic elements to Micro Machines and Rare's R.C. Pro-Am. He felt that Blast Corps 's explosions were not as robust as those in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Schneider praised Blast Corps 's texture maps, which made the night scenes and houses look realistic, and the canyons breathtaking. He also liked the detail in the vehicles' skid marks and gradual building disintegration. He wrote that the game's 3D programming was "perfect" and errorless, and was particularly pleased about the game's lack of fog, usually used to cover developer limitations. EGM echoed Schneider's praise of the deep landscapes, which the magazine called "incredible". Schneider (IGN) described the soundtrack as between "70s pop, disaster movie score, and Country Bear Jamboree". He praised the range of engine, tire screeching, and crashing sound effects. Reviewers disliked the country music tracks with jaw harp, though IGN thought it was a matter of taste.
IGN wrote that the game had qualities nostalgic of great Nintendo Entertainment System and arcade games, while EGM found Blast Corps incomparable to other games. Retro Gamer wrote that the game's combination of constant "smashing" and puzzles made the game so unique as to defy genre classification. The magazine described the gameplay concept of returning to explore without a time limit as "a stroke of genius". At another time, the magazine considered Blast Corps a 3D successor to "nail-biting reaction games" such as Loco-Motion. Computer and Video Games agreed with a reader that Blast Corps was part of a "Destroy" subgenre including games like Desert Strike, Return Fire, and Body Harvest. Schneider (IGN) said Blast Corps was on par with the quality of Shigeru Miyamoto games and an excellent display of Rare's potential.
Blast Corps sold one million copies, though not as many as Rare had expected. The game was most successful in Japan.
Wakeley, the game's designer, considered making a sequel as an action combat game, but thought the concepts behind Blast Corps had been fully exhausted. After praising the game in a 2010 Rare retrospective feature, Retro Gamer said they were "desperate to see a sequel". Blast Corps is included in Rare Replay, a compilation of 30 Rare titles, released on the Xbox One on August 4, 2015. The release's bonus features included behind-the-scenes interviews with Blast Corps 's developers. Blast Corps was a standout favorite among Rare Replay reviewers.
Rare's Blast Corps began a run of seven highly lauded and respected Nintendo 64 games, including GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Jet Force Gemini. Retro Gamer wrote that Rare "doubled" the number of classic Nintendo 64 games and was an important alliance for Nintendo. Microsoft soon acquired Rare for a record price of $377 million. In the present day, a studio would rarely entrust the scope of a project like Blast Corps to a team of four recent graduates.
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