Review by Osimov
"It's like Metroid but sometimes feels like one of those bullet hell shooters"
Blaster Master Overdrive is based on the 1988 NES game Blaster Master. It has a similar game mechanic but it's a different game. If you haven't played Blaster Master before: It's an action-adventure type game that is similar to Metroid in the way that the game derives a lot of fun from the joys of exploration and you unlock different weapons and utilities that allow you to travel further into otherwise inaccessible areas. The gameplay consists mainly of two parts.
a) The overworld part
Here you control a vehicle in a side scrolling manner. The overworld is divided into eight different areas. Each area has a different theme such as fire, ice or water filled caverns. This plays like Metroid. You can jump with your vehicle, shoot your laser and make use of different upgrades. Among these upgrades is a drill that crushes rocks, a grapple hook that allows you to lift your vehicle over a certain height or special tires that don't go flat when driving over spikes.
b) The dungeon part
In this part of the game you exit your car and traverse through the caves on foot. This changes the perspective to a top-down view like in the early Zelda games but there are no puzzles, only shooting. You can switch between three different weapons in this mode. A laser gun, homing missiles and a rocket launcher.
In the dungeons you can find save-points and bosses (one per area respectively). There are also multiple upgrades for your health bar and golden "P" symbols that upgrade your weapons. You can upgrade your firepower up to level 5 but this increased firepower is lost when you get hit. After defeating the boss of an area you get a new upgrade for your vehicle which allows you to use paths in the overworld that were blocked before by impassable hazards.
This remake apparently has it's benefits compared to it's predecessor on the NES. Graphically it looks totally improved and awesome. There's a map that shows you where you have been and where exits/entrances to the areas are. And there's a save point in each of the eight areas so you never have to start all over again like in the original game.
The controls are on point. It's like controlling an RC car with your Wii-Remote. The controls feel very nice and responsive. The sound effects are good and fit perfectly and seamlessly in the piece. The music also sounds nice and each area has a different musical track. The bosses are well designed. They are big and very colourful. There are, among others, a scorpion, a giant bat or a centipede that chases you around. Two of the bosses are used twice to fill in space but of course with increased difficulty when you meet them again.
In the dungeons each weapon can be upgraded to level 5. But there's a catch: Whenever you get hit by one of the gazillion projectiles on the screen, your firepower will be immediately decreased by one. So all your weapons are back to level 1 in no time. And later in the game the "P" symbols are rare and very hard to get. If you need firepower, I found the best strategy is to return to the earlier areas of the game to grind for powerups which is often a frustrating and annoying ordeal. They could have rectified this issue by adding teleporters to each of the areas.
Though the graphic elements are pretty well designed and suit the presentation, most rooms look very similar to others. More variety would have been welcome.
The map only shows the locations of caves and save-points, but it doesn't tell you which cave you have already searched and where upgrades still can be found. Also it doesn't tell you which is the boss cave. The best is to draw (or print out) yourself a map and mark the caves where you have found something. This could have been better resolved by letting the game keep track of such information.
The side scrolling, Metroid-like, part of the game is not that hard. There are enemies everywhere but most can easily be killed and many leave energy packs behind which refill the health bar of your vehicle. The top-down-view dungeons are harder because there are sometimes so many bullets flying around that you can't help but take some damage. But this is also not too much of a problem.
For me the hardest part of the game are the bosses. Most of the bosses spawn enemies around them. After a while you just get completely swamped with enemies and projectiles. Then it's all about utilizing your three weapons and avoiding shots. It's like dancing through bullets when the screen is packed full of them. In my opinion this is a negative aspect but I realize that some will like it. If you're accustomed to Shoot 'em up games like Ikaruga where sometimes the whole screen is filled with projectiles and almost no space to move then probably it's a piece of cake for you.
If you are looking for an action-adventure game like Metroid with 2D graphics and a pinch SHMUP bullet patterns then Blaster Master Overdrive may be a good choice. It looks good and controls well. And it has enough content to to keep players entertained for at least a week. But be warned. The difficulty in this game is higher than in Super Metroid or any other Metroids I've ever played. This is mainly because the bosses are a bit like bosses from bullet hell shooters like Ikaruga, R-Type III or Radiant Silvergun.
If you're accustomed to such SHMUP games then you will love this. Shooter fanatics and hardcore gamers in search of a worthy challenge will be more than pleased with it. But if you get easily frustrated by video games and have no desire to do the "bullet dance" and dodge entire screens filled with projectiles and to repeat the same dungeons and bosses again and again, you should probably never ever play it.
Though, I'm not really a shooter fan in generaI, I personally somehow enjoyed it. It sometimes drove me crazy when I died at a boss and then had to repeat the last section a dozens of times. But after I kept playing it long enough, the bosses became feasible and at the end I completed the game and was glad not to give up too soon.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/12
Game Release: Blaster Master: Overdrive (EU, 06/18/10)
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