“The following is a contributor column by the Infernal Accountant Mage.”
As I’ve mentioned several times, young me grew up overseas, spending several years in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Spain. Spain has the most powerful memories for me; even as a kid, it was an exotic land full of mystery and wonders that I would come to regard as home. I was able to see and experience many things that other people, to this day, can only dream of. As much as I complain about my childhood, it’s hard to complain about that.
Not that hard, though. See, as an American kid, I possessed American electronics. That included my game consoles. If you’re not familiar with gaming overseas, it may come as a surprise to find that there are differences in the color encoding used in North American and European consoles, represented as NTSC and PAL respectively. The bottom line here is that young me wasn’t able to get new games just anywhere while living in Spain; they’d have to come from the stores on the nearby naval base or via the mail.
There were, then, significant issues when it came to feeding my endless hunger for electronic entertainment. In the days before Steam sales, Amazon and a culture built around trading in old games for new, games were expensive and rarely got much cheaper. Picking up used games might be an option…if the few stores that carried games on-base sold them used, which they didn’t. Ordering games, which became necessary if one was after a niche title like pretty much any RPG, was both expensive and took forever.
Combine all of this with the fact that kids don’t tend to have much money in the first place and my taste in games ended up developing in a somewhat peculiar manner. Most significantly, I developed a long-lasting affection for games that offered a lot of bang for the buck. A lot of words have been spent by contemporary writers about the value of short and dense experiences, but for my money I’d rather have too much content than face an unpleasant surprise when an enjoyable experience ends.
Likewise, I almost always can’t stand actually finishing games. It is, inevitably, a disappointing experience, one magnified by how much I was enjoying whatever game before it ended. I remember finishing the SNES take on Inspector Gadget as a kid, for instance, and getting that now-familiar empty and aimless feeling afterwards – and trust me, young me didn’t think Inspector Gadget on the Super Nintendo was anything to really care that much about.
As far as I’m concerned, the best games are those that don’t traditionally “end,” instead offering content until you can’t stand to play anymore. You decide when you’re done, not the game. We’ll be talking about several of these as the column goes on – Pokémon, Monster Hunter, Bloodborne and of course Legend of Mana – but one of the first games I can recall playing that really emphasized breadth of content was Blast Corps.
Blast Corps’ concept was unique for the time and remains so to this day. The concept is that an automated nuclear missile truck has been damaged; not only is the truck moving in one direction with no sign of stopping, but the slightest jolt will set the missiles off. A safe detonation point has been located, but there’s a lot of buildings between here and there, so it comes down to the titular demolitions team to wreck everything and clear a path.
As usual, I’m not going to go in-depth about the gameplay here other than saying that it’s solid. You use various vehicles to blow stuff up and clear the way for the truck; there’s cars, trucks, a missle-launching dune buggy and several varieties of mech. The levels are generally presented as a mixture of action and puzzle elements, encouraging you to execute the most efficient way to clear the path as well as figuring out how to get to the vehicles you’ll need. It’s a good time all around despite some overuse of the less enjoyable vehicles. I’m surprised we’ve never really seen any clones.
The reason I bring up this game isn’t just because it’s fun, of course. It’s because of the sheer amount of destruction you’re getting for your money. Blast Corps does end…eventually. On the way there, though, it packs in level after level after level. You do a series of missions, unlocking further missions on a map of Earth, and those in turn unlock even more missions. You’ll unlock secret missions that can themselves branch off into further secret missions. When you think you’re about to be finished, you go and do a mission on the Moon…then on Venus…then on Mars. If you want to fully complete the game, you’ll have to return to finished missions to scour them for collectibles and secrets.
There’s around 40 levels all told. You’ll be hammering away at Blast Corps for awhile…and yet, today, HLTB.com lists it as only lasting for around 10-15 hours. I find that a little difficult to believe. Young me recalls it feeling practically endless and almost certainly spent five or six times that long playing it. Young me also wasn’t especially good at Blast Corps and, for that matter, spent a huge amount of time just messing around in the levels. Young me didn’t have too many games, but absolutely got the most out of them.
Point is, young me got a ton of play out of this game and many others like it. As I said, that sort of experience guided my views on games today. Your five-hour artistic interactive experience that redefines the face of video gaming is great and everything…but for my money, I’ll take the 60-hour JRPG extravaganza.
I might not finish it. That’s fine. I’d probably prefer it that way.
The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at popzara.com
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Categories: Wednesday Column