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Review: Blast Off (PSP Mini)

6:00 PM on 12.02.2009 // Dale North

Perhaps you've heard about the PSP Mini games and wondered what the big deal was. They've been likened to the iPhone App games in size and function. And that's about right, except you get to use real buttons. Ooooh, burn.

Maybe you've been wanting to try one. If that's the case, I have one for you. It's probably the best one available, and it's called Blast Off.

Blast Off, from Halfbrick Studios, is a gravity-based puzzle game that is so addictive that you're likely to lose track of time. This is the kind of game that gets you in trouble. My PSPgo's battery has died much faster lately, and that's mostly because I've been leaving it on standby with a game of Blast Off constantly running.

Seriously, so far, this is the PSP Mini to get. Read on for our review.

Blast Off(PSP Mini)
Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Publisher: Halfbrick Studios
Released: November 24, 2009
MSRP: $2.99

In Blast Off, you fly a cute little rocket ship through space, working to pick up floating astronauts and bring them back to a gate. Your only enemy is gravity. Get too close to a planet or meteor or black hole, and you'll find yourself exploding. You're essentially predicting where gravity is going to pull you and working to use your booster to negate that. On top of that, you'll need to pick up your astronauts and get them to the gate before both your air and fuel supply run out.

If this doesn't sound very deep, that's because it isn't. But what Blast Off lacks in depth it makes up for in difficulty. While I beat the game on "easy" in one sitting, even "normal" is a bit of a ball buster. You start out by doing simple things like avoiding one planet's gravity to pick up one astronaut to take to a gate. But later you'll find a lot of lost astronauts floating around a swirling black hole, and you'll have to avoid crashing into meteors to get them. Oh, and you'll have to watch your air and fuel supplies. If you're a champ, you'll nab all the floaty bastards quickly, earning you extra points for the remaining fuel and air you have left. If you suck (like me), you'll grab just enough of the stranded to barely pass.

The control is pretty simple. The analog nub controls the angle of the ship. X is your rocket booster. You're in space, mind you, so if you give it too much gas, you'll go floating off into nowhere, and you won't have enough reserves in your tank to get back. Too little gas and you might find yourself colliding with the nearest planet. Sometimes the directional placement with your ship via the analog nub seems even more floaty than it needs to be in space. You'll get turned around, try to correct, and then find yourself colliding into a planet. It's not a deal-breaker, but it will have you screaming to the heavens on some of the more challenging levels. When the game gets into "hard" range, you'll be thankful that they've set a convenient reset function to the L button. It was like this for me:



*hit L to reset*



*hit L to reset*


After awhile, though, you'll start to build some proficiency with the controls. You'll get a feel for the gravity. You'll see that you can orbit around black holes if you're careful. Confidence creeps in. It's then that you can start chasing scores. Getting all of the astronauts in a stage will get you gold stars, or perfects. If you're feeling like a total badass, you can shoot for the Brick Star, or the currently set high score. Those will not come easy, trust me.

Blast Off is a super approachable, crazily addictive little game. Well, it's not little, as it's going on 50 playable levels. But the file size is nice and small, and so is the price ($2.99). You might have seen this on Xbox Live, but it feels much more at home on the PSP as a Mini. I can only hope they have more Minis like this lined up.

Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Dale North, Former Dtoid EIC
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