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Blue Blink Reviewed by Adam Romano on . Rating: 92%
Blue Blink
Blue Blink Blue Blink Blue Blink Blue Blink
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Often you hear little kids saying they want to own a pony, but who actually gets one? And if one does have a pony, he sets herself up for criticism. Other kids might tease him, call him a rich snob, and then the deep reality of class envy is thus learned at a young age. Perhaps this is why, out of all the equestrian animals, the pony is seen as the least heroic. Horses of legend are rugged and brave and given virile names like Silver, Trigger, or Roland's Veillantif. Likewise, donkeys, though nameless, connote heroism; they carried Jesus into Jerusalem, lugged munitions in the First World War, and they even represent a major political party in the United States. Ponies need representation. Heck, even the famous Pony Express was run by men with horses.

And then one day, a young boy named Kakeru, finds a pony in a thundershower, rescues him from a drowning, and in return is given the power to summon the animal in times of need. When Kakeru's father is kidnapped, the boy calls in the favor immediately and with aid of the mystical pony, he sets out on a rescue mission. Don't make fun of this little boy's pony, lest you want to face-full of hoof.

The father-quest that is Blue Blink is a surreal story that grows stranger with each frame. After finding Blink, Kakeru enters a magical transdimensional bus that brings him into a fantastic land of princesses, demigods, and sorcerers. The show's artist and writer, Osamu Tezuka, the progenitor of today's anime, highlights the story's dreamlike quality by making a nod to the master of surreal, Salvador Dali, in the intro adorned with bent clocks (ala Dali's Persistence of Memory). The cartoon is celebrated as one of Tezuka's "most ambitious" works, but it never came to a full realization since the artist died a few months before its debut.

As a game, Blue Blink has largely gone unnoticed, and this is a shame since this may very well be one of the best non-CD platformers for the PC-Engine next to the Bonk series. Sharply drawn and colorful sprites move with alacrity across equally vibrant backdrops. You control three characters simultaneously in congo-line style, with the leader being the only one susceptible to damage. The "select" button allows you to change the bellwether of the group, each with his own special ability. Like the U.S. Super Mario Bros. 2, you choose your protagonist based on the layout of the land, but the developers here save you some guesswork and provide the three characters you will need to finish each level. Also like SMB2, a princess in a pink dress allows you to make jumps more easily (according to video game physics, pink skirts are the equivalent of a pair of Air Jordans). Princess Kirara, however, cannot kill any enemies, so you will need to use her sparingly according to the each situation. The rest of the characters (Kakeru, Tanba, Nitch, and Satch) fire weapons with different trajectories and intensity, and you may want to toggle between each to discover some hard-to-reach hidden, invisible objects in each level.

Each world begins with an overview world map, and you are given a limited choice of what route to take to reach the resident boss. Getting to the last level of each world is often swift and easy, but when you arrive at the door to each boss's lair, you may find yourself without a red key. Though slightly frustrating, looking for the hidden red keys in each world gives what could have been an all-too-brief game longevity. Backtracking to comb already completed stages for an invisible jar holding a key sounds repetitive and dull, but the bouncy and jaunty nature of the each stage makes for a fun treasure hunt. Once you know where all the keys are located, the game takes a little over an hour to solve.

As in cartoon, the pony only shows up in times of dire need. When you fall down chasms, he buoys you back onto terra firma; when you lose all of your health, he breathes a little more life into you; when you face the five boss battles, he serves as your faithful and powerful steed. These boss battles are typical and fair, each following a set of memorable patterns that can be mastered in only a few attempts each.

The strangest flaw in the entire game occurs during the forced scrolling stages. If you find yourself wedged between an obstacle and the edge of the screen, you may lose all of your lives in one shot. This seems more of a glitch or oversight than an intentional punishment. The good news is you can continue and return to the last world you visited, but you will need to restock on all the supplies and lives you had just lost.

Like the truncated cartoon series, the game seems to fall a bit short of its initial potential. Since the first three worlds are named after colors (Ivory Town, Rose Town, and Yellow Town), you may get excited and think that the game will explore the whole chromatic gamut, from ROY all the way to BIV. The fourth world, however, is simply called Rainbow Town, summing up the entire spectrum, and then it is followed by a final and more linear world where you showdown with a sorcerer and find your father. When you consider, however, that there is no password system, perhaps it is merciful and right that the game isn't larger than it is.

Blue Blink is a very well balanced platformer that requires a reasonable amount of dexterity, thought, and commitment. Most gamers will be able to finish it after a few sittings, but most will not have that hollow feeling that they have just beaten an easy game.
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