If you've got a PSP Go, there's a chance that you've checked out the PSP Minis store that appeared upon its release. Of course, if you've got a PSP Go there's a chance that you're a member of an elite alien conspiracy known only as 'The Manifest', but we've got a review to write so we'll just skip all these possibilities and get into it. The philosophy behind the PSP Minis are small, cheap games which have simple and addictive gameplay concepts perfectly suited to handheld gaming. Of course, the Go isn't the only platform they're compatible with, as regular PSPs and now even the PS3 can play these smaller titles. Blast Off made by Australian developer Halfbrick, takes the Minis' philosophy and runs with it, delivering a fun and addictive game, that doesn't outstay it's welcome.
On the surface, Blast Off is just like Lunar Lander or any variation thereof, where you control a small space shuttle which you can rotate, while firing its engines at the expense of fuel. However, rather than landing the space shuttle, you have to navigate it across small solar obstacle courses filled with spatial phenomena. Your goal is a device that looks a little bit like a Stargate, but to activate it you'll need to rescue a certain number of astronauts floating around the course as well. So the concept is, 'blast off' from your starting position, rescue the astronauts and head to the goal. Simple, right?
Well, just as every Christmas has its Scrooge, Blast Off has its gravity. Gravity hates you, and it's going to do everything in its power to send you spiralling down into the depths of a black hole, or crashing into and exploding on a nearby planet. However, it can also be your friend. Most of this game, revolves around you getting the hang of gravity, knowing when to fire your engines to raise your orbit, when to let yourself slingshot around certain objects, how much power to use when blasting off and which obstacles will have more pulling power than others. There's frustration, sure, but you instantly respawn upon an unsuccessful attempt meaning you can try again and again with no repurcussions lending a really addictive charm to the game, as well as making it more of a puzzler as you try and figure out the perfect route. You've got a time limit in the form of an 'air' meter, as well as rapidly decreasing 'fuel' meter which makes conserving as much fuel as you can a priority.
You'll be scored depending on how quickly you completed the level, as well as how much fuel you used and how many astronauts you saved (there are always surplus astronauts that will nab you more points if you rescue them). Over the game's 45 levels, your greatest enemy will be Halfbrick themselves, as you attempt to beat their score and be awarded gold medals. The game is divided up into four difficulties - easy, medium, hard and insane - each with their own unique levels. The only problem we can see is that this is a very short game if you rush through it. If you just get the minimum number of astronauts in each level, don't care about the high scores and just plough through the game, it's less than two hours, if even that. But then again, isn't that why these are PSP Minis? It's a short game, but the experience certainly entertains while it lasts.
As you can see, the game's presentation is pretty basic, but the colour palette and the various astronomy on display are very attractive, and your little space shuttle is quite cute. The sound is also very well done, ranging from soothing synthetic chords to more upbeat and cool spacey jingles. Sound effects also sound great, with the soft 'pffft' of the engine and the heartbreaking 'poomf' of its destruction being the the two effects that will be rattling around in your head after a play session.
We'd hold up Blast Off as a great example of what can be done with a PSP Mini title, as although it is quite short in length, its addictive nature and well-constructed concept and puzzles mean its a title you'll be returning to quite often, to beat high scores and obtain better medals, but also just to have a tool around in a gravity playground. It's perfectly suited to the handheld market, and with the low price-point it's something definitely worth checking out.
Worth buying? Yes
Our PSP Mini ratings system
We give every game a 'buy' rating of 'Yes', 'Maybe', or 'No'.
Yes means this is a very high quality game, and we have no problem recommending it to anyone as long as they like the genre.
Maybe means we think the game is good, but not necessarily for everyone. If you know the game or like the sound of the description, go for it
No means that we don't recommend the title at all.