The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review - Blue Print (Atari 5200)









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Blue Print (Atari 5200 - CBS Software - 1983)

Blue Print can be a little deceptive. It's easy to get lost in the gauze of memory and forget the nuances and subtleties of older games. Playing them again after an extended break can sometimes reveal aspects of them you might have forgotten. Occasionally, these can make for an unpleasant surprise, but there are cases where quirks emerge that seem to bring about a new appreciation for game's design. Take for example, what appears to be a relatively straightforward conversion from the original arcade by Bally-Midway. It's a cult-favorite that doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves. On the surface, it might seem like yet another simplistic tile that lacks challenge and depth. Dig a little deeper and you can find a few surprises that aren't immediately apparent.

At first, it appears to be a simple game of memorization but as you get deeper into the experience, more complex mechanics come into play. Its premise is relatively straightforward on the surface. An evil guy has kidnapped your friend and is chasing her around the top of the screen. It's up to you to save her by building a machine and firing a projectile at him to stop him in his tracks. Its sound simple but there are actually several things going on at the same time, and keeping track of all of them can be a tricky balance. As you begin the game, your main character is placed at the bottom of the screen. He's walking around and the first thing he encounters is the blue print the center of the play field. It's here that he needs to assemble the pieces of his machine. They don't always fall right into place and you have to manuever them around a bit until they fall into place. It takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of this, but it quicky becomes second nature once you learn its quirks. It can be mildly frustrating when one of the monsters comes out and knocks the pieces off their position. Fortunately, you can grab these monsters and throw them down the pit to avoid this, so it pays to get rid of them when the appear.

Locating its pieces, you need to travel upwards towards a maze of streets where numeous houses are placed. It's a somewhat tricky setting that he has to traverse, while avoiding monsters along the way. When you enter a house, you'll typically find a piece of the machine hidden within. Depending on how far away you are, it can be a mad rush to get there in time. When you collect a piece. a buzzer sounds and you can walk it back down the map and place it on the Blue Print. Assembling the pieces in the right place is a relatively simple task, but occasionally, a monster runs out of the hole and messes them up. throwing them around, and putting them off their position. At this point, you need to have to put them back into order until they clicks into place. This costs you valuable time and distracts you from gathering other pieces you might need. It's not as easy as it sounds because some of the houses contain bombs that he has to dispose of before they explode and he loses a life. These occur randomly in some of the houses. Additionally, bombs can show up appear when you go into the same house a second time after collecting a piece from it. Once you collect a bomb, there's no going back. He has to rush back to the bottom of the screen and throw it in a hole before it detonates. You can't hesitate when you have a bomb since there's only a few seconds before it blows up.

Fortunately, there's some good news. You have a small burst of speed-up energy that you can use for a short time, which comes in handy. This lets you race to the bottom of the screen and drop the bomb into the pit, setting it off safely before it explodes. However, the speed burst is extremely limited and you should use it sparingly. In addition, there's the matter of that guy at the top of the screen chasing your girlfriend. If he catches her, you lose a life and have to try once more. It's surprisingly challenging, especially when the more complicated levels appear. These feature more complicated mazes to navigate and additional enemies walking around the paths, which gives you less room for error. In order to beat the harder levels, you'll need to piece the machine together quickly, and make as few errors as possible to avoid losing a life.

Several enemies can get in your way, and you need to memorize where you've been and avoid going back inside the houses, which can be a challenge. You'll also have to make sure to keep your character's speed up bar in reserve if you need it later on, so you have to avoid the temptation of using it too much early on, which means there's some patience required. Its a fun game but Blue Print offers more depth than it might seem like on the surface. You'll need to master several skill sets simultaneously if you want to progress to later levels. Blue Print's charming visuals make it stand out from the pack with cool animations of the main characters, the monsters chasing them and the crescendo of each level where the machine is finally built leads to a cool end-of-level confrontation where you aim the machine's at your adversary and hit the monster chasing your girlfriend. There's a lot of polish and quality in the presentation, with an excellent soundtrack that compliments the gameplay mechanics without overwhelming the action. Blue Print has all the hall-marks of a cult-title, with a unique concept and execution that makes it one of the more engaging titles from the golden-age of video games.

- Michael Palisano