Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition Review
Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition is the latest in a long line of retro pixel shooters that are being made to pay homage to (or cash in on nostalgia for, if you’re cynical) the action games of yesteryear. But while other recent entries in this genre have added modern touches, Blasting Agent makes the bold choice to fully embrace its retro trappings in terms of both style and gameplay. “Bold” might be too complimentary a word, however, as this decision to go back to basics results in a game that’s about as barebones as possible.
Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition casts the player as a secret agent on a mission to stop some vague threat. The website for the game is a bit more descriptive, labeling the enemy force as a terrorist organization called the Black Hand of Fate, but the game makes no effort to provide information regarding setting or context. This isn’t a problem, per se; if there’s any genre of game that doesn’t need a detailed story, it’s this one. However, the lack of any discernible effort to liven up the presentation only works to compound the issues caused by some of the other design choices the game makes.
The gameplay here is about what anybody familiar with this genre would expect: run around fairly linear levels and shoot stuff, then fight a boss. There is a light element of exploration, with collectible upgrades strewn around the environment, but they all feel rather perfunctory, with a standard suite of health, attack range, and bullet spread improvements on display. All of this works well enough, but some frustrating design choices work to undermine the core mechanics. Enemies often come from above and even sometimes diagonally, but the player can only shoot left or right. This isn’t an issue for most of the game, but in instances where enemies are coming from every direction except the floor, the limited aiming coupled with a lethargic rate of fire can result in some frustrating deaths. Another small detail that resulted in large amounts of frustration was the damage and small bounce that players receive when they touch an enemy. Most games bounce players back a few in-game feet when they touch an enemy, but the paltry bounce in Blasting Agent means that if you land on a large enemy, you’ll most likely lose most, if not all, of your health before you can maneuver off it; I died more times by accidentally slamming into an enemy after a floaty jump than by actually getting shot. Finally, Blasting Agent is presented in an aspect ratio reminiscent of an arcade cabinet, but this meant that the top of the screen, which displays percentages for the number of enemies killed and treasure collected in a level, was mostly cut off on my TV. A quick study of the small settings menu revealed no way to fix this issue.
As for the “Ultimate Edition” subtitle for Blasting Agent, I’d be hard pressed to tell anybody what it’s referring to. New characters with different abilities can be unlocked after you beat the game, but that hardly seems worthy of such a self-aggrandizing moniker. Nothing about this game feels like an “Ultimate Edition;” there is only the game itself (which can probably be beaten in around an hour, depending on skill level) and nothing else. This is a shame, as some sort of bonus content would have gone a long way toward making this feel like more of an “ultimate” edition instead of a standard package. I would’ve been very pleased with a digital soundtrack, for example, as the music is easily the highlight of the game.
All things considered, Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition only does a few things wrong, but it doesn’t do anything else particularly well. Some minor design flaws hinder a short, simplistic game, and the barebones presentation does nothing to make this “Ultimate Edition” stand out. Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition brings nothing new to the table; if you’re a fan of this genre, your time would be better spent replaying an old classic instead of a cheap imitation.