Let’s… Sorta… Talk About Point Blank

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I don’t know about you, but I felt as though the Playstation managed to do something pretty special for the gaming community. If anything, we were given a glimpse into how good arcade conversions could be and the graphical prowess of this new era of games. You look back to old-school arcade conversions of things like Golden Axe and Altered Beast and basically, they were not very good. The graphics were shoddier, the sound was weaker and the basic game felt like a lacklustre attempt at recreating the arcade experience… only with the same scoring system.

See, arcade games didn’t have achievements or accomplishments. You got no satisfaction out of it other than being one of those high score people at the end of the day because you knew that you’d only have it there by the end of the day when they turned the power off and EVERYTHING RESETS ITSELF. I was top scorer on the arcade Golden Axe on my school residential for all of a day.

And then again on the next day.

Look, the table tennis table was usually hogged by the older kids. I made do with Golden Axe. And I didn’t even fucking well like that game. I just knew how to play the damn thing cos my friends had the Mega Drive version of it. They both sucked. But points were a thing. You got your name in lights for a bit. It was all we had.

Step forward Namco and the Point Blank series: gun games from the arcade era of gaming ported to the PS1 with the added bonus of using the GunCon or any other gun peripheral that was compatible and all that gubbins. You know the stuff.

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Back in 1994, Namco released the original Point Blank into the arcades (called Gun Bullet in Japan) and after three years, it was ported to the PS1 in fine form. It was pretty much an exact port as far as I could tell. If you know Namco at all, they produced a lot of gun games, including the Time Crisis series, particularly for the arcades. Time Crisis and Point Blank were ported (and a few other produced to use their GunCon because of course you’d bleed that thing dry if you could…) and in this instance, we’re treated to a cornucopia of shooting gallery style funfair games.

That is basically what Point Blank is. It’s not OTT skilful. It’s not got hordes of enemies screaming bullets at you everywhere you turn. You don’t have to use an external pedal to hide from enemies (seriously, what was THAT about?). Nope. You basically got a ton of targets and bottles and piranha to try and eviscerate.

It’s ALMOST as fun as it sounds.

Now, Back in the day, I remember actually renting out the game WITH the gun peripheral because that was the way to way it. Unfortunately, I never actually bought it and instead had to play this game using the D-pad. THIS is why I’m only classing it as a Sorta… game as opposed to a good one. But there are a couple more reasons as to why if you just give me a little bit of patience and get out of my face. Rude. I was getting there. Don’t rush me. What’s wrong with you? TCH.

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Point Blank is a BRILLIANT gun game. There is no denying that. It is a game DESIGNED around the use of it. The controls are perfectly responsive and pretty damn accurate so basically having it with the gun is going to increase your enjoyment tenfold, Penfold.

Without the gun, you’re kinda left to wallow a bit. The good thing is you can essentially set the game to include infinite continues so you can pass through the game pretty easily. Not that this is a good thing, you understand. It isn’t. It’s actually a stupid idea. Making your game instantly beatable without even trying is just a waste of time. It’s totally unsatisfying to realise that even if you fail, you can still win. It teaches us nothing. Failed the challenge? No consequence. Oh OK. I’m going to flip this table because apparently there’s no consequence to it.

OK, I’m taking that slightly out of context but you understand what I mean. In the gaming sense, it’s almost cheating. Yes, it’s OK for practice (even though you HAVE practice options), but in the grand scheme of things, you achieve nothing. Winners don’t use drugs and all that. You drug cheat, you. You sicken me.

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Now, here’s where the home console version kicks in somewhat. There’s an RPG-lite mode where the two main characters, Dr Dan and Dr Don, traverse Point Blank island (which is shaped like a gun because OF COURSE IT IS) in a quest to… I dunno. There was a story bit to it but to be honest, I really couldn’t care less about it. It’s not that it’s not FUN, or INTERESTING, it’s just that… it’s really just a way of throwing in a million shooting gallery stages at once without any ACTUAL context other than shooting things because they already have a stage with it in. Birds attack you! SHOOT THE BIRDS! A stuffed animal attacks you! SHOOT THE ANIMALS! Piranhas attack you! SHOOT THE PIRANHAS!

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Yeah. That’s it. It’s twee, in a weird way, but it’s convoluted and the control mechanism involves you shooting at the screen and waiting for the two gents you’re controlling to move in that direction to the point you shot at. It’s a bit silly to be honest and the rough translation doesn’t always help matters. There’s not much point to what you’re doing it for and you’ll easily get lost and most likely get killed because wandering doesn’t always help and money earned from ‘battles’ is pretty scant. It all feels very tacked on. There had to be MORE than just the arcade game, apparently, so why not shove in an extra game as value for money?

Next time, we’ll just stick to the arcade game. Maybe a few more stages next time, that’d be grand. Ta.

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Also: graphically, not exactly winning me over, guys. Copy and paste graphics at their finest, people! ALL TREES ARE STANDARD TREE A. ALL GRASS IS PLAIN GRASS C (and looks like green water…)

Again, the whole thing works better with the gun but it’s not saying much. The control method is still janky and concept is just poorly executed for the most part.

It’s just a vessel for shoving in the shooting gallery games which is where the fun lies.

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The aim of the game is pretty simple of course. Arcade mode has you trying to pass stages by fulfilling the targets/quotas set for you. That can range from anything between shooting a single leaf floating down the screen with ONE BULLET to shooting octopuses popping out of pots, whilst not hitting the bombs.

The actual range of shooting games is impressive for a first foray into this type of game genre. It’s the type of short blast minigame that pre-empted WarioWare by almost ten years. Granted, they’re not as MICRO as WarioWare and it DID come after the Bonanza Bros game I reviewed a while back (TANT-R! Go check it!) but it’s the first light gun game of its kind like this. We’re not counting anything produced for the SNES gun thing or the Mega Drive gun thing that both sucked major, major balls.

If anything, it IS the shooting equivalent of the Tant-R game. Timed games where you have to fulfil an objective. The game doesn’t end once you achieve it – which leaves the possibility open for a few extra moments – but the results screen feels a bit… lacking. There’s no difference between SUCCESS music and FAILURE music, which is a bit of a missed opportunity. In fact, there isn’t much in the way of music at all really. You don’t really hear it as you go along although some of the musical styles fit the theme of the stage (e.g. jungle beats for stages in the jungle…) but it’s all just there. It’s not exciting, it doesn’t actually ADD anything to the game. It’s just there. Even getting into hard stages, you’re only really treated to a sinister sounding piano note to accompany this screen:

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GUESS WHAT? This stage is going to be ROCK HARD. Not because of any other reason other than the QUOTA is huge. Not because the challenge or the task itself is difficult… but because they want you to shoot more things than you would normally shoot. Instead of shooting 30 piranhas, they want you to shoot 52. Instead of shooting 22 bitrds, they want you shoot 45. It’s usually DOUBLY difficult and in some cases, unless you’re an absolute expert at these types of games, they’re impossible. The numbers are either too high to be FAIR or they’re impossible because you can’t achieve them quickly enough to get everything. I’m not accusing the game of being unfair at all. It’s just there’s a very fine line between margins for error and being 100% accurate with EVERY SHOT to pass a stage. It’s challenging, don’t get me wrong, but I VERY RARELY – if at all – pass these stages. Very rarely. The piranhas attacking the doctor on the vine one is probably one of the few I can pass on VERY HARD.

And we’re not talking a difficulty curve. Every single difficulty setting has VERY HARD games. And these get progressively harder throughout the difficulties too… if that makes sense…

In Normal mode, they’re much more doable targets. In Expert mode, they’re pretty much impossible. In VERY HARD mode… basically you’re setting yourself up to fall. If you wanna go and do that, be my freakin’ guest but fucked if I’m going to spend my time losing every stage on the off chance I get the bloody piranha stage again. 16 times. And even then…

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In actuality, there is a decent amount of variety in the stages. The one above is one of my favourite ones where you have to shoot the matching animal on the shelves and of course, the black pig looks similar to the bombs so OF COURSE you’re going to make an error here and there… it’s a sneaky little bugger of a stage but it’s the kind of stage you need to break up the relentless trigger-happy stages elsewhere. There’s also the keyboard stage where you have to spell three-letter words. It’s actually much more fiddly and less accurate than it ought to be. In fact, I kept shooting the letter I and it kept telling me I shot the O so it didn’t like that one bit. I didn’t lose anything for shooting the O (EVEN THOUGH I WAS FUCKING WELL SHOOTING THE I KEY), but if I had, I’d have been pissed off at the lack of accuracy. This is the sort of accuracy game that ALSO works very well.

By similar tokens, there’s a stage where you have to shoot the numbers 1 to 16 in order which is way more tense than it has any right to be.

It’s not ‘Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes’ tense but there’s pride at stake here.

“YOU CANNOT COUNT ON FROM 3!”
“IT IS THE GUN’S FAULT.”
“THAT IS A FALLACY. YOU THINK 11 COMES AFTER 3.”
“THEY WERE NEXT TO EACH OTHER ON THE SCREEN AND YOU KNOW IT.”
“1, 2, 3, 11; THAT’S HOW IT GOES, RIGHT?”
“I’LL SHOOT YOU 11 TIMES IF YOU DON’T SHUT UP.”

Hey, you’ll have enough bullets at least.

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Let’s be clear. Point Blank has been a real nostalgia trip and is a cracking game. It is excellent fun to play but the hazards of hoarding old peripherals means that you WILL require a gun to play it with. Without it, basically you’re fucked. It’s nowhere near as much fun without one. In fact, it’s pretty much unplayable.

Without it, you’ll just have to point at the screen and hope finger-sensing technology works.

ONE DAY. ONE DAY THOSE INVISIBLE GUNS WILL WORK.

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