Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he's a demolitions expert in an endless war with all things standing, tasked with knocking buildings down by blowing them up.
I've been playing Blaster Simulator , a building demolition game that asks the question: ARE YOU READY TO CRUMBLE? Actually, the tagline for the game is BLAST LIKE A PRO! but I like mine better. This is one of those games that doesn't even need a tagline, frankly. It doesn't need a picture or a logo or a title. The publishers could have wrapped the game disc in brown paper and written "You can knock buildings down with explosives" on it and I would have instantly appeared, djinni-like, thrusting money at them and clawing at their game-bag. It's knocking down buildings! I don't need to know more!
Spoiler alert: I needed to know more.
Career mode in Blaster Simulator begins with a little tutorial area, which features a few structures to demolish and a few physical signs to sort of vaguely tell you how to accomplish this. It seems a little weird to erect a structure next to the structure you want demolished just to tell you to demolish the first structure. Maybe a second demolition crew will arrive to demolish the instructional structures? But then they'd need their own instructional structures erected, which would require another demolition crew to knock down, and they'll need their own signs...
It's also worth pointing out that the signs tell you what to do without telling you how to do it, but after a few minutes of experimental button-pressing I manage to learn how to plant explosive charges, which look like giant red balls (just like explosive charges look in real life, I assume). With the junctures covered in explosion orbs, I hit the ignition button. Kablooie! A giant screen-filling gray cloud appears, and about ten seconds later it finally clears. The steel structure is completely gone! Sweet! The only thing left is the instructional sign and a window bluntly informing me I have completely failed!(opens in new tab)
Uh, what? How did I fail? So perfectly were my charges placed that the steel was either atomized or launched into orbit. Either way, the structure is completely gone. I reset and try again, this time doubling the amount of explosives. There is another kerplosion, another huge cloud obscuring the screen, and once again, there is literally not a single molecule of steel left. Another failure window lets me know how disappointed it is in me.
I blow up the structure a few more times in as many different ways as I can think of, and continue to be shamed by the fail window. Puzzled, I walk over to another challenge sign, which tells me to detonate a metal structure made of cross-struts. I do so, sending it to cross-strut heaven. Fail. There's also a small brick wall, which I turn to dust. Fail.
I'm preparing to do what I always do when I'm stumped by a game, which is to get on the internet and do some searches for better games to play. Then it hits me: maybe they want me to destroy all three tutorial structures at the same time with the same kerplosion! I plant my Red Balls of Exploding on the steel, bricks, and struts, and blow them all up at once. Success! I am now free to go blow other things up. Thanks, vague tutorial signs!
My first real task is to take down a brick smokestack. I am given two exploding balls, one red and one green, though it is not explained to me what the difference is. I stick 'em on and hit the trigger. Once again, the screen fills with a giant dust cloud, and when it finally clears I can't help but notice the tower has almost fallen on top of me.(opens in new tab)
Next, I'm told to take down a couple of old electrical towers, followed by another big chimney thing. And I sort of have to bring this up again, because it's sort of incredibly important: every time I press the detonator, the screen instantly fills with smoke so think I can't actually see the structures being demolished. Considering this is a game ostensibly about one thing, knocking things over , it would seem to make logical sense to allow the player to actually see the things they are knocking over being knocked over . For instance, here is a giant stone chimney thing that would be really cool to watch fall down:(opens in new tab)
And here is what you get to see when you push the ignition button:(opens in new tab)
I don't get it. It's not like they're using the smoke screen to replace the building with rubble, because the game actually does have physics and things are actually falling, they're just preventing you from watching most of it. Luckily, I am not BLASTING LIKE A PRO per the game's instructions, so sometimes my charges are placed so ineptly that it takes forever for things to fall over, and I get to see a bit of wobbling and swaying after the smoke has cleared.(opens in new tab)
An old overpass is next, featuring giant concrete beams and an asphalt roadway, and I'm given a third kind of explosive, which is pink, and which is also not explained at all. It turns out to be capable of completely destroying a giant concrete column. Unfortunately, they've only given me one pink explosive and there are three concrete beams, so instead of demolishing the overpass I've only succeeded in creating a jump for adventurous commuters.(opens in new tab)
I make my way through a few more challenges. A wooden watchtower must be destroyed, because no one wants to watch things from it anymore. An old zeppelin hanger must be replaced, because the owners "would like to build a new hangar." Really? They want a brand new state-of-the-art hangar for their 1890's balloon technology? Well, I'm not here to judge, I'm here to plant explosives and peer through a cloud of dust hiding all the stuff I want to see. Also, the tip the game gives me for this mission is "be sure you use your explosive correctly!" Thank you.(opens in new tab)
I take down another couple buildings, another giant brick chimney thing, and the ugliest, stupidest looking bridge ever built since I built an ugly stupid bridge in that other simulation I ineptly played. Then I'm presented with a five-story building, which is probably the only thing I really enjoy destroying, because you have actually walk around inside the building and figure out which walls are load-bearing and do a lot of experimenting. So desperately do I want to watch the fruits of my labor instead of just staring at the damn dust cloud, that I detonate the explosives while I'm inside the building, hoping I'll get to actually see the building fall. I don't really get to see much from inside the building, and the game fails me instantly because, you know, the building fell on me and I'm dead.
Eventually, I reach the final mission of the game, which isn't really the final mission of the game but simply the final mission of the game I'm willing to play because this isn't nearly as much fun as I expected it to be. "This Roman aqueduct is a reminder of ancient times," the game tells me. Reminder of ancient times! Who the hell wants to look at that? IT MUST BE DESTROYED!
Conclusion: Well, this seemed like a sure winner. Big structures plus big explosives plus me seemed like an equation for success. Alas. I'm crushed.