We'll admit we were skeptical of Blast Works: Build, Fuse and Destroy the first time we saw it - but probably not for the reasons you'd think. The problem wasn't that Blast Works is a side-scrolling, 2D shooter - we like the old school stuff. And it wasn't that the graphics are so primitive and blocky that it looks like everything is made of LEGO bricks. No, the big problem we had was that it's basically a port of a PC indie shooter called Tumiki Fighters, which can be downloaded for free (just click on the name). Why should we pay $40 for it now? The answer turns out to be, "Because the sticky gameplay is still crazy-unique, and now there's an awesomely robust construction kit that lets you create your own stuff and upload it to them thar interwebs."
Above: Your ship starts off small, but it needn't stay that way for long.
First, the basics. Yes, Blast Works: Build, Fuse and Destroy is a side-scrolling, 2D shooter - you have a plane, you fly from left to right shooting everything you see, the end. But there's one thing that makes it different to every shooter you've ever played: When you "kill" an enemy, it doesn't explode. It falls from the sky, and if it touches you, it sticks to you. And if it had a gun (if it was a fighter plane, for example), that gun keeps firing, but in whatever direction it happens to be pointed now. It's similar to the adhesive ball rolling in Katamari Damacy, but in midair and with bullets.
Thus, you start with a single dinky plane with a single dinky machine gun, but can quickly become a giant, levitating glob of plane, balloon, cannon, bomb, and almost anything else, belching blue balls of death in every direction. But the larger you get, the tougher it is to dodge enemy fire, and your added bits can be shot off just as easily. Luckily, you can "retract" all of your added parts with a single button press, enabling you to dodge, then release the button to expand again and resume the bullet barrage.
Above: That entire mess of stuff outlined in blue on the left is part of your ship. That should shield you from damage, at least for awhile.
This odd gameplay tweak alone is enough to make Blast Works a must-play. But as we said, that can be done for free. What sets this packaged version apart is a robust set of added tools that enable you to create your own ships, enemies, bullet patterns, and even entire levels, and then upload and download them at http://www.blastworksdepot.com/games/blastworks/.
This means the game's lifespan can continue long after you've gunned and glommed your way through the existing set or 15 or so levels (which won't be easy, by the way - this gets tough quickly). The website already boasts an AT-AT, a farting cat(?), Koopas, several R-Type ships, Megaman, Space Invaders... and perhaps most inexplicably, the head of Santa Claus. Clearly, this has the potential to keep you going for a very long time even if you don't dig the novel, but hectic two-player co-op or four-player head-to-head modes. And if nothing already online appeals to you, go ahead - make that Knight Rider vs Porn Stars on Unicorns space shooter you've always wanted, then upload it for the whole world to enjoy.
Above: Hmmm. Not bad, but shouldn't it look more like a LEGO Gryphon on fire wearing a cowboy hat?