Blink the Bulb Review
The dreams of the 1990s are still alive and jumping
As I was born in the late ’80s I grew up playing pretty much every popular retro console from Atari 2600 and on, but I’d say some of my fondest memories have to be the 16-bit era. Games then were more colorful, and everyone was obsessed with making the next big gaming mascot, as seemingly every game had one, unlike these days where everyone is some generic white 30-something-year-old with a gun. Yawn.
Blink the Bulb is a completely free-to-play love letter to all the mascot platformers of the era from the Sega Genesis. Everything is here you’d expect to find: a zany mascot, an interesting way to attack, colorful levels, and sweet, sweet parallax (much like this very site). Oh, and one awesome level that is a clear throwback to the dice level from Gunstar Heroes, one of my favorite games of all time.
While Blink would have felt right at home on the Genesis it has one distinctly modern-day ‘feature’: the game crashing.
It is hard to be too critical of Blink since the game is literally free from start to finish. But there is plenty here to like, especially if you’re into that whole nostalgia thing. First off the levels are well designed, not quite on the classic Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy but maybe closer to Awesome Possum or even Ristar, just without the polish. Platforming feels good, if not a smidgen floating or fast, but not in a bad way. It helps that you can double jump to adjust your momentum and aim.
Bulb attacks via tossing out sparks quickly or charge his attack for a larger ball that can pass through enemies. Items and upgrades can be purchased from chests scattered throughout levels using collectible sparks. Items can range from consumable health upgrades, passive perks, automatic secondary attacks (each with its own cooldown), or equitable heads. These heads grant Bulb different attacks and abilities, such as the heart head lets him literally shotgun fart out a cluster of hearts and then slowly float downwards as long as the secondary attack button is held. Other heads do various attacks, and one allows trading 75 sparks for full health, which is a pretty good trade.
As I mentioned before, Blink has a slew of more modern day bugs. In my playthrough the game crashed at least five times, making me have to start the current level I was on over. Thankfully, there is an autosave system that at least saves your progress, levels wise. One boss fight (of which there are many) had one-half of the boss invincible till I died and reloaded the fight many times.
Other criticisms include the music, which may just be a personal preference thing, but many of the chiptune tracks found here seem to lean a bit too hard into the high pitches which I just found annoying while playing, especially considering how short and thus repetitive the loops are. Sound effects, on the other hand, sounded like they were ripped right out of a Sonic game, as does the onscreen introduction of each level; that is to say, I liked them. The bosses, on the other hand, play a lot like what you’d expect from a Mega Man knockoff: repetitive and predictable movement and attacks, yet somehow compelling to fight against.
Blink the Bulb is not a great game, but it isn’t terrible either. If there hadn’t been so many crashes and there was a bit more polish I’d have easily given this game an above average score. Since this doesn’t cost a dime and pulls on the right nostalgia strings I’m probably being lenient, but it’s hard to hate something free. ’90s kids, this ones for you.