It's hard not to get sucked into a video game when everything you see on screen is designed by your own hands. Blast Works lets you build a palm-sweating, curse-spouting shooter with the unseemly challenge you've always dreamed of but could never satisfy through more conventional means. Or you can let your imagination take over and produce an utterly baffling opus that will sicken people who don't understand your twisted take on reality. The action doesn't quite live up to the promise of the flexible editor, but Blast Works can be an incredible experience if you have the determination.
Before you dip into the versatile editing tool, you're going to have to understand how the basic gameplay functions. Though you won't find any weapon upgrades, screen clearing superbombs, or even scoring chains here, there is one clever mechanic that makes this stand out. Any enemy you destroy can be snatched up by your ship, turning its ammunition against its former allies and providing you with a handy shield. It's a strange maneuver, allowing you to coral a giant ball of foes that can fill up the entire screen, but while it is fun, it's not very deep. A single shot or kamikaze run can whittle your ball of destruction down to just little 'ol naked you, so you'll have to fly deftly between the bullets and sometimes turn your massive fleet invisible to stay alive. There isn't a lot of strategy, though, so you'll get bogged down in repetitive actions after awhile.
The action can get really chaotic.
The hour long, 15-level campaign serves as more of a template than a full-fledged shooter experience. The entire thing was built using the editor, so anything you encounter can be tweaked to your liking. There is the expected array of ships and tanks, but there are also a few flashes of goofy brilliance, giving you a hint of what you can design if you master the art of the editor. Because you can unlock various cheats, more editing options, and previous shooters by the same designer, it's well worth playing through the campaign a few times, but it's certainly not necessary if just want to starting building right away. It isn't the most imaginatively designed tour through Blast Works, but it does showcase a number of play styles and visual diversity.
The main draw is clearly the in-depth editing tool, which is powerful enough to bring even the wackiest ideas to life. The majority of your editing duties will be taken up designing a heroic ship, vile enemies, and unobtrusive scenery. You're limited to just three common shapes--triangle, square, and circle--but because you can stretch and color them to your liking, the only real limitation is your own talent. Until you figure out exactly how to turn some squares and a few isosceles triangles into the bug-eyed teddy bear riding an ice-cream-cone school bus that haunts your nightmares, there is a slight learning curve. But once you get over that initial hump, creating crazy drawings is fast and seamless.