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Point Blank
Review By: Siou Choy
Developer:   Namco
Publisher:   Namco
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Shooter
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   12-23-00

In a climate dominated by long, involved RPGs, boring (and often incomprehensible to the adult mind) N64-style kiddie games, military-style first person shooters, and creepy (and often bloody) survival horror releases, Point Blank is something truly different and unique. In fact, you can say that it's one of those games, all too rare of late, of the sort that everyone (and their grandmother) can play. More, let's take that one better, and say that it's FUN. It's also one of those rather rare (one of a whopping two, unless you count its sequel) light gun based games for the Playstation, who seems to have missed out almost entirely on the potential of the subgenre (note the strangely-hyped gunlessness of the PS2).

Dan     Don

Playing this game brings back fond memories of playing Duck Hunt on the NES; in fact, Point Blank even includes a clay pigeon skeet shoot level like the one in the now-classic Nintendo shooter. Gratefully, I can reassure the veteran gamer that unlike the earlier game, there is no dog present to laugh at you derisively when you miss a target (I can't be the only player out there harboring a secret desire for an option to shoot that dog down). Point Blank also offers a Duck Hunt-like stage where you have to gun down as many ducks as possible before they float (and fly) off screen.

How can you not like a game where they not only don't penalize you, but in fact, encourage you to shoot the main characters? You actually get extra points for shooting Dr. Don and Dr. Dan in certain of Point Blank's many games and levels. There are over 70 different timed scenarios designed to test your speed and accuracy with both stationary and (generally rather fast) moving targets. Even an ace at a game like Time Crisis may find themselves receiving a low score for accuracy (or worse, with good accuracy, but losing several "lives", by hitting a few of the various bombs, innocent bystanders, and targets not of your designated color) in some or all of the game's generally difficult mini-games.

The music soundtrack in the game is cheesy, but great for an arcade port. Much to my surprise, I even caught myself humming along a few times (though that may be due as much to the level of concentration each level requires as to its inherent catchiness, particularly given the often ridiculously short amount of time and/or bullets given to achieve said level's minimum point goal). Each stage has its own (generally unique) music appropriate to the particular setting of the stage in question.

Strangely enough, I found it both easier and more fun passing the light gun controller back and forth while playing with friends in the one player mode, as opposed to the game's set two player mode. Everyone present commented how the single screen setup of the two player mode made it far too difficult to figure out who shoot what. Many times, I finished a level thinking I did well, only to discover the person playing against me had shot the same targets that I was aiming for out from under me.

There is also a Party Play (Round Robin) Mode, which lets up to 8 people play by passing the gun back and forth and comparing scores at the end of the round. The loser faces some rather odd penalties such as being told to smell the winner's feet! There are two ways to play in this mode: Score Battle (as mentioned above) and Tournament Battle, where losers are taken out by elimination.

Unfortunately, one of the parts which seemed to hold the most promise turned out to be the game's biggest misstep: I am referring to the would-be RPG style "Quest Mode". In the Quest Mode Dr. Don and Dr. Dan travel to the creatively named "Point Blank Island" in search of "the legendary Gunball", fighting various monsters along the way. The fights are similar to the levels in the arcade mode. Movement around the map is determined by shooting the screen in your desired direction. Much like any traditional RPG, you will need to buy new items to help you along in your journey, but things are so silly here that you actually need to buy new clothes at some point or people won't talk to you since you smell!

HIGHS:

Over 70 stages to play, with lots of bonuses. Chock full of replay value. And come on, admit it, it's kind of hard to get tired of shooting your main protagonists, particularly when they're as goofy as Dr. Don and Dr. Dan (the poor man's Abbott and Costello, or Bert and Ernie, if you prefer). One of the few light gun based games in today's market, and simply put, the Guncon is one of the best guns currently available, for any home system. Cheesy but catchy music that will have you humming along despite yourself.

LOWS:

When playing in two player mode, it's hard to tell who actually shot what. I've finished a stage in two player mode thinking I aced it, only to discover that I had actually failed to meet the quota more times than I want to admit. The "Quest mode" is a bit on the dull side and not as fun as I hoped it would be.

FINAL VERDICT:

Point Blank is a fun shooter game with plenty of repeat play value. Unlike the countless single-play, cookie cutter "story" games cluttering the shelves today, this is one of those classic arcade games everyone remembers fondly from their youth, and much like those games, you will likely find yourself playing this one for a long time to come. Perfect for anyone out for an old-fashioned, family style good time.

Overall Score: 8.5


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