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Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space

Cats are far too clever. One day they will take over the world and reduce us humans to litter tray-shovelling, hairball-extracting slaves. Look at the evidence: cats go round to that mental old lady's house and act all cute and fluffy so they can get a saucer of milk. They identify the person in the neighbourhood who takes the most pride in their garden and then crimp off big jobbies all over it. They can fall off tall buildings and land on their feet. And they control time.

Or at least Blinx does. He's a cat and a Time Sweeper, a janitor of tick-tock who goes around sucking up wasted time with a vacuum. He's also a bit nifty at manipulating the clock by collecting Time Crystals and using them to Fast-Forward, Slow-Mo, Record, Rewind or Pause the progress of time - which should allow for some killer teabreaks.

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You may remember Blinx's first outing a couple of years ago (Issue 09, 9.3), which was an outstanding effort at giving Xbox both a solid platform game and a lovable mascot. Well, time's moved on and Blinx is back.

Sort of. In Blinx 2 you actually design your own Time Sweeper with the brilliant create-a-character mode. You can adjust fur colour, body size, tail length, ass-licking ability - it's all here, apart from that one about the ass.

Once you've done that, it's on with the Story mode in single-player or two-player co-op. You can also kick up to three mates in the catflaps with the fun split-screen Battle mode, but to unlock the best items you'll have to play the Story mode.

The presence of a storyline will come as quite a shock to fans of the original, but don't get too excited. The cutscenes are a little... strange. Remember those weird foreign cartoons dubbed into English that still made no sense? Blinx 2 is like that. Basically the porky Tom Tom Gang has gone and broken a big Time Crystal, and you have to find the bits.

Like the first game Blinx 2 is viewed from a third-person viewpoint, and the controls are pretty similar too. The Left stick controls your movement, the A button jumps (and double jumps), and pressing the Right trigger sucks up debris with your vacuum and shoots it back out at enemies. Kill one and he'll dump some Time Crystals you can use to manipulate time. But while things seem superficially similar, Blinx 2's packing a number of improvements over the original.

First off, the shocking camera in the original has been tuned up. Using the Right stick you can sweep around your cat in total freedom, allowing you to judge jumps and avoid obstacles with ease. Then there's the improved combat system. While the original relied on some ropey auto-aim, Blinx 2 busts out a lock-on system. You're no pussy - pull the Left trigger to target a bad guy, then pull the Left trigger to dispatch him.

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Unfortunately, these thoughtful changes haven't been applied to the level design. Each environment is self-contained, which leads to horrifically frustrating moments when you fall off a high platform and you end up back at the start of the level. There's no excuse for this kind of annoying design, and it's compounded by badly placed checkpoints and the fact you can't save your game mid-mission. Boo!

At least the Time Controls are cool, right? Well, not really. It still feels ace watching a demolished bridge moonwalk back to its former glory with sweet 'tick-tock' sound effects, but at the end of the day you've got the same five Controls being used in the same tired ways. Arrows shooting across your path? Hit Pause and batter them away. Need to press two switches at once? Use a Record to make a copy of yourself standing on one, then hop onto the other. New 'Reactives' (see Get Reactive, left) mix things up a bit, but for the most part Blinx 2's Time Controls are stuck in the past.

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