Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

When You’re Mining for Gold, and You Forget…

Sunday, October 29th, 2006 by Matthew in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 133 votes, average: 3.22 out of 5)

Blast Miner is the first game by Cryptic Sea, Alex Austin’s new company (Alex was a co-founder of Chronic Logic, makers of such fine physics games as Bridge Builder and Gish). Blast Miner is a physics-based drop puzzle game. You manipulate pieces that fall from the top of the screen; if the board fills, you lose. You score by blasting pieces of gold up from ground with massive, physics-riffic explosions. It sounds fun, even cathartic–but the implementation can be surprisingly frustrating, which is a shame, because I really want to like this game.

Gameplay Structure

The goal of Blast Miner is to set off explosions such that pieces of gold in the ground are thrust upwards, at which point they’re sucked into your gold-collecting machine. If too much other crap–TNT, dirt, cement–gets pulled into the machine instead, it breaks and you lose. Although this can happen prematurely if you aren’t careful, it generally occurs when the ground pushes up so far that the screen is completely filled, at which point it becomes completely inevitable.

Design Origins

Blast Miner is patterned after Triptych, a Chronic Logic game that played a bit like a physical Tetris. Alex confirms this in a Game Tunnel interview:

The original idea came from watching my friend Dave play Triptych, he got so good at the game he would throw the blocks around, not even bothering to stack them. So I thought it would be cool to have a game where smashing the blocks was the whole point.

Blast Miner has much faster pacing than Triptych, though. In fact, if you go back and play Triptych after playing a bit of Blast Miner, it feels downright sluggish. Blast Miner plays much, much faster. In fact, you almost have to play the game faster. This leads me to one of my biggest qualms.

Forced Play Style

One frustrating aspect with Blast Miner is that it’s actually quite difficult to get gold out of the ground. I suppose that’s proper, as gold is awfully precious. The most successful technique is to break open your gas cans to soak the ground underneath the gold. Then, if you detonate the soaked ground, the gold should shoot upwards–but only if there aren’t any explosions above the gold, which push it back down.

One way to play the game is to carefully manage the placement of all of your pieces. You can deliberately set up circumstances that will net you gold if you’re careful. The game doesn’t really support this style of play, though. The ground rises too quickly, and before long you’re swamped. The end result is a score that pales in comparison to Alex’s and Edmund’s scores on the high score list.

Thankfully, you can view the replays of any game on the online scoreboard. Watch the top players and you’ll quickly see how you should be playing. They spam pieces as quickly as possible, only occasionally slowing to take advantage of an opportune situation. There is some craft and some skill to this technique, sure, but it’s really the only valid way to play Blast Miner. And that’s a shame, because the hallmark of a great physics game is one that supports multiple play styles, without allowing any particular style to completely dominate another. Blast Miner fails this test.

Blast Miner Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Blast Miner Game Screenshots)

Blast Away, Brave Miner

Blast Miner delivers solid physics, Edmund’s signature art style, and some variety in game modes (“super” mode with acid and time bombs and a 2-player versus mode). The game does feel a little rough around the edges, particularly with the pacing. The rewards are spaced too far apart to really get into a nice positive feedback rhythm.

Of course, it’s very easy to armchair game design. The reality is the implementation of an idea and the practical realities of development present a very complex challenge to a developer. Still, I feel like all that Blast Miner needs to shine is some iteration. If it were my game, I’d sit off-the-street players down on tape, silently observe them play the game for the first time, and then analyze the results. Rinse, repeat, and work towards something that encompasses a wider range of styles.

If your own personal play style coincides with the fast-as-possible mentality needed to succeed in Blast Miner, you should really enjoy the title. The rest of us may not be so lucky, but all physics game lovers should definitely check it out nonetheless.

Download Blast Miner Demo (10 MB)

The full version of the game is $19.95 and available from the official Blaster Miner webpage.

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19 Responses to 'When You’re Mining for Gold, and You Forget…'

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  1. Kurrus said,

    on October 30th, 2006 at 6:48 am

    Yay, first comment! ^^
    Im glad you reviewed this game, its great. I recently got totally addicted to it! I MUST PLAY! NOW! GAAAAAH!!!!!!

  2. Beakless said,

    on October 30th, 2006 at 8:38 am

    Bah! i hate $19.99 games that don’t have good ragdoll physics in them! i did eventually buy ragdoll masters and toribash

  3. Great_Pretender said,

    on October 31st, 2006 at 3:46 am

    I tried this game a few days ago, and I wasn’t really impressed. Even doing nearly exactly the same thing that the tutorial is doing while it’s happening can produce a bad effect (like gold flinging sideways and resting in the mine again).

    Gameplay is way too hard. I want to be able to play, not recite.

  4. yojimb0 said,

    on October 31st, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Yo is that the music that comes with the game? That is a pretty tight track… Thanks for a great review.

  5. Matthew said,

    on October 31st, 2006 at 9:14 am

    The game has no music, actually. The song in the video is an untitled Ratatat track.

  6. Blueberry_pie said,

    on November 1st, 2006 at 8:52 am

    I kind of like the game… just not enough for me to buy it. It’s fun, but I’m never really able to play for more than a few minutes without dying.

  7. bla bla bla said,

    on November 4th, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Why does my run so slowly. Iys like 2 fps

  8. Danny said,

    on November 4th, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    i hate this game.Its not so physical.I only like physical games when you do something with a physical body like truck dismount and stair dismount and the rest of physical games

  9. Jhon said,

    on November 6th, 2006 at 8:46 am

    This website was great for the first week, looking through games. BUt. Once i downloaded all the decent ones i was waiting for updates.

    anyways this game is “ok” nothing i would buy i.

  10. Boyblunder said,

    on November 6th, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Some of the more recent games have been kind of lacking. Hopefully some new updates will be good.

  11. Matthew said,

    on November 6th, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Boyblunder: The reviews have been lacking? Or the games themselves? One reason reviews have slowed down is that I’ve pretty much talked about all of the *really* interesting games I wanted to talk about. There are a few canonical games to cover, still, but a lot in my queue is student projects and the like…

  12. Boyblunder said,

    on November 7th, 2006 at 5:45 am

    Yeah, the latest games have been kind of boring, I understand that there aren’t very many good ones out there, which is why I’m just waiting patiently.

  13. Alec said,

    on November 8th, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    May I suggest Roblox as an interesting physics-based game? I’ve become obsessed with it recently. It’s the first game I’ve ever seen that really creates a complete physical reality, in which the physical laws are defined and everything else is up to the user. You can do just about anything in the world, and you can use the included IDE to design very complex creations – I’ve built pistons, gears, walking robots, etc. all using their construction tools and scripting engine. If you look past the child-oriented surface, it’s the most flexible and intricate physics toy available.

  14. Beakless said,

    on November 12th, 2006 at 7:54 am

    Yawn, are you on holiday or domething matt?

  15. Robminder said,

    on November 12th, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    its been so long now, *cough*, im going into phys-game detox

  16. Beakless said,

    on November 13th, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Errrrrrrr, Yeah, Alec i looked into your Roblox thing, and although it looked and sounded nice, it didn’t work for me.

    eyryfgiEGFGIG!!! Ah!…..sorry i was going into physics-review withdraw.

  17. Jamie said,

    on November 23rd, 2006 at 9:41 am

    How did the 12-year olds all find this site at once?

    In all seriousness… you guys do understand that Matt has another job, right? He’s a game developer, so this is something that he tries to maintain in his spare time and for the love of physics-based games.

    So in a few words… “Grow up, guys.”

    Great site, Matt… From one game developer (who wishes he had the spare time to maintain such a great site for fun) to another (who clearly has created something original and informative), I salute you!

    – Jamie

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