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bleem!

Score: 70%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: bleem!
Developer: bleem!
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Thereís no good way to describe bleem! in the traditional format. How can you discuss graphics and sound when it varies widely game by game, as does the gameplay?

Simple: You canít. So Iím just going to ramble on about bleem! and hope that you pick up some general gist of what Iím getting at throughout the review.

Happy?

There are some things that bleem! does really poorly. Take sound, for instance. No matter how much I pinch and tweak, bleem!ís sound is always choppy. About the only game that has choppy sound only in a few places is Gran Turismo, and thatís probably because itís one of the major games that bleem! strives to make perfect. Final Fantasy VII sounds good as well. Other games, though, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, have such unbearably choppy music that you just turn your speakers down so as not to hurt your ears. The voice acting is just as choppy. It hurts.

And the frame-rate. Ah, the frame-rate. Gran Turismo is jumpy at times on my system -- which is just wrong. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night slows to a crawl. Excuse me? 2D sprite-based gaming runs slower than a heavily-3D racing game? I donít get it. And I feel that many purchasers of bleem! wouldnít get it either.


Gameplay:

Now, Iíve got to admit, Iím a huge, huge emulation fan. Iíve been playing around with emulators since they could barely do a C64 and Game Boy emulation. I was there when the first SNES game ran decently. Ditto for the Genesis. And in such a short time span (three years? four?), weíve gone from emulating systems from the early 80s to emulating systems that are still in production and selling strong.

So, it is with a depressing hole in my heart that I must say, although bleem! is a very pretty tech demo at times, and really shows off the programming prowess of the developer, overall it is not a market-ready product. Would emulation fans use to half-working software and steeped in the knowledge that itís impossible to get everything -just right-, enjoy this little program? Hell yes. I enjoy it. But is it something that is salable? I doubt it.


Difficulty:

A lot of games just plain donít run, which makes for frustrating experiences when you want to play your favorite game and it just... sits there. And some of the graphics are warped to hell and back again -- Tekken 2 being the most obvious.

Game Mechanics:

There are some things that bleem! does really well. Take load times, for instance. Since bleem! doesnít try to mimic every single little chip inside of a PlayStation, when it gets to loading times, it revs your CD-ROM up to full speed instead of running at the 2x that the PlayStation itself has. This means that load times are practically non-existant. And when you see Gran Turismo running at 640x480, rendered by your high-end 3D card, you want to drool all over yourself. The game is absolutely gorgeous. Memory card support is excellent as well (at least in the newest release, v1.4), and itís handy to have a whole hard driveís worth of space for saves. No more debating as to what you want to delete off of a card -- just make a new virtual one.

The original version of bleem! that shipped a few months ago was not production quality. The new engine released today, v1.4, is a vast improvement, but bleem! is still not a commercially viable piece of software. Sure, all us emulation fans bought it within the first weekend of sales, simply because we had to have the Next Best Thing. But if youíre not an emulation freak, youíre just going to get really, really frustrated at bleem!ís vagaries. Low frame-rates, really poor sound quality, and compatibility that keeps growing, yet fails to grow fast enough, make bleem! nothing more than an expensive tech demo for the general populace. If youíre into this sort of thing, by all means, nab it. Appreciate it for what it does. But if you canít handle software that, quite simply, canít do everything that itís purported to do and probably wonít for a while (although the developers are hard at work making sure that ďa whileĒ is ďreally, really soonĒ), then you want to stay away.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win95/98, P166+, 16MB RAM, 3MB Free HD Space, Sound Card, CD-ROM, Internet connection
 

Test System:



AMD K6-III 450 w/256MB RAM running Win98, Creative TNT2 Ultra w/32MB RAM, 6x32 DVD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster Live!

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