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Point Blank 3
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Puzzle/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Point Blank 3 uses what seems to be the exact same graphics engine as the past two Point Blank titles, a mostly 2D renderer with the occasional 3D effect (usually limited to spinning cubes and the like.) Because the PSX doesn't push 2D graphics all that well, the various objects that you end up shooting in the game seem a little more pixelated than they probably should be. It's not unbearable, and the game doesn't really rely on pretty graphics, but it's definitely not the sharpest edge on the block.

Point Blank 3's music is typical of the series, a bizarre sequence of dangerously J-Pop sounds and sometimes stress-inducing thumps for the careful shot sequences. It's nothing you'll remember outside of the game, but it definitely fits the atmosphere perfectly. Sound effects are generally pretty minimal, with the classic Point Blank 'shattering clay' sound in full effect, along with the lovely squawks that you get when you shoot Drs. Don and Dan. But, as I said before, this game isn't really geared towards amazing visuals or sounds.

What it is geareed towards is a lot of entertaining gameplay. And if you're at all a fan of the series, or if you've been looking for something to do with your Guncon now that you've played through Time Crisis too many times to count, then Point Blank 3 will definitely appeal to you.

The game is structured as a series of mini-games. In the standard game, you go through sixteen of them, randomly picked from over eighty available ones. Once you pick a difficulty level, most of the stages are that difficulty, but there's often an 'Insane' minigame thrown in to make you waste a life or two as you play.

The various minigames range far and wide in variety. There are ones that reward fast shooting (blow up the satellite before it hits the ground), ones that reward accuracy (one bullet to hit a plate at the end of a stick), and ones that reward some sort of weird mix between brainpower and reflexes. Those are generally my favourite. There's one that has you hitting the objects in numerical order--1, 2, 3--and they pop up crazy fast. My all-time Point Blank 3 favourite, however, is the letter-shooting contest, where you have to 'shoot out' as many letters as possible on a grid of 'pixels'. Very cool.

But that's basically the entire game. There are a number of different modes to keep the game going for you and your friends; you can participate in tournaments where it sets up the pairings for you, and you can do Endurance mode when you're alone to see just how long you can last through a long series of games. There's also a training mode that lets you pick any of the minigames and any difficulty level and lets you see just how well you do.

There are a few improvements in the game from the rest of the series--for one, I didn't come across a two-player unfair 'one-shot,' where there's only one thing on the screen to shoot and both players are expected to do it. I always thought that was a cheap way to make a player lose a life in the original Point Blank. But most non-hardcore veterans won't notice anything different other than the changes in the minigames themselves.

You can pick the difficulty level of the minigames that you want to attempt, and they range from the fairly simple to the diabolical. It also depends on the minigame itself--some of them are hard even on the easiest setting, and some are near-trivial on Insane. For the most part, however, the difficulty of Point Blank 3 is strictly dial-your-own, which is a Good Thing. Of course, if you're playing against your friends, it all depends on how good they are; the game is nice enough to give everyone the same minigames, so the comparison is fair.

Game Mechanics:
The game uses the Namco Guncon as its main controller. The gun is easy to calibrate at the beginning of the game, and you can recalibrate it whenever you have to switch the gun-holder (a feature missing in the sophomore effort of the series). The menus are easy enough to navigate--you shoot the buttons--and you'll be playing the game in no time. Before each mini-game a short instruction list is given, which tells you just what you need to do to play the game right. It works out surprisingly well. As far as the game itself goes, I never felt cheated by the code, although sometimes the Guncon itself would drift out of accuracy and I'd have to realign it.

PS2: There's absolutely no point in using the Graphics Smoothing option in this game; as it uses almost nothing but 2D sprites, you'll actually make it look uglier if you turn on the Smoothing option. The Fast disc load option may speed up the load times, but they're already absolutely trivial, so chances are good that you won't even notice the difference. Assuming there is one.

In the end, Point Blank 3 will offer many hours of enjoyment to any group of people who likes to sit around and shoot silly things on the screen. Its unique style and oodles of different challenges will keep the game fresh for a long time, and there's enough game modes to accommodate just about any group. While people who didn't enjoy the first two games won't find anything here to change their mind, those people are so few and far between that I think it's a risk you should be willing to take. Sure, it's nothing more than another bunch of minigames, but when they're as fun as the ones in Point Blank 3, what's not to love?

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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