Blue Print is a strange arcade maze game developed by Ashby Computers and Graphics (A.C.G.). It was licensed to Bally Midway in North American and European markets, and Jaleco in Japan, in 1982. A.C.G. would later became famous for their Ultimate Play the Game home computer games (Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Knight Lore, et cetera), and became even more famous as Rare (Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, et cetera).
In Blue Print you play a character called “J.J.” who must explore a maze, avoid contact with falling hazards, and find parts inside houses and carry them to the blueprint diagram at the bottom of the screen. If J.J. visits a house that he’s already been to he will emerge carrying a bomb, which he must quickly get rid of in the nearby bomb pit before it explodes. If it’s a blue-coloured bomb he’s carrying you have about five seconds to get rid of it before it explodes. If it’s a red bomb you have about three seconds. You can hold down the fire button to run faster, which helps when you have a bomb to dispose of and to speed up your collection of parts. Your ‘fast run time’ is limited and is shown as a red bar at the bottom of the screen, so it’s best to use it sparingly.
Occasionally a monster will also appear and stand on the ‘Start’ button in the bottom left of the screen. This makes all the parts on the blueprint fall off, and until you grab the monster and throw it down the monster pit you won’t be able to attach any further parts to the diagram.
When the machine is complete J.J. must then activate it (by pressing the start button) and use it to shoot balls at the monster that is chasing the girl at the top of the screen. If the monster catches the girl before you shoot it you lose a life, so this acts a timer to hurry you up. The premise of Blue Print is weird to say the least…
To me, Blue Print feels like a claustrophobic and bizarre game. The maze you’re running around is very small and all the periphery around it seems a little big. Avoiding hazards is not easy, and the time limit to complete the machine is very tight. Blue Print plays more like an early home computer game rather than an arcade game.
On my first few plays I lost all my lives very quickly and it took me a while to actually understand what to do and what the hazards were. The game even mocks you if you die in quick succession (“did you read the instructions?” it says, except without the question mark), which is a bit unfair. In fact: the entire game is barely playable and not much fun. Placing parts on the blueprint is fiddly and dealing with bombs is a huge pain in the butt.
Of the four early A.C.G. arcade games (this, Dingo, Saturn, and Grasspin), Blue Print is my least favourite. In fact: all four of these games are flawed and ridiculously basic in terms of gameplay, and none of them really indicate how good A.C.G. would become during their Ultimate Play the Game years. I would only recommend playing Blue Print if you’re interested in A.C.G. history.
More: Blue Print on Wikipedia
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