In a state-of-the-art game with a multimillion-dollar budget, the explosions are just eye candy. Most of the time, the biggest blasts don't leave a single mark on the world around you. But in Blast Miner, blowing stuff to smithereens is the means and the end of the game: You can detonate almost anything, and a single spark can remake the whole board. A puzzle game in the "incredible machine" vein, Blast Miner challenges you to free nuggets of gold from increasingly convoluted mines. To move the gold, you set off explosions that knock it through the ceiling, out a side wall, or even around corners and over obstacles. This simple premise leads to endless experimentation, thanks to a physics engine that calculates precise reactions to your most ham-fisted actions. Finesse the map or devastate it with acid and flames: It's your call, as long as you stay within budget.
As an indie game from a small team, Blast Miner suffers some obvious limitations. The handful of maps that come with the game won't take too long to complete, though you can design and share new ones. The simple, drab graphics don't make a good first impression, and Blast Miner offers fewer options and gizmos than, say, last year's Eets. But it's hard to argue with the pleasure of synchronizing time-delayed blasts to send a chunk of metal sailing gracefully through the air.
Beyond the game: Blast Miner is in contention at this year's Independent Games Festival. The finalists are at igf.com/02finalists.html.
Worth playing for: Think the puzzles are too sedate? Try "Arcade" mode, which plays like Tetris—except the pieces explode.
Frustration sets in when: The robust engine gives you many ways to tackle each puzzle, which can also be a downside. You'll go through a lot of trial and error to find the right arrangement for a stack of TNT—though the fireworks show that follows never grows old.
Final judgment: Short on content, but big on booms.