A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia review
Blobs will take over the gaming industry some day, just you wait...
The Platforming genre has been around since the dawn of video games, but it rose to popularity during the third through fifth generations of video games consoles. Many brands from the genre are known by almost every gamer in existence; Mario, Sonic, Spyro, Metroid, Crash Bandicoot and so forth there are literally dozens of huge franchises that are predominantly made up of Platformer games. However despite completely dominating the gaming industry for so long, in the last two generations Platformers have been usurped from their throne by Action games, particularly FPS and as of late have almost been completely wiped off the market. Most Platformers released these days are either heavily mixed into other genres, or relegated to downloadable titles that often go unnoticed with a few notable exceptions (Braid, Lost Winds, ect). As such for a fan of Platformers such as myself, I was ecstatic to find out about A Boy and His Blob.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the game’s history, A Boy and His Blob was originally released on the NES and has also found a home on the Wii’s Virtual Console recently. The game was a rather innovative Platformer Puzzle hybrid that made use of inventive mechanics centered around a shape shifting blob. Fast-forward to November 2009 and the game finds itself completely remade for the Wii, with beautiful hand-drawn graphics and a redesign of the innovative gameplay to keep it up to date with the current demographic whilst still retaining the ‘Retro feel’ the somewhat old-school styled title has.
"God damn it, why are these conviniently placed blocks so damn heavy?"
There’s no real story as such in the game, you are a young boy whom apparently lives in a tree and seems o have no family whatsoever and one day conveniently stumble upon some strange blob that calls upon your help to save the land from an evil emperor whom is attempting to take over. Although none of that is really made clear in-game and is instead explained to you through the instruction manual; once again homage to the game’s NES roots. The lack of a compelling story may be off-putting for some, but when you consider this is a side-scrolling Platformer there really isn’t a pressing need for a story, and most of your appreciation for the game isn’t going to come from a well told tale either.
Visually the game is flawless; fantastic hand-drawn graphics bring the game’s unique and abstract art-direction to life, creating a very surreal world that will keep you captivated all throughout. The clever use of imagery in the foreground and background make the world itself seem much more real than the 2D plane it takes place in, and the smooth animation of everything is absolutely amazing. A Boy and His Blob is arguably among the best looking games on the Wii, and in all honesty it’s brilliant art style is enough to argue for one of the best looking side-scrollers ever created.
The soundtrack is somewhat questionable at times, the unique music is about as abstract as the levels you play throughout and whilst it’s undeniably interesting I find myself often question how memorable the tracks really are. They fit the game and they’re certainly calming and add to the game’s overall charm, but you aren’t going to find yourself wanting to listen to them once you’ve put the disc away. The audio work as a whole though is very impressive, and the questionable quality of the songs doesn’t damper the fact that at the very least they fit the levels they’re in.
"Blob, I don't believe you should be taking a bath in there."
Once you get into it, A Boy and His Blob is pretty much your typical side-scrolling Platformer; you jump about platforms and head from left to right and occasionally up and down to reach the end of the levels. However the game sets itself apart with the ‘blob mechanic’ in which your adorable and squishy companion comes into play. You control the young boy whom is capable of pretty much nothing but strolling and jumping and not very high at that, so in order to make your way through the levels in A Boy and His Blob you have to make use of your companion, and this is done through jellybeans. Why the jellybeans cause hideous mutations with the cute little blob is beyond any sort of logic, but by feeding the little guy/girl/thing jellybeans of various colours you’ll find that the blob transforms. The assortment of changes range from a ladder, hole, trampoline, torpedo, and a good 10 other transformations (There are 15 in total if memory serves) and you’ll have to use these varying forms of the blob to make your way throughout the world. The ladder and trampoline are used to go up as one would expect, the torpedo can fly you about, a ball can be kicked into enemies and if you turn the blob into a parachute you can make your way down otherwise bone-shattering falls. The blob can only be transformed into one state at a time, so you have to ‘call’ the blob to revert it from its current form before you can feed it again. Each level only gives you certain colours of jellybeans, so you’ll have to experiment with each form of the blob you have access to if you want to make it through the stages, and you’ll find that the puzzles you’ll face in the innovative manners in which you’re expected to use the blob will get more complex as the game goes on.
In terms of control you’ll find that everything works as you’d expect, you use the A button to jump and the analog stick on the Nunchuck to move about. When you want throw a jellybean you hold down B and use the analog stick to aim, then release to the throw and the blob will go to the bean, eat it and transform, to toggle between the colour of jellybean you hold Z and select it with the analog stick. You can also interact with the blob, from calling it to you, telling it to stay where it is and even hugging the adorable thing, which is the only particularly useless function in the game, but it’s such a charming and cute thing to watch you’ll find yourself squeezing that little plush with a face far too much. The game controls perfectly and thankfully avoids tacking on motion controls when they’re unnecessary, something a great deal of Wii games do out of obligation and find themselves worse off because of it. However putting aside the great Wii remote and Nunchuck control scheme, A Boy and His Blob also offers compatibility with the Classic Controller, a fantastic addition to the game giving players more freedom over how they play and the control scheme itself works perfectly.
"To infinity, and beyond!"
Aside from simply jumping about and exploiting your little friend to make your way around, you’ll also have to deal with enemies frequently. For some reason they all appear to made of some sort of ink, and they can all kill you with one touch, however the blob is apparently completely immune to death and can survive fatal drops, drowning and contact with these apparently fatal-to-touch monsters. A lot of the time though you’ll find these creatures are surprisingly passive and won’t care for your presence, instead choosing to get along with their daily routine of pacing back and forth like they need therapy, meaning you can often just find a way around them. However a lot of the time you’ll also find that the purple ink blobs seem to be placed in areas you can’t avoid them, often forcing you to deal with them some how. A few forms of the blob can be used to destroy enemies, where as at other times you’ll have to make use of environmental hazards like gates operated by switches or stone blocks. Although to this day I still can’t shake the feeling that the slaughter of the cute little things is inhumane since in the end, only two species of your purple-coloured foes will ever actually try to attack you. There are also several bosses through the game, which are all centered on discovering their weak points and making intelligent use of your blob if you expect to win. They present a surprising amount of challenge all things considered, and the ways in which you go about beating them are often quite clever.
The structure of the game is quite simple; you have four worlds each consisting of ten stages and a boss battle. You can travel between the worlds outside of levels and you can progress at your own pace, going back and playing levels whenever you feel like it and continuing to beat the newly unlocked stages when you’re ready. There are 40 stages on the basic run of the game, but you’ll find that there three hidden treasure chests in every level, and collecting them unlocks the ‘Challenge Version’ of that level, which are significant step-up in difficult and give you something to do after beating the game. The levels themselves last anywhere between 2-10 minutes with some being incredibly short, where as others should take you a fair amount of time. On the whole the game lasts around 5 hours give or take, but this is pretty much the perfect length to maintain enough substance to be worth your time whilst also ending before it becomes repetitive. When you consider the challenge stages and the variation between how quickly people deal with puzzles and the like, you should get a good 8-10 hours out of A Boy and His Blob which is a great deal when you consider this is a re-imagining of a NES title that can be beaten in less than an hour if you know what you’re doing.
"Don't worry Blob, as long as we stand still I'm sure it won't notice us."
Summed up A Boy and His Blob is an inventive side-scrolling Puzzle based Platformer game that offers a style of gameplay that can be appreciated and enjoyed by both ‘Casual’ and ‘Hardcore’ audiences and brings it to life with top-notch presentation, never looking anything short of amazing. The game isn’t flawless, the blob’s AI is unfortunately rather incompetent at times but this is thankfully remedied by calling it enough times, and the game does have an undeniably slow pacing which isn’t generally an issue but it does become somewhat monotonous at times. However inventive puzzles and mechanics keep A Boy and His Blob fresh throughout the experience, and its presentation is enough to keep anyone enthralled.
A Boy and His Blob is undeniably one of the best games available for the Wii, whether you’re looking for a fantastic Platformer with a retro feel and charming presentation, or you just have a fetish for adorable amorphous white blobs with smiley faces on them, A Boy and His Blob is simply a must have title for Nintendo’s platform.