de Blob (Wii) – Review

de Blob, developed by Blue Tongue and distributed by THQ, is an interesting title – there’s similarities to Katamari Damacy throughout, but though it is not as quirky as that title, there’s still little touchs that remind me of why I enjoyed that game.  de Blob is a very good effort for a third party Wii game; it’s fun though can be tedious near the end, but does have a lot of collection items that will interest those types of games.  The presentation is very well done, particularly in the sound department.  It’s definitely the type of game that will appeal to those that like ones that go off the beaten path.

 

Story: A-

The game is based on a world of color, Raydia, that has been taken over by Comrade Black and his INKT forces, draining all the color and forcing the Raydian residents into a monocolor servitude.  A small resistance force in Chroma City oppose the forces but are unable to combat them enough to take them down until Blob shows up with the ability to absorb the stolen paint from the INKT forces and use it against them to repaint the city, gradually freeing the Raydians and recoloring their world.  The story is primarily told from between-level pantomime cutscenes which are nicely done and are able to craft the story just by gestures alone.  You also gain insight on the city as you get instructions for missions, brief little snippets but shows some depth to what the developers saw.  It is a bit on the childish side, but that’s reasonable given that it’s rated for all players.

Gameplay: A-

de Blob may bear some passing resemblance to Katamari Damacy at first – the concept of rolling around, working your way to new areas may read like Katamari Damacy but as you start to play it, you realize it’s different… but then come around to the realization that more of the general design approaches used in Katamari Damacy are present here.  It’s not the quirk title that Katamari was, but it sure has the right touches to make it a good game.

You control Blob with expected controls schemes on the Wii; nunchuck to move around, waggle the Wiimote to jump, and a few other buttons. Control-wise the game is quick to get into.  Initially on each level, you face a black and white world.  By running into Paintbots, Blob will adsorb their color.  Once infused with paint, any surface that Blob touches becomes that color; this includes buildings, plants, the residents of the city, you name it.  However, the amount of paint you have is limited so you have to keep finding Paintbots to refill your paint to keep up the process.  Everything you paint is scored; you get more points for painting an object the first time, and if you can paint multiple objects without touching the ground, you can get a score multiplier.  When you get enough points, you have the ability to unlock a gate into the next section of the level, with each level having about 3 or 4 of these.

The paintbots come in the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue.  If Blob is already one of these colors and hits a different color, then he’ll become the mix (orange, green, and purple); if each primary color is hit once, then Blob becomes brown.  Hitting a primary color again after becoming one of these colors resets Blob back to the primary color.  If needed, you can run Blob into any water source to return him to paint-less state until he hits another bot.  Additionally, if Blob is hit by the INKT forces, he needs to be run through a water source to wash off the ink before all his paint is drained, otherwise you will have to restart the level.

Throughout this, you’re fighting a countdown meter, but you can gain time by a number of means.  Most commonly is to take up challenges issued by your fellow revolutionaries in art.  There are four types of challenges that are available; converting INKT buildings back into the colorful forms they were before, facing off against INKT forces, painting buildings to specific colors, and racing via checkpoints through the cities.  Each of these has a time limit and a difficulty rating, though most are pretty easy to complete.  By far, the most difficult ones that may require some planning are the building painting ones.  The early ones of these ask you to color buildings a specific color, which is not a problem, but as you get into the later stages, you’ll have to painting buildings multiple colors, often a mix of primary and secondary colors.  This can be made more difficult by having buildings that need to be painted one color only accessible by jumping from a building that has to be painted a different color.  Since you can’t avoiding painting when you touch a surface, these means you’ll need to backtrack to repaint the launch-point building after you’ve dealt with the more difficult one to access.  These challenges get trickier with game progression, but failure does not reset the world, but instead simply leaves what you have already filled in alone, making it easy to finish off multiple times.  You get the same reward for finishing it (another minute on the clock), but the wasted time of failing the first time can loom on that countdown timer.  In addition to challenges, additional time can be found scattered about the level or by both painting a complete city block and painting the citizens as they come out after you freed them.  I found myself never without a time crunch in the game, but this may be a problem for less experienced gamers.  The game is not hard, but neither a cake walk; there are some challenges that are tricky but challenges are mostly optional; the more difficult ones do feel rewarding to complete.

The INKT enemies come in several forms that require different tactics to approach, and can only by smooshed out with a set amount of paint.  You’ll also encounter INKT forces that can only be harmed when Blob is one specific color, thus making it difficult to progress if you haven’t gotten the hang of the color system yet.  The foes aren’t super intelligent, they are merely deterrents and reminders that you need to keep abreast of your paint levels and where you are in the level, and where the nearest source of water is.  The game does provide a nice one-touch interface that shows where the nearest water source is, as well as paint bots, challenge starting points, and objectives as part of a challenge so that you don’t get lost.  There is one final boss to the game, but it incorporates all the concepts learned previously in the levels, and is not very difficult.

Where the game becomes more Katamari-like is that it is set up for those that are completionists and perfectionists.  Each level does have a fixed number of items to paint, and one possible goal is to achieve that completion.  But even if you don’t go for that, you can aim to paint all of the billboards or plants, rescue all the citizens, collect all the paint styles on a level, and many more mini-objectives.  Of course, there’s also scoring aspects to consider, and using paint-combos to build up a good score can help there.  When you complete a level, besides opening the next level, you’ll gain access to bonus content as well as two additional timed challenges for that level.

There’s also a handful of multiplayer modes for 2 to 4 local players, with modes similar to various Tony Hawk multiplayer matches.  A paint match has you all vying to paint the area with your color before time is up; a king-of-the-hill type mode has only one player that can paint, the others trying to take that away from him before he paints up too much.  A third type is a race to paint specific targets first when they show up on the match.

There is, unfortunately, a small bug that can be reproduced that is annoying, in that you can get stuck between two objects while the game thinks you are falling; you’ll become unable to move at all and the only way out is to restart the level, which means up to a good 30 minutes could be wasted.  I’ve had this happen twice, and while it’s not overall detrimental to the experience, it is surprising to see it there.

Value/Replayability: A-

There are about 10 total levels in the game; if you sit down and pound through them, you could be done in 5 hours, but de Blob is not about rushing through but enjoying what they’ve put forth.  It does get a bit repetative, and I felt there was a point in diminishing returns on the number of levels, but it’s just barely past that point – it’s not too long to become too boring.  But like the original Katamari, its length is just off from what one would consider “perfect”. Of course, having all the completeness goals available does give incentive to replay the game.

Graphics: A

This is a very clean looking game for the Wii, the only nit being that the camera just sometimes doesn’t track fast enough in tight busy streets.  The way the game transitions color as you move from an area devoid of it to one bursting with color is nice, and there is a nice sense of wonder as you watch your efforts pay off.  There are some obvious short drawing distance pop-up effects that are clearly shown, but it really doesn’t ruin the game’s experience.  Even with the city in its default white palette, it’s easy to make out all the different features in the game.

Audio: A+

I love the approach this game took to the soundtrack.  When you start a level, you select a general ambiance mood music out of about 10 different choices (most unlock with level completion), nice little jazzy numbers that fit the game’s theme well.  As you start, the music is very subtle and laid back but as you color in the city, the music gains depth and becomes more pronounced.  Furthermore, the color that Blob has influences this, adding record-scratches when brown, orchestra hits when red, and the like.  When you paint objects, these even add to the music score, again based on color.  It is ultimately very pleasant to listen to and completely suits the mood of this game.  Voice work uses made up noises, but it sounds similar to how speech was done on Okami, in that real voice actors provides voices, then these were heavily computerized to mask the speech; they’re not as annoying as the high-pitched ones in Okami, and help with the personality of the characters.

Overall: A

de Blob is likely not going to be the next Katamari Damacy in terms of cult titles, but there are definitely elements that both games share in their appeal.  The game itself is well put together with great graphics and an outstanding soundtrack, and though the gameplay can get a bit long and tedious, it does allow you to take in as much or as little as you want, with lots of appeal to the completionist.  I can see this game gaining further titles in the series with some additional new features without changing the core gameplay completely.  It may be a renter if you’re curious, but if you do like unconventional games, de Blob fits that bill.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: