de Blob 2

Someone Blows Their Nose And You Want To Keep It?

Our first exposure to the series yields positive results. Perhaps we have a new platformer on the block!
Author: Ryan Green
Published: January 27, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that I own a Wii. Yes, one of those powerless, underutilized devices that is plagued with more shovelware than Facebook could even dream of. But on such a platform, there are a few gems that third-party developers put out. The original de Blob never made a gigantic splash with critics, but it certainly was a vibrant platformer that stood out enough to make its mark.

However, most consumers were too busy huffing paint fumes to even consider a non-Nintendo title that didn't feature Barbie, Petz, or minigames. But what is Nintendo's loss is everyone elses' gain, as now de Blob 2 is coming to the PlayStation 3 this February. Recently I had the opportunity to go hands-on with the final (or near-final) build of the game at a press event in New York City.

One of the first things I noticed about the game is how is has a familiar sense of humor. A kind of slap-stick, but one that is more clever than the garbage that you see on Mad TV cartoons. I sort of liken it to Pixar in terms of quality and randomness. Every level that I jumped into had that characteristically tame feeling to it and put you in a good mood for your mission ahead.

As 'de Blob', you are charged with saving your world and its denizens from the bad dudes. As typical as it is, especially for a platformer, it is in the execution of said heroism where the game departs from the pack. Scattered throughout the drab, industrial landscape are sources of paint. Whenever you smash or roll into them, you pick up color to splatter onto buildings, enemies, and the hapless masses, all in an attempt to free the world from oppression.

In this world, de Blob is essentially a paintbrush. He needs to get ink and go to town. Sometimes you need to mix the primary colors to complete a certain objective. Conversely, you might need to rid yourself of the paint or the toxic black ink that will revert your coloring efforts and slow your progress down. If you can harken back to that bygone era of elementary school art class, you can handle the weird nostalgia of splattering fools.

Getting to jump your enemies is looking like your only means of attack in de Blob 2, as it is the case for the original. Sure, your options open up along the way, but from the levels I played on, auto-targeting ground-point worked just splendidly. I encountered a few different Inkies along the way, occasionally requiring me to think about where in the level my paint water sources were. Although they are mostly fodder, some Inkies will pose a threat to your existence, spraying you with a slime blower of black ink.

You're messing with my Zen thing, man!

Our old blobby friend doesn't have much to fight with, relying on a oddly-feeling yet satisfying pounce move to save people and hurt Inkies. But aside from that, de Blob requires you to mix your ink and keep a steady supply of it to get the job done. How they make this a challenge is by limiting what you can perform in the game with the standard “collect and unlock” gameplay model, which didn't strike me as too important at the time. By grabbing little lightbulb icons littered in each level, you can buy new upgrades, like the capacity to hold more ink. With that upgrade alone, you can finish levels swiftly and more efficiently than ever before. It shows some promise and I'd like to see how it plays out over the course of the game.

Beyond item collection and fighting, players are faced a lot more with navigating semi-open 2.5D spaces and 2D linear sub-stages. The primary, open areas are filled with spots to explore and hazards to avoid, and it contains most of the fighting in the game. The levels don't seem to have the scale that, say, Super Mario Galaxy has, so don't expect and epic adventure just yet. What your focus is, more so in the 2D sections, is solving the puzzle. These puzzles consisted of getting the right color to the right spots of the level, and making sure every surface was reinvigorated. Exploring the stages to find more upgrade tokens seemed to be the main motivator to go our of your way.

The platforming itself is a point of concern to me still, as Blob sort of moves primitively. Sure, you can argue that a semi-solid piece of matter will only control so well, but I like it better when my character has the fine motor skills beyond that of an infant. One of his abilities is a wall grab that didn't seem to have much purpose apart from aggravating me to no end. Perhaps with time, I will come to understand his movement, or lack thereof. In the meantime, de Blob moves to erratically for the simplistic platforming I encountered. To that end, it felt like a typical platformer, and in my mind, that isn't condemning nor praise-worthy.

One thing that isn't exactly a standard affair for games these days was seeing a third-party game running in 3D. Surprisingly, I didn't have much anger about it. I am firmly anti-3D, but one of the nice things about de Blob 2 was that it didn't throw objects at the screen, as far as I saw. The 3D tech was used to create a strong depth of field. The environment itself felt larger than life and ran smoothly with few, if any, drops in framerate. Granted, I couldn't compare the game running in 3D and standard 2D presentation modes with any ease, but the performance didn't look hampered. Aside from the random objects popping into existence while the game was in 3D (due purely to the perspective of the camera), it looked fantastic.

de Blob 2 doesn't seem to have all that much running under the hood, but for what it seems to lack in graphical complexity, it makes up for it in spectacular design. Apart from Stacking, de Blob 2 was visually the nicest and cleanest game that THQ had to offer during the press event. It can be a dangerous path in the world of modern gaming to play it simple and not use the full extent of the hardware, but Blue Tongue Studios looks to have a strong handle on their franchise. After hearing that this game was on the table for this event, I was very skeptical, but my brief exposure to it has turned much of that doubt around. Of course, there is a lot more to this game than I got to truly dive into, like the 2-player co-op, but you can definitely expect to hear more about de Blob 2 when our full written review comes out next month.