Join Date : Dec 2010
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IGN Review: de Blob 2
I'd say de Blob was one of the few games of recent years that really demanded a second chance. There were some great ideas in the 2008 Wii platform game, and the 2011 follow-up builds on almost all of these, while also bringing the franchise to Xbox 360 and PS3. Yes, there's a lot to love about this game. It's irresistibly charming, with a good sense of humour, solid gameplay and bubbly art direction that really point to the immense skill of developer Blue Tongue. It's also a very approachable, family-friendly game – to a fault.
There's no need to have any familiarity with the original de Blob to enjoy the sequel. It's enough to know that there's an evil faction called the Inkies, led by the bumbling Comrade Black. Under his command, the INKT Corporation has sucked all the color out of Prisma City – and it comes down to the heroic Blob and his buddies to paint the whole place back to normal and free its residents from their oppressive greyscale existence.
Blob is a surprisingly memorable character, given the fact that he's an amorphous mound of super-absorbent goo. I guess the same could be said of Kirby, Jigglypuff and numerous other characters that choose clean, bright and simple designs over shaved heads, thick necks and commando boots. That's actually de Blob 2's artistic direction pigeonholed: it's as bright as a packet of Skittles and just as sweet.
Everything jiggles and bobs with fluid animation; the cutscenes are truly excellent and giggle-worthy and there's a sheen of polish to the whole game that is really set off by the move to high-definition from its standard-definition Wii roots. It's not the most technically impressive title – and in fact, a lot of the models lack raw polygon complexity and some details are surprisingly blurry. However, the greater overall effect is that of pure cartoon-like fun.
Wii owners do get the short-end of the stick when it comes to presentation. After you see the smooth, sharp HD versions, it's hard to go back. That's not really Blue Tongue's fault – the Wii console is what it is. But even though de Blob 2's bright colours and simplistic textures work well for the less powerful hardware, things like draw distance and overall landscape detail are affected. Be sure to check out the video review for a better idea of how it looks running on Wii.
The gameplay builds on the original's premise. You still absorb different shades of paint, then roll, jump and stamp color back into the landscape. The real tricks are learning to mix colors, master the art of forward-thinking your painting route and overcoming the usual traps, gaps and spans.
New and refined gameplay ideas abound. Of these, the move to a whole 2D sub-section of the game is the best and brightest. I loved these sections to bits, bringing together great themed levels (the inside of a soft drink manufacturing plant, a university engineering lab and even just simple office buildings) with gameplay that plays with gravity, color creation and loads of timing-based puzzles. These sections don't get too tricky until late in the game, but offer pure old-school fun – at times overshadowing the 3D main course.
The soda manufacturing plants give great purpose to color-based puzzles.
Above ground, the game still uses an overall time limit to keep you pushing forward. I don't think it really has much impact on the overall difficulty though – which admittedly can be cranked up before you start a new game. The problem really rests with having too many time-increase items at your disposal, scattered throughout the level. More than that though, despite having limited lives, you have infinite continues – meaning, you can simply restart from the latest save point and the game ultimately kicks along like nothing ever happened.
Of course, this forgiving approach has a lot to do with the all-ages nature of de Blob 2. The whole game feels like it caters to the under-10s market more than it should. It's a weird conundrum – and one that even Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Bros. Wii struck against: how do you balance difficulty and skill against the chance that players might simply get bored and not finish the whole game?
Blue Tongue's answer lifts the co-operative gameplay from Mario and pals. A second player can drop into the game at any point, and Pinky (Blob's robotic sidekick) can help provide a hand in painting the world, collecting items and taking out Inkys. For parents, it's an unobtrusive way to play alongside their kids, and for younger players, they can feel engaged without actually needing the same level of skill.
The other, less balanced approach to the difficulty is also de Blob 2's biggest frustration. Blob's sidekick, Pinky, holds your hand and almost never lets you go. Unlike a Mario title, where you have a broad goal and how you get to that goal is entirely up to you, de Blob 2 tells you exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it - all the time. That's a problem. There's very little thinking required if you're just following instructions. And if you're not thinking, then the only challenge comes from mastering the raw mechanics... and that ultimately leads to repetition and boredom.
The only respite comes after you've worked your way through the main level objectives. It's only then that the clock disappears and you're finally free to explore and complete a handful of story objectives for more points and experience. Ideally, you'll want to use this time to collect all of the numerous Blob-enhancing items out there, but chances are you'll probably be tired of the same environment and want to move on. So you can, or you can hang out and keep on playing. If you're like me, the temptation to unlock a fresh area will be too great.
de Blob 2 also takes a while to get up to speed – and with such a gentle learning curve, I really didn't feel hooked until four cities into the game. However, new powers and enemies eventually begin to appear, and suddenly de Blob 2 hits its stride. While most players will probably breeze through most encounters with ease, new items, such as the gravity-defying 'Graviton' and Inky-smashing 'Wrecking Ball' add fresh approaches to the sometimes tiresome roll-and-paint gameplay.
There are a bunch of great 2D sub-levels that occasionally outshine the 3D overworld.
Multiplayer modes are generally a good fit for platformers, and in de Blob 2 - unlike the Pinky-powered two player mode in the main story - 'Blob Party' is a separate, co-operative experience. It's a splitscreen take on the same kinds of painting challenges, but with a tighter time limit. It's actually a little harder than the single-player mode too, since you really do need to work together to keep unlocking time on the clock.
The soundtrack deserves special praise. A few games out there, including the original de Blob, manage to blend beats with actions in game, but there's a lovely fluidity to the way it works in de Blob 2. Each shade of paint creates a new backbeat with a different instrument, and the more you paint the world, the more complex the soundtrack becomes. It's subtle at first, but eventually I found myself choosing to bounce around in specific colors just to hear the instruments I wanted. There's a soundtrack selection at the start of the stage too; a small courtesy, but an appreciated one. It really is a toe-tapper of a soundtrack.
That's de Blob 2. It's just a charming and fairly straightforward platformer that wears its all-ages appeal on its kaleidoscopic sleeve. Everything is bubbly and bright and freewheeling – and the gameplay is largely very good. It's also a sometimes frustratingly overprotective experience that points towards its youth appeal – and that's either a great thing if you're a casual player or a constant pebble in your shoe. Still, Blob and his buddies will get under your skin - and if you're a platformer fan, jam this one on your wish list.
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