This review was originally published on N-Europe on 10th November 2008.
Painting the town red, and green, and blue, and yellow, and…
In a world where an evil dictorial force called the Inkies have sapped the landscape’s colour away, leaving behind a monochrome pallet of harsh authority and a lack of freedom, the only hope in these terrifying dark times is a young freedom fighting blob… called Blob.
De Blob was originally a PC freeware game called The Blob, made by a rather creative Dutch team Ronimo Games (who are also bringing the turn-based tribal warfare game Swords & Soldiers to WiiWare later this year). THQ saw the potential in the game and picked it up, commissioning Blue Fang Studios to expand and adapt the title for the Wii. The end result is extremely impressive, and one of the freshest gaming experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to play.
As you’ll have gathered from the opening movie-trailer-aping paragraph, the game world is completely devoid of colour and life. The Nunchuk’s analogue stick is used to roll Blob about, with a down-thrust with the Wii Remote sending him into a jump. Use your new-found control expertise to navigate the world and roll into the various colour pots you’ll find walking the streets, which in turn colour Blob into said colour, allowing you to restore colour to anything you come into contact with.
More colours than Joseph’s coat.
Rolling into other different coloured containers can create new colours (this is basic primary stuff; mix yellow and blue to get green, red and blue to get purple, etc. Brown however is more elusive, and you’ll have to conduct spectrum-mixing experiments that would make Dulux proud; mix about three pots together to get your desired outcome). As you get points for colouring in pretty much everything you see, using different colours in your quest will bump that score even higher.
Transforming entire blocks of buildings (sometimes also possible with an all-powerful machine which sends some sort of colour blast out into the surrounding area, completely restoring everything) frees the poor incarcerated Graydians from their homes, leaving them wide open to be squashed, coloured in and liberated by Blob. Doing so also earns you a time bonus, increasing the ever-depleting timer at the top of the screen.
Transforming entire blocks of buildings frees the poor incarcerated Graydians from their homes, leaving them wide open to be squashed, coloured in and liberated by Blob.
All fairly simple, right? Well before you go Bob Ross on the entire town, you should probably know that you’re limited by Paint Points – with each colour container comes 10 points, and each time you roll into a building you’ll use up a point. When you reach 0, you become a powerless grey entity, at which point you’ll need to find another colour container to continue your mission to ‘stick it to the man’. The maximum you can carry is 100, and the more you carry the more bloated you are.
Whilst just rolling around and attempting to infuse everything humanly (or blobbily) possible with colour and crushing innocents beneath your bulging form may well be fun, the aforementioned timer needs to be adhered to – you’ll need to follow the little amount of structure that the game has to complete missions. Blob, making a stand against the Inky forces who stole the colour from the world, meets up with his freedom fighting buddies to receive new orders and objectives such as painting certain areas in a certain colour (or several), completing a time trial course, defeating Inkies and reclaiming major landmarks by lobbing yourself into an entry point on the building and shaking the Wii Remote like some sort of motion-sensing witchcraft stick, resulting in an explosion of colour. These sections seem like a rather lazy afterthought to give the game some structure. There’s no real variety to them, and you’ll soon find them repetitive and a bit of a bore in later levels. The real treat and joys you’ll receive from the game comes from just trying to paint absolutely everything you can – there’s something quite therapeutic and soothing about just going about and doing things your own way rather than being forced to stick to a certain schedule in Graydia.
All that grey is your canvas – go kick some art.
This is evident in the ‘reward’ you receive for painting everything you possibly can – music. Whenever you splodge a building with your rebellious spectrum of paint, a burst of jazz emerges from your speakers (nice). This phenomenon is known as musical synesthesia (thank you, Wikipedia), and is the association of colours with music and sound. Whack a certain colour on buildings, you’ll get a certain sound. Switch colours and unleash your inner Neil Buchanan to experience a different melody – the music gradually builds up with more instrumental depth as you help to restore towns to their former glory, and you’ll eventually have a wonderfully funky orchestra which is a treat to listen to.
The city itself is pretty damn big; the sheer scale of the levels will have you under the belief that you’re free-roaming, until the annoying cutscenes from the Professor pop up telling you another gate’s opened for the umpteenth flipping time in a level.
Whenever you splodge a building with your rebellious spectrum of paint, a burst of jazz emerges. This phenomenon is known as musical synesthesia, the association of colours with music and sound.
The graphics are vibrant and refreshing, with Blue Tongue proving without a shadow of a doubt that HD-rivalling works of art can be churned out of the Wii if the love and effort is there to support it. I experienced a couple of frustrations with the jumping, such as Blob sliding down a wall and jumping out to his death in a pool of power-sapping ink when I flicked the Remote as he was still on the wall. There was another instance when Blob got himself stuck in a moment/gap that I just couldn’t get him out of. The little glitch ruined my level, and I was forced to restart it from scratch. It seems I was just unlucky, as I tried to replicate the event to no avail. The camera can get stuck in an unfortunate place when you’re attempting a tricky jump, but again these events don’t repeat too often and are pretty isolated.
Multiplayer isn’t forgotten about, with three slightly lacklustre modes offered up. Paint Match is a time trial mode with opponents competing to paint as much as they can in the time limit; Blob On The Run is a bit more high octane and sees you crushing your foes for the right to paint; Blob Race is simply a racing mode similar to the dull tasks seen in single-player.
You may get a little tired of De Blob when the end is in sight due to the dull repetition of the missions, but the experience is guaranteed to be like nothing you’ve played before, and I defy you all to get through the entire game without smiling at least once.
It seems impossible to dislike De Blob. Linear and slightly repetitive it may be, but it’s the most colourful and ambitiously fresh project the Wii’s seen to date.