Tuesday, March 15, 2011

de Blob 2 (PS3, 360, Wii) Review

de Blob was a popular game when it hit the Wii system in 2008. Developed by Blue Tongue, it was a fun romp. Now the sequel is out, and I have been anticipating it highly. I believe this is also the first game published under the Syfy Kids moniker. Regardless, I played this game on the Wii, and the screens posted throughout the review are from the PS3 version (and the Z-jump one is from the Wii version). Enjoy.

de Color Revolution is ON!

When it released back in 2008 in North America, de Blob was and still is a Wii-exclusive affair, garnering solid reviews and great sales. The game was based on an indie project and expanded into a full feature-length video game. Fast-forward to 2011 and de Blob's color revolution has expanded to the HD consoles, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, as well as being on the Wii. This time the experience is more streamlined, but does it make for an illuminating experience?

Prisma City is under attack by a malevolent group of color-hating tyrants known as INKT. They dislike music and they particularly don't like color. Led by the villain of the first de Blob, Comrade Black, INKT is back, stronger, and more menacing than ever. Stripping away color and sound in various areas of Prisma City, it is the job and duty of one life-loving blob to colorize the city, kick INKT's collective butt out, and save the day just like he did back in 2008. There are eleven levels in de Blob 2, and each one starts out with a CG cutscene that even the coldest of hearts cannot help but smile or chuckle at. As the level loads, you have the luxury of watching a comic book-paneled mission briefing unravel before your very eyes. There's intelligible dialogue in the form of gibberish a la Banjo-Kazooie for all characters as they speak to you. While the story and characters may seem too whimsical for the chainsaw gun-revving Gears of War and Call of Duty crowd, most everyone will find something to like.

It's de Blob's world-- we all just live in it.

de Blob had players coloring buildings, city blocks, trees, and billboards in Blob's quest to vanquish the evil INKT corporation and freeing the townspeople from their building prisons. This time around things are more mission-oriented. There's still painting city blocks to free Graydians, the helpless INKT puppets, sapped of their color, but now there's missions to follow. Even bringing back color to various venues has changed. In the previous game, all you needed to do was be a certain color and have enough paint points. Now you need to have de Blob be a certain color, have enough paint points, and venture through a 2D side-scrolling maze of switches, water geysers, elevators, and enemies on your quest to restore color to the building.

New to the series, 2D platforming areas.

Paint points are both the health and well-being of de Blob. On one hand you need and use up paint points for painting buildings and destroying enemies and crates, each enemy needing a set amount of paint points in order for them to keel over and perish. On the other hand, by using up your paint points, you make yourself vulnerable to enemy attacks. Damage is taken by de Blob if he falls in black ink, if he is burnt by a fire vent, or if he's attacked by an enemy. If you have a low enough number of paint points and they hit zero, it's a life lost. Whatever current challenge you're on will restart from the beginning. This part of the game is infuriating as there are no mid-mission checkpoints. Some missions will last you up to twenty minutes to complete. Fail at the end by losing all your paint points, and you have to redo all of those twenty minutes. Never has a game aimed at kids been more infuriating.

There's a variety of missions to partake in that relate to the story. Some involve restoring color to a particular locale, coloring a set of buildings different colors in a strict colorized fashion, while others have de Blob destroying a group of enemies, or hitting colored buttons (de Blob needs to be the color of the button in order for him to activate it). This is all the while you're on the clock. If the game clock reaches zero, you get a game over. Delay the clock by rescuing a group of Graydians, finish story missions, or collect timer icons strewn across the level.

de Blob can change color in the blink of an eye either by smashing a Paintbot or touching a pool of paint. If he enters the water, he becomes clear, and enemies won't give him a second glance. As soon as he paints himself a color, look out because danger is on its way. If de Blob gets covered in ink, his paint points will slowly trickle down. Enter water to wash off the evil ink. Our hero can also mix colors. In this game he can turn red, blue, and yellow easily. To become green, purple, and brown, he'll have to mix colors by smashing the correct Paintbot. For instance, to become green, de Blob will have to smash two Paintbots-- a blue and a yellow one.

Become purple by smashing a blue and red Paintbot.

In addition to mixing colors, the titular character of this game has the ability to utilize power-ups in special cases. There's a myriad of them, and they're all new and exclusive to de Blob 2. The Transform engine, when engaged, transforms a good-sized chunk of the level into a colorful display, the Supercharge power-up allows de Blob's charge ability to be used without using up any paint points, and the Rainbow power-up covers de Blob in a rainbow sheen giving him unlimited paint and is automatically the right color to paint buildings, defeat enemies, or stomp switches of a particular color. Regen gives de Blob paint points that increase at a constant pace while the Wrecking Ball rolls over enemies, can roll up magnetized walls, and sink underwater. There's plenty of other power-ups to pick up, but that's just a small taste of what you can find in de Blob 2.

After all the story missions are completed in a given level, the time counter disappears, allowing you to freely explore the level and take on side-missions. These are simple challenges that include painting all of the buildings in a given district, taking down leftover INKT members, and repainting INKT billboards. At this time you can also collect any missing pickups not yet collected including gallery photos, color atoms that add to your overall score, and inspiration bulbs which are the currency of de Blob 2 in which you can spend to increase your maximum paint points, lives, and lower the amount of paint points it takes to use your charge move.

Upon exiting a level, you're ranked on your performance from C to rank S. By collecting color atoms, you're ranked upon the amount collected. This screen also shows your progress in reviving all of the trees in a certain level, freeing all of the trapped Graydians, and destroying all crates. Trophy and achievement-hunters will want to score an S-rank in each of the game's eleven total levels as well as paint every possible inch of each level.

Levels devoid of color turn into masterpieces thanks to de Blob.

If you're feeling lonely and wanting something similar to a multiplayer mode, there's always the playable Pinky character, de Blob's robotic sidekick to play as. In true Super Mario Galaxy action, one player can control de Blob while the other points at the screen, using up paint points to strike down foes, collect colors, and destroy crates for de Blob. Pinky can even de-ink an inked Blob. Then there's Blob Party mode where two players compete to garner the most color atoms by completing missions in a timely fashion. While nice to have, Blob Party is an interesting excursion for the first time and first time only. It's not that fun, sadly.

Controlling de Blob is easier as ever as you now jump with a button instead of striking the controller upwards. de Blob can perform all sorts of moves from wall jumps to Z-jumps where de Blob leaps from Z-platform to Z-platform to jump along long distances in a matter of seconds. Wall-jumping requires a bit of finesse as de Blob can only stick to a wall for a limited amount of time. He can also only move horizontally along a wall. In the Wii version, the camera is controlled with the d-pad, and this control scheme feels most comfortable to me. Then again, I am most partial to the Wii remote and nunchuk control scheme as I can lay my hands on my knees and stretch my arms out.

Make your daddy wanna "Jump, Jump"!

The differences between Wii, PS3, and 360 versions are somewhat significant. I would surmise that the PlayStation 3 version is the best version. It's also ten dollars more expensive than the Wii version, but we pay for quality, I guess. It supports the PlayStation Move peripheral, HD, as well as 3D: a techie's trifecta. The 360 version also supports HD, obviously, but it's also fifty bucks while the Wii version is only forty. All-in-all, I'd rank them as PS3 > Wii > 360. Visually, no matter what console you purchase this game on, you'll get a vibrant-looking game. Yes, there's some draw distance issues on Wii, but I'm giving the weaker system a reprieve here. It's also the cheapest of the three versions.

de Blob 2 changes things up enough and is affordable enough that it anyone-- adult or child-- can enjoy this game. The game does raise the stakes in the last couple levels almost to the point of being a difficulty spike, and there are no mid-mission checkpoints (though there are mid-level checkpoints after each completed challenge), but if you can let those faults go, then you're in for one side-splitting adventure starring an amorphous blob. How many times can you say you've played a game like that before?

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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