Wednesday, October 29, 2008

de Blob (Wii) Review

This new review examines a very intriguing Wii game from THQ, de Blob. Was it as promising as it seemed?


Color My World

What does a presently devoid-of-color city, a ruthless regime bent on backwards rationale, and an amorphous blob have in common with one another? If you guessed Rush Limbaugh, you are incorrect. No, I'm talking about de Blob for the Nintendo Wii. Created by Aussie developer, Blue Tongue, and published by THQ, de Blob is a Western game that displays brilliant charm and shows that there's still some creativity in game design out West. Could greatness be a part of de Blob's true colors?

Chroma City was once the most happening, colorful, and eye-catching place in all of Raydia. That was until a sinister force, the INKT Corporation led by the nefarious Comrade Black, set out to take the color out of the city and then the entire world. Possessing an armada of foot soldiers, tanks, cannons, and leechbots, INKT has captured the once peaceful inhabitants of Chroma City, the Raydians, and turned them into the drab, colorless Graydians. Awakened by the commotion from his nearby forest home, our hero Blob, leaps into the city to right the achromatic wrongs caused by INKT, and joins the local color revolutionaries who will assist Blob by giving him tips, strategies, and challenges to complete.

Meet Blob. Blob just discovered Enzyte.

de Blob's story spans ten levels each with two bonus missions after the completion of the mainline story mission. As Blob enters into a level, it's almost completely devoid of color-- everything's a cold shade of gray. Each level is divided up into several large areas which Blob can seamlessly travel to and from as long as the entrance gate has been unlocked. Gates will remain closed until the button in front of them is stepped on, but a button won't be operational until Blob's accumulated enough points. Points are gathered by defeating enemies, painting individual buildings and blocks of buildings, collecting point icons, completing challenges, and performing other odds and ends around town.

Paint points are Blob's lifeline. If Blob gets "inked" by being attacked by an enemy or falling into the inky pollution filling various levels while his paint points are at or reach zero, Blob loses a life. Thankfully, whatever his current progress is will be saved at the exact spot at which Blob lost a life. However, if Blob perished during a challenge, he'll have to begin it all over again. Speaking of which, challenges are the main point-earners of de Blob. Once a challenge is completed, more will pop up in other locations. These are given to Blob by his fellow team of color revolutionaries. Viva la revolucion! These challenges come in four different types indicated by the color of the challenge marker-- an easy to see arrow. Green arrows indicate the mission will have Blob coloring a specific row or block of objects or buildings a certain color or colors. Orange arrows have Blob being asked to neutralize a series of enemies. Blue arrows will have Blob jetting from checkpoint to checkpoint in an attempt to reach the goal before time runs out. Finally, brown arrows gives Blob a challenge straight from the revolution leader, the Professor. These have Blob needing to load up on color, leap into a landmark, and grant pigmentation back to a given landmark or landmarks. What was once an INKT police station will transform into a Raydian record store in a brilliant flash of light.

That ink sludge will infect Blob if it touches him.
Find some water to wash it off before his paint points drop to zero.

Paintbots roam the streets and blocks of Chroma City, awaiting Blob to crash into them to gain color. There's seven colors that Blob can change into like a chameleon, but like the chameleon, he can't do so on the fly. Only by attacking a Paintbot can Blob change color. Paintbots only come in three colors: red, blue, and yellow, so Blob will need to combine colors to transform into a orange, green, purple, or brown Blob. For example, if Blob is currently sporting a fiery shade of red, he'd need to crash into a blue Paintbot to become purple. If Blob comes into contact with water, his color will disappear. Also, this is how to get rid of any ink trying to infect his happy-go-lucky ways. Color plays a big part in the various platforming, puzzles, and action of de Blob, so those that have trouble viewing colors or are color blind will quickly become frustrated playing this game. Being able to identify colors and hues is of the essence in playing de Blob.

Time is also of the essence. Each challenge has a time limit to it, but thankfully Blob can retry a mission at any time, and for the most part, he can pick up right where he left off when he attempts the challenge again. Additionally, each level has a timer counting down. This can be extended from completed challenges, discovering hidden time icons sprinkled throughout the levels, and awarded to thankful Raydian residents who Blob can save from their sickly sentence of no color by painting an entire block of buildings. Now, Blob can scurry through levels, earning enough points to pass through gates and otherwise just get by, but aspiring revolutionaries can try to earn the ten awards in each level. These don't all need to be completed in one run, but the majority of them can be acquired in one go. These range from rescuing all Raydians, coloring all of the trees, billboards, and landmarks in a level, and so on. There's 100 awards in all to collect, and finding everything in a level can take an hour minimum to do. Heck, even completing a level at a fast pace can take 15-30 minutes, and that's without a checkpoint at any time.

Let's just say he's not going to give him a hug.

This was made mention of earlier but to go into more detail, there's two side-missions for each level that open up after the story mission is completed. These missions are much shorter timed excursions lasting 1-2 minutes. Some are as simple as racing up an obstacle-infested tower to reach the goal while others have Blob painting as many buildings a possible before diving into the exit pool which ends essentially every level in the game. Based on Blob's performance, he'll score a bronze, silver, or gold medal for his efforts. In addition to the single-player mode of missions and challenges, there's also local multiplayer for up to three other friends. Blob and his buddies can partake in free paint sessions, tag where everyone is trying to tag the colored blob as he is the only one who can paint and rack up points, and several race modes. It's good fun sober or not. Then again, almost everything's fun when you're drunk... at least that's the word on the street.

This extra mission requires Blob to take out as many
INKT Troopers as possible within the time limit.

de Blob controls rather well. The analog stick moves Blob around, and the Z trigger locks onto enemies. A decision that's baffling is Blue Tongue's decision to map the jump action to the Wii remote. A flick of the Wii remote sends Blob leaping into the air. The problem with this is that when the player is required to make multiple, frequent jumps, the Wii remote isn't capable of responding as fast as it should. This means a jump here and there won't be registered if Blob needs to jump at a frenetic pace. It would only be a large problem if the game had very impossible sections. However, this is not the case as the game is rather easy-- but entertaining nearly all the way-- to play and complete. Another hindrance is that of the camera-- a thorn in many a platformer's paw. In tight spaces it's erratic at best. The player is forced to babysit it by using the Wii remote's d-pad. Many times a missed jump would be the result of the camera moving at the last-- most inopportune-- second. Likewise, when the controls and camera work, they work well. Walljumping from building to building to rack up an insane combo is really fulfilling and fun to pull off. There have been times though when Blob would get caught between two objects, and the only course of action would be to retry the level. And as said before, when the player is in the middle of an hour-long level, restarting is a great way of pissing someone off.

Nonetheless, de Blob is a very stylistic game. The colors become bright and visually appealing as each level progresses. Characters speak gibberish out loud which is preferred to badly-voiced cartoon-y dialects. It's rather endearing this way like Banjo-Kazooie. The music is mostly funk which will have the player bopping his head up and down occasionally. It starts out weak and pitiful with a flourish here and there as Blob paints buildings, but as more of a level is painted, the music kicks up to a funky melody and moving beat. The player can even choose Blob's mood at the start of each level so he or she can choose the song they want to get "This Old House" to. Maybe that was too old of a reference for this generation. Would "Extreme Makeover: City Edition" work better?

These blue pads allow Blob to leap off each one in succession.

de Blob is a very welcomed addition to the Wii's library. Sure, there will be a lot of Wii owners who will ignore this game like so many other third party efforts just so they can continue to say that the Wii has no games. That's their loss-- both for fun and for the $250 that they spent on the Wii. However, everyone else will get a great kick out of de Blob. It's charming, fresh, a joy to play, has loads of personality and character, a great amount of effort put into it, and here's the kicker-- it's published by THQ! de Blob is another promising title from Western third parties for Wii that shows that maybe not all is lost on the West.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: There's some funny movies in between each story mission, and Blob gets a briefing of each mission during loading.

Graphics: Heavily-stylized and colorful. There's really nothing that disgusted me.

Gameplay: Fluid at times, but there should have been a choice between analog or motion to jump.

Sound: A funky soundtrack performed by real-live instruments. The only actual voice work in the game that isn't gibberish is a PSA for INKT.

Replay Value: Levels can take anywhere from 10-70 minutes depending on how you play them. It's annoying to play through a level again just because you missed one thing.

Overall: 8.5/10

1 comment:

Kyle said...

I'm definitely getting this. I just don't know when. I played it at a friend's house today and loved it. I'll probably ask for it for Christmas or something...