Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Boy and His Blob (Wii) Review

Here's our first review of December. It's a game that came out in October, but we're just getting to it now. It's A Boy and His Blob, a game that didn't sell too terribly well. I imagine a lack of advertising to people outside of message board gamers really hurt this title. Could have, should have...

There Will Be Blob.

The year was 1989 and upstart video game publisher Majesco came out with A Boy and His Blob for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a charming little game full of fun and frustration... mostly frustration. It's twenty years later and the team behind Shantae, Wayforward Games, has taken it upon themselves to create a revision of this classic game of the same name. It's A Boy and His Blob for Wii. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same! Is this blob deserving of another jellybean, or should it have been sent to early retirement?

The boy drops in on this level.

The adventure starts when our eponymous boy sees and hears an unidentified flying blob crashing down in a nearby stretch of forest. He scampers over to meet up with the blob, and the two quickly grow to become fast friends. Apparently, this white blob's home planet of Blobonia is under attack by an evil emperor. Instead of some gigantic warrior to help him, the blob relies on the first person he sees-- this little boy. From then on the two use the power of teamwork to hopefully set things right.

There are four worlds in A Boy and His Blob. Each of which have ten levels each for a total of forty levels. As those infomercials would say, "but wait. There's more!" Each level has three treasure chests that are placed in precarious or otherwise hidden locations. Collect all three and you unlock a challenge level. These take concepts from the regular levels and make even more fiendish puzzles and challenges. There's forty of these in all for an tremendous total of eighty levels to master and complete. Each of the four worlds has a different theme from a forest to the world of Blobonia. You choose levels at each world's hub. Here you can revisit beaten levels, check out challenge levels, or destroy your data. This final one is a necessity for anyone with more than one person wanting to play the game since there's only one save file allowed per Wii. Not a very smart idea for such an ingeniously designed game!

Treasure chests like these are the
only collectibles in this game.

In the game you control the boy. The blob follows you around. It's when the boy tosses out a jellybean that the magic happens. Each bean has a set transformation that the blob turns into once the bean has been eaten. There's an anvil, a rocket, a cannon, a ladder, a hole, a kickball, a parachute, and many more. The beans are mapped to the Z button on the nunchuk attachment, and they're displayed in a circular display. Not every bean is available for every level. The developers made sure not to make levels broken, so only a select assortment are allowed in a given level. Speaking of rules, only one bean is allowed to be out at once. Meanwhile, when the blob goes astray (which it will... often), you can use the C button to call the little bugger back to you. Three times in succession, and the blob will float right to your location.

Toss a bean to transform the blob
into one of over a dozen forms.

The transformations have a lot of purposes to them. Not only does the hole ability allow the boy to fall through a thin platform but it works on most enemies, too. Then you can use the ladder transformation to climb back up if possible. An enemy below walking over a field of deadly spikes can have an anvil dropped on him. The boy can use that as a platform to reach across the dangerous thorny chasm. Transport transformations, too, are always of great importance. There's times when a jump down is way too far for the boy to survive, so feed the blob a parachute jellybean and you'll be able to float down gracefully. Another transformation puts the boy in a giant hamster ball, rolling through loops, hills, and off ramps. Finally, the rocket propels the boy across dark dangers that otherwise would be impossible to cross. Sure, early on in the game, there's signposts that show when to use a specific transformation, but by the second world this greatly dies down almost completely.

I'm a rock-it man!

A Boy and His Blob is more of a puzzle-platformer than a purely platforming experience. You need to think before you leap because oftentimes a wrong move will cost the boy his life. As cruel and disturbing a concept as that is. It's one hit, one kill in this blob-eat-bean world. That's why you should avoid confrontation whenever possible. Thankfully, there's a wide assortment of mid-level checkpoints after nearly every puzzle or platforming section which eases the frustration down a few notches. If a foe is in the way, there's probably a way around him with one of the blob's powers. Speaking of foes, each world ends with a climactic boss battle. These will put your reflexes and your brain to the test. Only certain transformations in a certain order will take down these ghastly foes.

A Boy and His Blob showcases true 2-D mastery in the visuals department. The backgrounds are lush and full of color, the animations are nice and smooth, and the game runs at a steady pace. The soundtrack is soothing one time while tense and powerful at other times. It's surprisingly good. Sort of like finding a diamond in a haystack instead of a needle. You expected a needle but received a diamond instead. Nonetheless, hearing the repeated callings of "Blob", "Hey", and "Come here" can get quite grating to the average player.

Challenge levels will definitely test your mettle.

A Boy and His Blob will no doubt be one of the overlooked and underrated treasures of the Wii library, buried under a sea of Imagine games and mini-game collections. Don't let that discourage you though as the game itself as is-is worthy of high praise. It may not be perfect, and the game may have its share of frustrating moments and brevity, but for forty dollars, A Boy and His Blob is truly worth buying along with a package of colorful jellybeans for a blob near you.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]


coffeewithgames said...

How many hours did it take you to beat it?
BTW, excellent job with keeping the reviews coming on a consistent basis!

Unknown said...

I hop online
and what do I see,
a lad with a question
for little old me.

I didn't time myself, but to beat just the game and not collect everything was about seven hours. I still need to do challenge levels-- all forty of those after I collect everything. Hope that helps.

The Dread Pirate Guy said...

It's a truly charming game, and one of the Wii's best. IGN didn't even give it a nod in their "Top 25" list.

I got the original 1989 version on the Virtual Console for comparison, and the new one is a world better game. The biggest improvement is that the original told you nothing about itself, often relying on blind trial and error and multiple deaths to figure things out. With limited lives and no continues.

The new game actually make the relationship between the two believable, and if you don't "aww" at least once by pressing the hug button, then that's a person with a cold heart.