Blue Tongue Entertainment put out a game that combines jazz, painting, motion controls, freedom, and a healthy dose of brain-wracking to remember just what colors need to be combined to create orange and purple. Unfortunately it came out on the Wii exclusively, reducing the impact to a single audience. Thankfully THQ and Blue Tongue decided that this time around they should bring the sequel to all of the major platforms – could lightning strike twice for the anthropomorphic blob with the motion controls removed?
For those who missed the first game, let me bring you up to speed. The main character, Blob, faces off on the color-devoid leader of the Graydians Comrade Black in a bid to free them all by splashing them with globs of color. The Graydians are black and white, stuck in dead end cubicle jobs in grey buildings, and forced to live out their lives awash in tedium. Blob, by absorbing color into himself and then splashing it against anything and everything in Chroma City. As Blob brings bright colors to the grey world, he also infuses a soundtrack that stacks and builds based on the players choice of color mixes.
Behold! A democratic Prisma City!
de Blob 2 picks up right after the first title, and neighboring Prisma City is on the verge of a general election. Unfortunately for its citizenry, the election is being tampered with by a priest named Papa Blanc and a new army of Inkies. Spreading thick black ooze all over the city, the city is once again drained of its color and only Blob, his new friend Pinky, and his friends in the Color Underground (with returning pals Prof, Bif, Zip, and Arty) to bring it back to its jazzy, swirly, and freed state.
Bringing de Blob to the HD platforms meant bringing a few more tricks to the table. Not content to just pick up ink this time around, Blob can now collect upgrades in the environment. The pickups can give you more time for the level, a super-charge that doesn’t cost ink to use, a short-term immunity to water and ink courtesy of a goofy Hazmat suit, a gravity well called the Gravitron Bomb that pulls everything towards him, a wrecking ball that lets Blob climb metal surfaces, and more. There are also lightbulbs in the environment that you can collect to spend at the Idea Emporium store for permanent upgrades. The upgrades include armor, increasing Blob’s paint capacity, and even extra lives.
In addition to the pickups in the game, Blob can also execute a dash attack. This can be used to crush obstacles, take out Inkies, or simply zip through the environment. The special attack uses paint so you’ll have to plan out your consumption to ensure you have enough to complete your objectives. There are often either pools of paint or little mobile crablike Paintbots to source your paint. This is important as you get further into the game – some enemies will require specific colors of paint to defeat.
The game is split into 12 story environments, each with main and side objectives. The side objectives are optional, encouraging you to replay the levels to find everything. The main objectives often revolve around a bit of platforming (moreso in this title than the previous) and freeing Graydians. They are locked in cold lifeless buildings that you have to paint specific colors. Sometimes it is as easy as hitting a red fountain of paint, absorbing some, and then hurling yourself against the side of the building. Other times the game will ask you to make other colors that require a little bit of thought. Everyone (courtesy of the Ziplock commercials) knows that yellow and blue makes green, but what color combinations make orange? How about purple? Finding the right color combination, and then applying it without absorbing any other colors or falling in the water (which strips all of your paint) is half of the challenge.
Just as before, while you paint you slowly build the soundtrack. This time around there is a bit of a base soundtrack that you’ll build on, making a more cohesive end result, but there is also another chance to jazz it up. In the environment you’ll often find symbols that look like an ‘at’ symbol – specifically @. These will add a bit of style to your paint, both altering the soundtrack as well as adding a bit of pattern to the buildings you are coloring. Later on you’ll find objectives that require these styles be applied, but for the most part you are allowed to use them as you see fit.
The game isn’t entirely a painting title – there are also other missions that your friends will assign to you to unlock new areas. These can be platforming timed races, taking out a specified number of baddies, or capturing some of the special buildings in the area. These buildings allow Blob inside where the game switches to a 2D platformer! These platforming sections are usually pretty challenging, breaking up the paint swapping and coloring that happens outside.
Bring a friend.
I mentioned earlier that Blob will have a little help from a friend named “sassbot” Pinky. Using a drop-in-drop-out mechanic similar to other more recent co-op titles, a second player can pop into the game as Pinky – a hovering robot sidekick for Blob. She can shoot paint at distant enemies (a distinct advantage over Blob’s more direct attacks), paint objects, and even paint Blob to help him be the right color. Similar to the recent Mario title, the second player plays a bit of second fiddle, with the first player handling the bulk of the work. It’s perfect for younger players to join in the fun with an adult holding the reigns for Blob.
There is a second mode called Blob Party. This split-screen mode reminds me of Tony Hawk 2′s paint mode, asking players to complete paint objectives in a timed setting. You’ll have to cooperate a bit to keep extending the time, but at the end the player with the highest score is declared the winner.
Second verse, same as the first?
de Blob 2 takes roughly 17 hours to complete – a pretty lengthy run for a platformer. Painting, platforming, and bouncing off the walls is a blast, but in smaller doses. I found that I had to complete a few levels and then shelf the title for a day or two. While there are plenty of improvements, the kid-aimed nature (it does have a Syfy Kids logo on it, so no shock here) means that Blue Tongue has tried to keep the game pretty simple. At times it can be somewhat repetative, but pulling it back off the shelf after a few days it somehow regains all of its smile-inducing luster.
My biggest axe to grind with the first de Blob title was the controls. Hamstrung by the inaccuracies of the platform more than the programming, it was encouraging to see that the sequel was coming to the 360. As a result, the controls are pretty much pickup and play. The sticks control the movement and camera, as usual, with the face buttons handling slams, the compass, and jumping. The triggers take on targeting, soaking up paint, and the charge attacks. Here is the hitch – the camera seems somewhat obsessed with showing off Blob’s goofy smirk than giving you any idea of where you are headed. You can smack it back into position with a click of R3, but it did make for some irritating platforming sections. It also occasionally makes things difficult for the second player. Since they aren’t actually moving Pinky around, instead simply targeting enemies and helping Blob with color changes, they are reliant on a well-behaved camera.
Since the second player is more simplified and meant for the younger set, Blue Tongue decided not to support Xbox Live. It isn’t a big deal, unless you were expecting this type of functionality.
If there is one thing that counters the camera and control issues it is the humor in this game. It isn’t that the game is just ‘kids will find it funny’ sort of writing, it is a ‘this game is hilarious’ kind of funny. The cutscenes with the sad little Graydians and the spiteful Inky crew had us laughing out loud – something pretty much unheard of for an E-10 rated title. Parents don’t have to worry about being bored here.
For the less than 1% of the HDTV owning population that own a 3D capable TV, de Blob 2 also supports side-by-side mode 3D. The vast majority of 3D TVs support this mode, but I’m not an early adopter of the 3DTV movement. If you own one, I imagine it’d look great, but I can’t confirm that.