A Boy and His Blob is a sharp looking game from a developer known for making quality titles. It is also one of the rare instances of a franchise reboot that looks to surpass the original due to the quality of gameplay, instead of just relying on improved looks. We talked to Sean Velasco, the Designer and Director of A Boy and His Blob, about Majesco and Wayforward’s upcoming platformer for the Nintendo Wii.
BLAST: A Boy and His Blob is a property that has not seen the light of day in years–it hasn’t even been released on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console. How did the idea of a re-imagining of the franchise come about, and what appealed to you about working with it?
Sean Velasco: It was actually quite random. A Boy and his Blob has been one of those games that I would play occasionally due to the bizarre factor. On top of that, it has always been a great concept for a game, but the original is just not that fun to play. I talked about it among my peers at WayForward and got the go-ahead to develop a pitch. We wanted to retain the transforming alien toolkit and weird world of the original game, and pair it with modern design and technology. Once our Art Director Marc Gomez created the soft look of the characters, we knew we had the beginnings of something special.
BLAST: For those who have never played the original NES title, let’s hear a bit about the premise and the how the game plays. What similarities and differences are there between the two, just from a gameplay perspective?
SV: Well, let’s start with the similarities. Both of the games have a similar premise; playing as the boy, you feed your alien blob friend jellybeans, which turns him into useful objects. Each jellybean flavor yields a different transformation; tangerine trampoline, root beer rocket, licorice ladder, etc. You use these transformations to navigate the world, solving environmental puzzles and collecting treasure.
As far as differences go, there are many. The new game is split up into levels, whereas the original was an open world. This helps us focus the experience and change the jellybean loadout for each stage. Our game is also much more user friendly than the original; the player has totally redesigned control, infinite beans, and infinite lives. However, this has opened up our level designers to be more fiendish than the original game. Many puzzles require fast reflexes, quick thinking, and multiple transformations in order to solve. Finally, there is a layer of sweet visual polish and a beautiful soundtrack.
BLAST: There are forty standard levels and forty challenge levels in Blob. How are these different from the main levels, and do they exhibit the same kind of difficulty we are used to seeing from Wayforward?
SV: The challenge levels are shorter and more focused on single transformations than the regular levels. And they get hard! The purpose was to let us use the transformations in ways that might be too weird or too hard in the regular levels. Also, the challenge levels must be done in one run without checkpoints. Kudos to whoever can finish every challenge level; it’s quite an accomplishment!
BLAST: The art style is eye-catching, and on its own has gained attention even without knowing how the game plays. What influenced the art direction, and how did you decide this was what a Blob reboot should look like?
SV: We wanted to make the game look like an animated film. Since WayForward is all about great characters and animation, it was an easy decision to take it in this direction. The character designs are all soft, friendly, and hand painted and animated. The background art is also lushly hand-drawn. On top of that, there are many programmatic effects like advanced lighting and moving trees. We wanted to echo the look of Miyazaki or Disney; to create a timeless aesthetic that is instantly appealing.
BLAST: The original A Boy and His Blob was difficult, but not in an intentional way–it came off as frustrating because of some of the game designs, like running out of jelly beans. What would you like to say to those without fond memories of the original, in regards to why they should give the series a second chance?
SV: This game aims to give you everything you remember fondly about the original without the sour bits. There is so much to love; it’s a very complete package. A Boy and his Blob for Wii is a totally new experience, so please check it out!