A Boy and His Blob was always more of a good concept than it was a good game; this was true back when it released in the late 80s, and holds to this day. Wayforward (Shantae, Mighty Flip Champs) realized this, and decided that a re-imagining of the now 20-year old title was in order, one that would bring A Boy and His Blob into the minds and living rooms of those who wanted to give the series a second chance, as well as to introduce the ideas of the game to brand new gamers. In doing so, they finally crafted a game that was worthy of the wonderful concept behind the boy and his blob and their jellybeans.
The game is a bit light on story, but here’s the short of it: the Blob lands on Earth, and he needs help to save his planet of Blobolonia. The titular boy finds him, and they set out on a journey full of danger, puzzles, jellybeans and hugs. Yes, there’s a button specifically used to hug Blob, and it’s as adorable as it sounds. Don’t laugh, you’ll catch yourself using it.
Oct. 13, 2009
The game is presented via beautiful handrawn artwork in a 2D style. It’s 2D, but it isn’t simple–think of Wario Land: Shake It! as this game’s closest kin, presentation wise. The game animates very well, and the real star of the show is Blob, as he morphs into loads of different shapes throughout the game, fluidly and impressively. This morphing process occurs when you feed him jellybeans–different beans give you different abilities, like the jack, for lifting objects and enemies, a trampoline, a bowling ball, a rocket–the list goes on and on.
In the original game, you had a limited number of jellybeans, and the game was a bit more open-ended. In this update, you have unlimited jellybeans, and the game is broken into levels–there are 40 of them, plus 40 bonus levels. You are given a few specific jellybeans for each level, which is basically simple platforming combined with puzzles that grow in difficulty the further you proceed in the game. There are also three treasure chests in each level–they are easy to spot and pick up at first, but this grows more difficult as time goes on as well. You will not find all of the treasures on your first playthrough unless you scour the game world for each and every one, but you can return to a level at any time to replay it as well. Picking up all three treasures in a level unlocks a challenge level for you to visit (more on that later).
These puzzles are very satisfying to complete, especially as you progress through the game. Eventually you will need quick reflexes and to do more than just toss a jellybean anywhere in order to proceed. You can throw jellybeans by holding the B button and checking the angle at which it will land and bounce, and Blob will give chase. You can call Blob back if you miss too, using the C button. This also works if Blob is stuck off screen; the Blob’s AI works most of the time, but for the odd time when he (she?) doesn’t follow you when they are supposed to, you can press the C button a few times to start an automatic return process.
Just because you have a specific set of jellybeans for each level does not mean there is just one way through many of the game’s puzzles or enemies, either. Lots of enemies charge at you from a distance–you could try to peg them with the bowling ball if it’s available, drop an anvil on their head if there’s a ledge above them, drop a hole in the ground, or jump over them as they charge with the trampoline. Oftentimes your jellybean inventory will be full or close to it, so these options are close at hand assuming the environment cooperates.
Even boss fights are puzzles, kind of like in Braid. Once you figure out what to do, it’s very simple, but until you do you may have a bit of a problem. It’s nice to combine action with the puzzle every now and then, so these are satisfying moments in the gameplay.
This slow-paced, puzzle-based gameplay is something you need to be aware of before you throw money down on this game. If you’re looking for a fast-paced platformer where you can run and jump around, then this isn’t the game you’re looking for. The boy is basically helpless without the Blob–he doesn’t run very fast, doesn’t jump very high, and needs the Blob to get around even some of the most basic looking levels. That’s not to say it isn’t a great experience, because it is, you just need to be aware that this is, first and foremost, a puzzle game with platforming elements, not the other way around. My one complaint with this setup is that the hint system–signs with painted Blob objects on them–detracts from some of the satisfaction of solving the puzzles. There are fewer of them as you play, but an option to turn off hints would have been nice.
Then again, Wayforward may have just been saving the bigger challenge for the post-game play. When you complete the initial 40 levels, which takes more time than you think it will–levels extend in length as the game goes on, and as they rise in difficulty the amount of time you spend completing them will also rise–you can play 40 challenge levels, assuming you’ve been discovering the treasures in each level along the way. If you’re unfamiliar with Wayforward games, let me tell you that they don’t kid around when they say “challenge”. These levels will require your reflexes and quick thinking in order to complete them, but once you do, you can unlock concept art and storyboards–this is a great looking game, and you get what you put into the story, so those are two fun additions outside of bragging rights. I played through some of the challenge levels for this review, and they are aptly named–I’ll be happy to pick up the rest of the treasures and complete as many challenge levels as my brain and thumbs can handle now that this review is done.
Blast Factor: Wayforward and Majesco’s A Boy and His Blob is what a remake or re-imagining should be–it keeps the core concept of the original, but improves on enough that the game feels fresh and new. The artwork is gorgeous, and shows off just what the Wii can do with inspired art direction and capable artists, and the gameplay is worthy of the excellent concept of shape-shifting puzzle solving, something the original game has a harder time claiming.
A Boy and His Blob is available exclusively on the Wii, and retails for $39.99. A copy of this game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes.