I’ll admit, I’m a hardened skeptic when it comes to Wii games, especially third party titles. Nintendo’s emphasis on simple graphics and minigame collections has been interpreted as carte blanche for third parties to slack off and churn out shovelware. After all, the Wii is still selling like crazy two years on, because the casual gamers eat it up like candy. Casual gamers—the little kids, grandparents, boomers and soccer moms—are easily satisfied with shallow proof of concept demos, and they aren’t picky when it comes to graphics, so they’ll buy just about anything with “Wii” stamped on the box. As a result, we see a severe lack of quality or maturity in most third party Wii games. It’s not fair to either the casual gamers or the longtime fans, but it happens.
When I first heard about de Blob, I thought it was just more of the same; colorful yet simplistic graphics, even simpler gameplay. For months I ignored it, even as the mainstream press paid attention to it. I figured it was getting noticed because the Wii release schedule has been so barren this year. I was wrong. A couple weeks before it released I started doing some research, and realized I’d better get hungry for a helping of humble pie. de Blob isn’t just another minigame, it’s the evolution of an art project created by students in the Netherlands. At first glance it may be hard to differentiate de Blob from the ocean of mediocrity, but I assure you that the game is everything a third party Wii game should be.
It’s original. It’s creative. It’s fun and addictive. de Blob caught me completely by surprise, and hopefully in the following paragraphs I can show you why you must buy it.
In the fine tradition of deceptively addictive games (Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario, Guitar Hero), de Blob has a simple premise: paint the town red, or blue, or green or any other color you like. The story concerns the titular hero Blob, a gelatinous transparent spheroid with the ability to absorb any color of paint he comes into contact with. Imagine Kirby with pointy ears and a sense of style. Blob is relaxing in a nearby jungle when his hometown of Chroma City is attacked by Comrade Black and the oppressive Inkt Corporation. The Inkys are bent on sucking all the color out of Chroma, using tiny robots to absorb every inch of paint. Chroma’s citizens, the Raydians, are encased in color-sapping shells and put to work in an excessively boring bureaucracy, becoming depressed Graydians in the process.
It’s up to Blob and the Color Revolution to free the citizens and recolor the city. Blob does this by smashing the paint-bots and charging up his color points, absorbing their stolen paint and then smacking into buildings, citizens, and anything else that needs coloring. You start each level in a district completely devoid of color, and you unlock new areas by coloring and completing challenges from the Revolution. The Professor, a stereotypical bumbling academic, highlights landmarks that you must drench with a certain number of color points. Bif, the muscle of the group, targets patrols of Inkt cops for you to squash into puddles of black goo. Arty is the creative free spirit, and she directs you to sets of buildings that need to be colored. Zip is a roller-skating kid who needs some Ritalin, who sets up races that lead to unexplored areas.
These challenges sound like they’d get repetitive, but the dev team managed to add a lot of variety to this basic framework. Paint bots only hold three primary colors: red, blue and yellow. Arty’s challenges usually require you to paint objects purple, green, brown and orange. You’ll have to exercise your paint mixing skills by smashing different colored bots in the right order, to produce the right hues. The Inkt enemies that Bif tasks you to dispatch start out easy, but get more difficult as the levels progress; by the third stage they’re packing ink flamethrowers and require several paint points to squish.
Zip’s races take you below bridges and tunnels and leaping to the tops of skyscrapers, via jump pads that require timing and accuracy to use. The Professor’s landmark targets start as simple one-color jobs, but soon you’ll be amassing numerous shades and in large quantities of paint points to color the bigger buildings. A memorable challenge was the Church of Inktology, which had multiple levels and needed three colors to complete.
Hazards will show up by the second and third levels. You’ll be dodging toxic ink pools that sap Blob’s paint, cause him to infect anything he touches with dreary gray and eventually kill him. Red-hot irons are tiled on the tops of buildings, sizzling blob if he touches them and potentially causing him to evaporate. The most persistent hazard is time, which is constantly ticking down as you play through a level. More time can be collected for freeing Raydians and completing challenges, but the bonus stages have stringent time limits that make them all the more difficult. de Blob starts easy, but don’t mistake it for typical casual fare—by the fourth level it’ll be testing your reflexes and mind, and by the tenth you’ll be doing a real coloring workout.
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