De Blob


posted 10/22/2008 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: Wii
THQ put some talented people behind de Blob’s development, who polished the gameplay and the production values. Each sprawling urban location has its own unique visual flavor, accented with graphic effects like lively particles and tastefully implemented bloom lighting. Blob and his allies may look simple in appearance, but their animation and art style give them more personality than you’ll see in a photorealistic game. The characters might all be stereotypes, but they’re well done and made me laugh on more than one occasion. Blob himself has some funny little quirks, like patting his belly when he’s absorbed a large quantity of paint.

Even the menus have cool little details, like a trail of paint that follows the cursor, and comic panels that tell the story during load times. de Blob is an animated game that puts as much emphasis on style as on substance.

The visual aesthetic is married perfectly to the audio component, which has a funky, upbeat flavor. You can choose what musical style you want before every level, and the music will change dynamically with your actions in the environment. Each color Blob paints with has a corresponding instrument, which adds a new layer to the music as you paint. Brown is particularly fun, because it drops scratching accents into the tune. The voice work for the characters and citizens is prerecorded dialogue, but distorted so that it sounds like a unique little language. You’ll see what they’re saying in subtitles, but the voice conveys all of the emotion, kind of like in The Sims.

The in-game visuals and audio are accented by humorous little pre-rendered cutscenes that precede each level and set up the theme, usually sprinkled with the same exaggerated animation and voice work.

As with any game and especially debut titles, de Blob has its share of minor problems. The camera occasionally gets stuck and hinders the delicate platforming needed for the later levels, but considering most of the action takes place in a city crowded with vertical buildings, some sticky camera is to be expected. There are some issues with mixing paint that make the puzzles unnecessarily difficult. For example, I’d be running out a timer on a challenge, on my way to paint the last directed building green, and Blob would bump a red paint bot and turn brown, requiring me to go back through the process of mixing blue and yellow. It would be easier if you had to target and attack a paint bot to smash it and soak up its paint, instead of just running into it.

The actual attack controls were great, but led to some unexpected difficulties. Locking on to an inky and then squashing him with a sharp downward gesture was satisfying, but using the same gesture for repeated jumping and platforming was a bit imprecise and tiring. The multiplayer modes could have been deeper and I really would’ve liked to see some online co-op, but it was nice to have a competitive aspect to the game. Overall these are minor issues, however, that only detract from the main experience and aren’t deal breakers by any means. In fact, I’m glad to see some problems—more things for THQ to improve upon in a sequel.

When all is said and done, de Blob is a game that you play to death despite its flaws, because you’re having so much damn fun. Yes, the game is brightly colored and appropriate for all ages, so it’s probably a good fit for the casual gamers. But it doesn’t pander to the casual crowd, and it’s built on a solid central idea that is just a blast to play. De Blob had me hooked from the first minute in, and then proceeded to bring out obsessive-compulsive tendencies I didn’t know I had. The list of unlockables, including trailers, concept art and production videos, is extensive, and it takes quite a bit of effort to get every last goodie. I’d spend forever searching for that last blank building, just so I could get 100% on a level, and when the score tallied up I saw that I’d been playing a single level for over an hour. There’s something very charming about restoring life to a city and freeing its citizens from boredom.

Regardless of what you’ve heard, get de Blob. It’s surprisingly deep, cleverly styled, polished to a shine, and it made me smile more than any game I’ve played in the last several months.

de Blob is, for lack of a better term, unique. This art project-turned mainstream game has elements of Katamari, Mario Galaxy and Okami rolled into one seamless package, but it really doesn’t rip any of them off. de Blob relies on its central theme of using color to liberate, which is well developed and a sheer joy to play.

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