As silly as it sounds, I used to be deathly afraid of The Blob. These days I look back at the hammy overacting and Burt Bacharach's loopy theme song and wonder what I was thinking. But as a child of four I was horrified by the gelatinous mass that devoured everything in its path. Now that I've spent some time with Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack on the PS Vita, it turns out that I was right to be scared of the classic drive-in movie villain.
This time around you play the Mutant Blob, a menacing scoop of gel that grows bigger and more menacing with each object it devours. The blob isn't picky; he'll eat anything that it can fit in its stomach. From trash cans and cars to army men and animals, our hero will gobble up anything that gets in his way.
If this sounds familiar then it's because you've probably played Katamari Damacy. This 2D action game steals its premise almost entirely from Namco's quirky PlayStation 2 puzzler. The basic progression stays true: You feast on small objects (screws, vitamins and dice) until you grow into a larger blob that can swallow tanks and helicopters. Eventually you grow so large that you'll be able to take down huge skyscrapers. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Unlike similar games, Mutant Blobs Attack tells a coherent story that is as deep as any of the 1950s science fiction films it's mimicking. The Mutant Blob springs to life as a college experiment. Before long these gelatinous beasts are menacing the local town. Along the way the unstoppable force will travel to the big city, an army base and even the moon. Each area has its own set of obstacles and enemies to devour.
Mutant Blobs Attack is about more than just gobbling up everything in sight. A lot of the game involves 2D platforming challenges, which gives the game a LocoRoco flavor. The blobs can wall jump and slam from the get-go. Along the way you'll pick up magnetic powers and a super power that takes the blob airborne. The gameplay may sound simple, but the 24 stages of puzzles will keep you going for a number of hours.
Some puzzles require the Vita's hardware capabilities. You will be able to interact with some objects on screen by simply pushing the touch screen, while other levels will force you to use Sony's handheld as a motion controller. Thankfully all of the gimmicky additions feel well done and add to overall experience. Expertly crafted level designs help to highlight the game's clever puzzles.
There aren't a lot of enemies in Mutant Blobs Attack. Perhaps it's because you're an unstoppable ball of slime, but most of the time you aren't that worried about dying. That's not to say that it's smooth sailing through the two dozen stages. Players will run into a number of deadly obstacles, including lasers and spikes. The army will eventually get in the way, but their bullets are nothing compared to getting squished in a platforming mishap. Thankfully the developers were good about adding frequent checkpoints in each level.
The game's delightful visuals capture the 1950s horror films aesthetic that inspired the Tales From Space series. Although everything is presented as simple hand-drawn 2D sprites, there's an amount of detail that went into each stage. Not every pop culture reference is half a century old; Mutant Blobs Attack manages to play homage to Angry Birds and the Game Boy. It's hard to resist the cartoony art style, even when the subject matter is getting grimmer by the level.
Sadly there isn't much to do once you've completed the game's 24 stages (and five motion-enhanced bonus stages). Each stage offers a couple of hidden blobs to uncover, which will give some fans enough of a reason to revisit past levels. You are also able to post your best scores to the online leaderboard and compare them to your friends. This may not be enough to keep you coming back, but the single-player story mode is long enough to warrant the game's $15 price tag.
It's a shame that Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack will be overshadowed by Namco's newest Katamari installment. Despite its simple presentation, I ended up having a much better time with this 2D platformer. I love taking control of that one movie monster that gave me nightmares as a small child. The things you do are fun to look at and immensely satisfying. With its great handling and incredible art direction, Mutant Blobs Attack is the Vita's downloadable killer app.