Originally released on the NES and written by industry legend David Crane, A Boy and his Blob was re-imagined (usually a dreadful word) a couple of years ago for the Wii. Developed by Wayforward Technologies, who were also responsible for the excellent Duck Tales Remastered, it was mostly ignored by the wider gaming community, which is a real shame as it was a great title that did a pretty decent job of respecting its original source, whilst updating it for a newer console. At a time when Call of Assassin’s Creed Halo 85 were dominating the market, it’s not surprising that it slipped under the radar of many gamers. However, its fun, well-balanced gameplay means it’s a title you really should track down.
Incidentally, before I get bombarded with people trying to start a debate over whether the Wii is “retro”, I’m reviewing this as an updated version of an old game, rather than a Wii title per se. Besides, it’s my blog, so if I want to review it, I can 🙂
A Boy and His Blob is essentially a platform game at its core. However, there are so many nice little touches that it transcends that rather overworked genre and comes across like nothing you have ever played before. The plot sees a spaceship containing Blob and several alien life forms crash-land on Earth. Blob befriends a young boy and together they must traverse several levels and overcome the evil alien forces that have taken over the land. This essentially involves exploring the levels by jumping on platforms, collecting treasure and avoiding enemies.
So far, so generic. Thankfully, A Boy & His Blob has an additional trick up its sleeve. In order to reach otherwise inaccessible parts of the screen, Boy has to feed different coloured jelly beans to Blob. These grant him different abilities or turn him into handy items, such as a ladder to reach those just-out-of reach platforms, a trampoline to get even higher, or a parachute so that Boy can descend safely to some of the lower levels. This gives the game a more strategic element as you need to decide what ability to use when. Sometimes (especially in the earlier levels), it’s obvious; sometimes experimentation and that old platform favourite, precise positioning, is needed.
This innovative game play element is combined with some superb level design. None of the levels are particularly tricky, but you do sometimes need to take a few moments to stop and think in order to navigate them safely. This gives the game a much more sedate pace than your average platform game which normally have you bouncing all over the screen like some sort of mad March hare (or hedgehog). It’s this pacing that perhaps meant it didn’t catch the attention of the wider gaming public on release, but it works well and suits the game.
Levels are generally quite short (although there are hidden areas to explore) but is so addictive and such great fun that you can frequently find yourself sitting down for a “quick go” and finding yourself still there a few hours later.
One of the things that will strike you straight away about A Boy and His Blog is the gorgeous visuals. From the opening attract sequence detailing the back-story, through to beautifully drawn and animated backgrounds and characters, everything looks fantastic. Beautifully detailed, full of character and with stunning use of colour they make you feel like you are playing in an interactive cartoon.
The game is full of character with the main characters wonderfully animated. Both Boy and Blob are well drawn and a lot of care and attention has clearly been paid to them. They might only be a set of pixels, but you soon feel a real sense of warmth for both of them and their relationship exudes a sense of innocence that it’s impossible not to like them. The game gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling (not something I often say) and the central relationship between Boy and Blob feels like a real friendship, not a mere game play mechanic thought up by some game designer somewhere.
Sound is more minimal, but still highly effective. A hugely atmospheric tune accompanies the in-game action whilst there’s some nice speech from Boy as he calls his Blob friend to where he needs him to be. For the rest, it’s fairly bog standard, but that’s not a criticism – a game this good to look at and play doesn’t need elaborate sound effects. Indeed, this is a case where the simple background noises add far more atmosphere to the game than any amount of realistic sound effects ever could.
The controls have also been well-thought out when translating the game to the Wii, using a combination of the standard wiimote and the nunchuk (the traditional Classic Controller can also be used). At first, it looks as though there are an incredible amount of controls to remember as virtually every button and stick on both controllers does something. However, the game is so well structured that the first couple of levels introduce you to the main functions and by the time you’ve completed those, the controls are second nature.Whilst they can still sometimes feel a little fiddly, this doesn’t cause too much of a problem.
There’s a price to be paid for all this graphical loveliness, though, and that comes in the form of loading times. Although they are fairly quick, they are also pretty frequent. Every time you reach a new area, the screen goes black (albeit with a nice animation in the centre) and the disk whirrs away for 10 seconds or so before you can start playing again. It doesn’t cripple the game, but it can be slightly annoying and get in the way of the atmosphere the rest of the game so lovingly creates.
There are also question marks over the game’s longevity. There are 4 worlds to conquer, each with 10 stages (as well as bonus content to unlock). However, with infinite lives at your disposal, together with a generous smattering of restart points on each level, it’s not going to take the average gamer very long to complete. There are some annoying difficulty spikes, but even with those, most gamesr shouldn’t have too much problem completing their mission. There’s no real replay value either and once you’ve completed it, you’re unlikely to return. For once, though, this is forgivable: fsince completing it is such fun that you won’t care that it’s a relatively short game. The phrase “short, but sweet” could almost have been created for this title.
A Boy and his Blob does the basics of gaming well: simple, but fun game play, well designed levels, impressive graphics and a genuinely touching relationship between the two central characters. If you missed it on the Wii, it’s recently been released on PS4 and Xbox One and is well worth picking up for a blast of old school, 2D platforming, given a lick of next-gen paint.