de Blob 2 Xbox 360 review

March 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – THQ – Developer – Bluetongue Entertainment – Genre – Platformer/Puzzle – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, Wii, DS, 3DS

During the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about the influence of indie development. Here is a project that started life at the University of Utrecht (with the city adopting Blob as their mascot), gained critical acclaim without great sales on the Wii and is now back for a second bite of the cherry – playing to a much larger audience. The plot is all about colour, with hero Blob and his pink cat sidekick Pinky trying to restore colour to the land. The Blanc religion and its political party are trying to take over, and in the course of the game their sinister plot is revealed – along with the mastermind, Comrade Black. Told through humorous cutscenes and onscreen dialogue, this is a story of rebellion and revolution as the player mixes colours to make the world more colourful again.

Entering the first level, the player is gradually introduced to controlling Blob and his abilities. The most basic is picking up colour and using it to paint objects, with the ability to mix the three primary colours (red, yellow and blue) to make additional shades. Water also plays a part in the level design. This will wash Blob clean of any colour, and the dreaded black ink that pollutes the levels. The most important ability is the lock-on, done with the left trigger. This allows Blob to slam enemies and obstacles with a press of the A button, or to enter the portals that lead into buildings. Later in the game the left trigger will also activate the pistons and the Z-jump, allowing Blob to reach higher sections of the level. Pressing the right trigger will squeeze Blob down manholes to explore more of the level.

Buildings and underground sections are displayed in side-on 2D, rather than the open world 3D of the main levels. A series of puzzles will let Blob hit switches and paint objects to generate enough colour energy to transform the building from its grey state to a more colourful one. In the open world, Pinky (and the freed Prismati citizens) will set Blob objectives to clear the Blancs and Inkies from a level. This might be as simple as painting a group of buildings a particular colour, or a more complicated objective such as using the wrecking ball power-up to travel across a series of rotating magnetic plates to reach a platform. The compass (switched on and off with the Y button) shows an arrow pointing to the current task and icons to help find the nearest colour source. The main tasks in a level have a time limit, with extra time earned by freeing Graydians (citizens who have become grey thanks to the Blanc religion) or completing other tasks. Once the main tasks are completed and Pinky is ready to carry you to the next level, the player can spend time finishing off all the objectives to earn a higher rank. This includes finding all the Inspiration icons (light bulbs that can be used to upgrade Blob), all the Style icons (ten purple swirls that change the textures Blob paints with) and liberating all the citizens (by painting all the buildings and then slamming the released Graydians to return the colour). Every level also has a quota of trees to paint (earning the Environment badge) and Blanc supplies to smash (in the form of crates and barrels).

Looking at the graphics, the bold and colourful style works really well. The draw distance is impressive, as shown by getting up high in a level and using the camera controls to look around. In general, the camera copes fine with the demands of the 3D layout; but for tricky moments the left bumper automatically positions the camera behind Blob and the right analogue stick can move the camera manually. Just as with the LEGO games, there is much skill and humour displayed in the cutscenes, introducing the many colourful characters of the Colour Underground and telling the story of the game with hints of political and religious satire. The characters all speak in a delightful language of their own, with just the odd word recognisable. Music and sound effects are good without being intrusive. A nice idea is the “moods” – basically extra background music tracks that can be unlocked, with each building up as the player progresses.

On the control side of things, de Blob 2 does a very good job all around. The previously mentioned camera controls take away some of the frustration, but there is always the problem inherent in 3D games of falling off tall structures and having to climb up again. The wall run does compensate, but is not as useful as a Mario wall jump. The way the game builds up Blob’s abilities and introduces new enemy types is also cleverly structured and nicely paced. Checkpoints and upgraded abilities will prevent the game over message, but having to repeat sections of the game after death (or running out of time) takes the shine off a little. Long term, there is the challenge of earning all the medals and unlocking the extra galleries and movies. Sadly, the multi-player options are extremely limited. A second player can join in as Pinky, using a gun to target enemies or change Blob’s colour. Completing levels of the main game unlocks extra levels for Party mode, where two players compete to paint the most of a level.

By introducing the 2D sections and pacing the game well, this is a sequel that outperforms the original. The enthusiasm may be dampened by having to repeat tasks, but the game as a whole is refreshingly different to much of what is on offer on the software shelves.