A Boy and His Blob Wii
Booting up A Boy And His Blob for the very first time is a bit like stepping into a time machine and emerging somewhere at the end of the nineteen eighties, slumped on a couch in your pyjamas, watching The Raccoons. It’s difficult to put a finger on it, but there’s something in the way it brings together elements of classic 2D platformers and the look and sound of the Saturday morning telly of yesteryear that draws you in, and then melts your heart until it’s sloshing around your ribcage.
Of course, ABAHB should be sparking abnormal levels of nostalgia seeing as it’s a remake of the 1989 NES classic. A simplistic side on platform game at heart, ABAHB sees you playing the role of a nameless boy, investigating the crash of an asteroid near to his tree-house den. It soon becomes apparent that the game’s nod to earlier entries in the genre isn’t purely based on aesthetic alone as the structure, level design, and even the learning process are equally old-school. Wandering alone through the forest beneath the starry sky, it’s not long before ABAHB teaches you the first valuable lesson: the boy is just a boy. As you come across the first of a slew of gooey black enemies the first reaction is to jump on its head. Sadly, physical contact with anything potentially dangerous instantly kills the boy, meaning other methods of offing the bad-guys must be sought. Cue blob.
Blob is a gelatinous white, um, blob that has come to earth in the crashed asteroid (the one the boy is investigating, keep up!), the two soon becoming pals and adventuring off together. You see, ABAHB is a game about friendship, it’s also a game about a race of black blobs invading the home planet of a race of white blobs, but I’ll avoid the perceivably racist undertones for now. By feeding the blob different coloured jelly beans, the blob can turn himself into a variety of useful tools. These start simple – a ladder for reaching higher platforms, or a hole that enemies drop through into water and spike traps below – and develop into more elaborate items as the game progresses. It’s in using these talents that the meat of the game takes form, and while it’s a little slow to start it soon progresses into an enjoyable puzzle game.
The key to ABAHB is the pace. The number of actions that the blob can perform is limited to the types of jelly beans available on each level. Way Forward have made sure that each time a new type of jelly bean is unlocked, there’s enough time to experiment with it, while at the same time not forcing the player to perform too many of the same puzzle before unlocking the next jelly bean. This makes ABAHB a joy to play with, approaching each scenario in your own time with very little pressure. It makes it the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon game, one you can sit back and enjoy without a care in the world. That is, until the second half.
Where Way Forward managed to get the controls, the puzzles, the pacing and pretty much everything spot on in the first half, as the game progresses things start to change for the worse. In an effort to find new things for Blob to do, it appears that the developer has pushed the concept too far, resulting in uninteresting sections of game built purely to take advantage of powers the Blob didn’t really need. Halfway through the second world the boy unlocks a jelly bean that turns the blob into a gladiators style atlas-sphere, in which the boy can enter and roll around like a giant hyperactive hamster. Though novel, it’s an absolute pain to control often going too fast, requiring abnormally quick reflexes, the likes of which are completely out of character for a game of this kind.
The same goes for the rocket power, which sees the Blob becoming jet-propelled, allowing the boy to cover great distances quickly. It may be fast, but it’s uncontrollable. More often than not you’ll hit an enemy or a spike trap and have to restart from a checkpoint, doing it all over again. The sudden change in the game’s demands is a frustrating one, and where it was earlier a well-designed puzzle game, it now becomes a reaction-based action platformer, something which the control scheme wasn’t really built to handle. It’s disappointing because up until these few examples of excruciatingly annoying problems, ABAHB was set to be the surprise hit of the Wii’s end-of-year line-up.
It’s still good mind, the vast number of levels and extra challenges make it well worth the RRP. It’s beautifully animated, gorgeously detailed and undeniably adorable in every way imaginable (you can press ‘up’ on the D-Pad to hug the blob, possibly the greatest in-game function ever). More importantly, it’s a proper game on the Wii, which joking apart is a rarity, especially one that can appeal to the Wii’s target audience without undermining them with waggle-based toss.
Had it not been for some of the more frustrating developments further along the line A Boy And His Blob would undoubtedly be coming with a full-on recommendation. Unfortunately it’s let down by a handful of issues. If you are a Wii owner looking for something a bit different, and incidentally if you’re a twenty five year old man who misses the days he could sit in his pants watching Going Live, then A Boy And His Blob is still definitely worth a look-in.