de Blob 2 PS3, Xbox 360, Wii
Comrade Black is a troubled soul. What motivates a gelatinous mound to eradicate all colour, joy and freedom from people’s lives? It’s a question that sadly remains unanswered in what is otherwise a solid, if shallow series. Not that shallow equates to bad. de Blob 2 almost challenges you to dislike it; from the crisp visuals, the mellow jazz- inspired soundtrack to the cuteness of the characters, only the very bitter could vehemently frown upon what’s on offer.
Part two introduces new gameplay features to the fundamental roll, paint, repeat formula of old. Levelling up brings light RPG elements to proceedings, and Blob’s new dash attack- arguably the most important new trick to the repertoire- allows him to break objects and attack enemies. Admittedly, a few miss the mark; the wrecking ball and black hole abilities appear too infrequently to rise above their gimmick status.
As before, de Blob 2 features plenty of sprawling levels to traverse through. There are twelve levels in total; each densely packed with enemies, obstacles, hidden areas and collectables, requiring multiple playthroughs just to take it all in. They help spur you on as you convert the monochromatic monstrosities back to their former selves – colourful, jubilant districts that an ocean-worth of bleach has long hid – all in the name of liberation. As previously hinted this is a very pretty game, favouring lush bold colours to intricate texture work and technical showboating. The result is one of the most visually striking games of the last few years.
It’s refreshing to see a series take such a visual approach to feedback and progress. You will always know how close you are to completion by simply climbing the nearest skyscraper and rotating the camera to observe your handiwork. Every smiling citizen and green pasture is a direct result of your own achievements. It works perfectly well in a metaphorical – if overwrought – sense which few games have experimented with. The effect is similar to that of The Saboteur, another game which depicts player progress via colour contrasts as opposed to dull percentage charts or meters.
Taking cues from the intergalactic exploits of a certain Italian plumber, de Blob 2 mixes up the gameplay by reverting to traditional 2D platforming sections to capture key control points across the metropolis. They’re a meta-game of their own, drawing upon both puzzle solving and combat abilities which, given the time limit imposed upon both games, ramps up the tension in later stages. They make a fun diversion from the core gameplay but are betrayed by a myriad of backtracking and vague signposting which runs the risk of tedium.
This alone could be quietly forgivable but it exposes de Blob 2’s two major flaws; a lack of variety and some questionable design decisions. Case in point one objective demanding certain buildings are painted in a particular colour. As player inhibitions take hold, you are likely to have colourised every available building in the vicinity before you’ve even contemplated following a set of arbitrary orders such as objectives. Depressingly, the game then demands you re-paint your masterworks a different colour, resulting in needless repetition when the game should be encouraging freedom. This is a game about a freedom fighter after all. Residents don’t even complain when you re-paint the buildings again later anyway, rendering the recurring objective a waste of time.
Sadly, de Blob 2 bases itself upon a blueprint which struggles to sustain the length of the game. As such, later levels are liable to a degree of ennui, shamelessly repeating the same mission types to pad out their running time, ending long after they should have. It comes close to damaging the experience; two levels in particular copy and paste the same structures four or maybe five times by way of an egregious attempt to artificially extend themselves beyond tolerable perimeters.
Let it be known that de Blob 2 is by no means a bad game, just one with enough detrimental flaws to hold it back from greatness. de Blob is no doubt a fine series, a duo of quixotic oddities to rival the Katamari franchise in sheer absurdity and joy, and de Blob 2 is as colourful, original and approachable a platforming game you’re likely to find this year. Hopefully with some refinements to a lovably saccharine formula, de Blob will receive the love, attention – and ultimately – the sales required to become a major player.