The original de Blob stood out among THQ's output for 2008. I remember walking into their E3 booth in 2007 and seeing this bright, shiny platformer, stuck in between a Company of Heroes booth and a couple of Warhammer 40K games, and it couldn't have been more out of place if it had been on fire.
Unusually, de Blob went on to be a modest success, which is almost unheard-of for third-party Wii games. It deserved it, as it was a lot of fun, and now there's a cross-platform sequel.
A couple of years after the events of the first game, Blob and his buddy Pinky are chasing their old enemy Comrade Black, who's left a trail of whitewashed landscapes and depressed, monotone civilians across the world. In each new city, the Blob drops in to turn the world back to its old exciting, colorful self by outwitting and undoing the efforts of a bizarre cult called the Blancs.
de Blob 2 is in that Nintendo-esque sweet spot, where the subject matter is well-suited for kids (although there's some stuff concerning the cult around the third chapter that may or may not scare the hell out of them), and the gameplay is dirt-simple and largely unchallenging. It's a fast-paced, easy-to-learn 3-D platformer, and it's actually pretty difficult to die for the first few levels. Combat against normal enemies is handled by holding down Z and hammering the A button, so Blob ricochets off of their heads like Mario on speed, and you rarely have to really think about it.
In a typical level, you're once again jumping into pools or cans of paint to turn Blob different colors. Then you spend his "paint points" to destroy obstacles, repaint buildings, bounce off enemies, or charge through obstacles. Each level is full of little collectibles to reward exploration, and while the challenge is in beating the clock, de Blob 2 is really generous with 30- and 60-second power-ups that extend the timer.
If you fall into a pool of water, it washes out Blob's paint and turns him into something kind of like a soap bubble. If you take damage at that point, like landing on a spike, he pops, and you have to go back to the last checkpoint. Falling into a pool of ink has a similar effect, where you need to get to paint or water fast before it "drowns" Blob. In either event, this is an occasional hazard but isn't really a problem for most of the game. It's legitimately difficult to die in de Blob 2.
de Blob 2 occasionally gets tricky but is never really difficult. You can give this to a kid, and he'll have a great time splattering paint all over everything, or you can play it yourself and it'll be a diverting way to pass a weekend. I can see why this found an audience on the Wii when very little else did, as it's got all the spectacle, color and entertainment of a good 3-D platformer without the teeth-grinding insanity of something like Super Mario Galaxy.
One thing I do want to talk about is the music, which is actually a really cool touch. In each stage, you arrive at a new part of the world that's been whitewashed and drained of life. Pedestrians walk around slowly, buildings are all dark gray, and the soundtrack is usually a couple of isolated, repetitive notes.
As you roll around town, unclogging the pipes, restoring the flow of paint to the street level, and using that paint to turn the area into a Technicolor dreamland, the soundtrack gradually acquires more complexity until it's a genuinely engaging jazz track. The tracks themselves are decent, but it's the way they enhance the gameplay that really got my attention. It's a solid way to enhance the feeling that you're making progress.
To a certain extent, de Blob 2 isn't really for me, but I can appreciate its appeal. It gets a little repetitive after the fourth level or so, and for somebody like me who cut his teeth on Mario games, it's very easy. I don't know if I'd pick up this game for myself because it feels like I won just by pushing "start," but I wouldn't think twice about giving it to kids or new gamers. It's bright, colorful, well-designed, easy to learn and genuinely entertaining.
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