It's a sad fact that when many publishers decide to release a new game across multiple platforms, the handheld versions are almost always massively inferior to their console cousins. Granted, development budgets are tight, and often the biggest audiences are on platforms that reside in the living room and hook into a high-def TV, but that's no excuse for releasing a subpar game. Unfortunately, that's exactly what THQ and Halfbrick have done with de Blob 2 on the DS; while the console games may feature entertaining exploration and substantive challenges, the handheld edition is a dumbed-down platformer with very little going for it.
de Blob 2 once again finds Chroma City overrun by the forces of INKT, a devious corporation bent on draining the world of color. This time, the baddies are led by Dr. Von Blot, a nefarious scientist up to no good. de Blob sets out once more to vanquish evil and restore color to a depressingly gray world. The whole thing can be succinctly summed up as, "Second verse, same as the first."
Levels in de Blob 2 consist of a series of platforms and rooms, with combat sprinkled throughout to liven up things. As our protagonist rolls and jumps through the landscape, he splatters color all over the world, bringing it out of its gloomy state and making it lively and fun again. This is one of the title's high points: watching the world transform as it's infused with lively colors. Many times, I found myself obsessively painting every nook and cranny in a level, not because I had to but because I wanted to replace the grays with bright shades of blue, purple, red and more. In this respect at least, Halfbrick deserves a round of applause for creating a fun, colorful world that you can really get into.
Most stages consist of a number of switch-based puzzles that are meant to test player skills but really serve as speed bumps to getting through each level. Most challenges involve painting specific switches or panels a certain color; it has a lot of potential for challenge but ultimately ends up being far too easy in most cases. Paint-bots are everywhere, so you can change Blob's color almost at will, and players will usually find the desired color (or combination of colors) sitting a few feet away from the switch. There are a couple of rooms late in the game that force players to carefully navigate a set of platforms or hallways to retain the correct color and hit the special switch, but such challenges are exceptionally rare and still ultimately pose minimal challenge.
Combat is similarly simple, with most enemies being susceptible to a simple homing attack. Some tougher foes require advanced tactics to take down, but even these baddies succumb to a ground-pound attack or painting yourself the same color as their armor and attacking. The very end of the game starts introducing some legitimately challenging foes, but the difficulty never rises above a laughably simple level. The combat is meant to take your mind off the monotony of the levels, but in most cases, it merely adds to it.
Finally, the game also attempts to distract players with collectibles, but they're halfheartedly hidden and mostly not worth hunting down. Most "hidden" items are simply tucked away down a hallway that goes in the opposite direction as the rest of the level or at the top of a tall vertical space, and anyone with a bit of gaming experience will sniff them out easily. They're not really worth finding, as they only factor into your overall completion percentages, so it is really nothing more than collecting for collection's sake.
The sole exception to this rule and the one mildly original game mechanic in de Blob 2 is the inclusion of Chroma Cameras in certain stages. If you manage to track down one of these, then after the stage concludes, players are dropped into a sort of augmented reality game where they have to use the DSi camera to take pictures of objects with certain colors around their home. The color needed between every snapshot changes, so you'll often find yourself running around looking for something green, then blue, then brown and then purple. In spite of the fact that this is a DSi-only feature and sometimes the game can be picky about getting a specific shade of a color, it's still quite fun, and those who manage to fill all the Chroma Cameras are rewarded with a Chroma Crystal. This power-up lets you change Blob's color to whatever you want at any time, so it's worthwhile to fill every camera. Clearly the development team understands how to make collectibles worthwhile, but they chose not to do so in most cases.
It's hard to know if de Blob 2 was designed with a younger audience in mind, but that's really the only reasonable explanation for a game so simple, easy, short and boring. Even if this title was made for kids, they shouldn't be expected to enjoy something so unimpressive. Inferiority strikes the handhelds yet again, and that's a shame for a franchise that has otherwise shown promise. If you're planning to pick up de Blob 2, do yourself a favor and get it on any other console than the DS. This is clearly the forgotten platform for the game.
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