In 2008, THQ published de Blob, a platforming game with a rather simple idea: Use your color-absorbent body to paint the drab and colorless world around you. It may have looked like a simple kids' title on the surface, but gamers who gave it a shot noticed its depth and fun. In turn, gamers rewarded THQ by making the game a hit — rare for a third-party title on a Nintendo console. With that type of success, developer Blue Tongue went back to work on the sequel, making it bigger and more daring along the way. de Blob 2 not only arrives on its home console, the Nintendo Wii, but also ventures out to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, adopting a higher definition look while, in the case of the 360 version, dropping motion controls in the process. Can de Blob 2 maintain the charm of the original, or was the sequel and subsequent expansion to other consoles not a good idea?
The story takes place a short time after the events of the first game. Both Blob and his robotic friend Pinky are taking a scenic flight in their zeppelin when they receive an urgent transmission from the Color Underground. The ex-head of INKT, Comrade Black, has been spotted on the small vacation resort of Paradise Island, a place popular for its wealth of color, and may be up to his old tricks again. As you try and restore color to the island resort, you discover that Black built a cannon to help him escape the island. You take a ride in the cannon and arrive at Prisma City in the midst of its elections. While searching for Comrade Black, you hear about a cult leader named Papa Blanc, who is running for office and also seems to be against color. Being the advocate of color that you are, you take it upon yourself to restore color back to the city and expose Papa Blanc for being a fraud.
The basic gameplay hasn't changed much in the sequel. As Blob, you're charged with giving white and lifeless buildings and citizens some color. In order to make it happen, you need to absorb some color from color pools or robots and touch the afflicted items to give them more life. The amount of color you can hold is governed by a point system. While every object you touch requires a small amount of points to be spent, others, such as barriers and statues, require lots of points to color or destroy. You'll have access to various color pools as well as the ability to mix colors when certain robots are hit, and your size is relative to the amount of color points in your possession. While you can touch just about any object in the game, there are a few to watch out for, aside from colorless enemies and spikes. Water, while not fatal, washes away all of the color you've absorbed, and ink depletes you of color points until it gets washed away, and it also robs the object you touch of their color.
A few tweaks have made the game a bit more enjoyable. There is no longer a point limit that you need to reach in order to progress to the next area. Instead, you're given a set of missions, one after the other, that must be completed in order for the next area to become accessible. While all of the levels take place in 3-D worlds, you'll often have to enter buildings, changing the perspective to 2-D instead. Power-ups play a more prominent role in the game, from giving you the power to paint things the correct color the first time around to giving you unlimited dash attacks and limited protection from ink poisoning. Finally, earned points can be traded in for upgrades to Blob, such as the ability to hold more paint points, a reduction in the number of points needed to dash through objects, and an increase in lives before the continue screen appears.
Not all of the changes are for the better, though. The biggest change has to do with the amount of time you're given to complete each level. On the normal difficulty level, you're given a decent amount of time to finish everything before you can move on to the next level. As you complete missions, you'll be given between 30 to 60 more seconds to complete the level. Any secondary activities you do, such as converting blanks into normal people, gives you even more time. With plenty of missions and minimissions in any given level, all of that time eventually adds up until you have more time to complete any level with ease. Since there are only a few things that can kill you, the difficulty level drops significantly to the point where you can go through the game from beginning to end without seeing Blob perish. It also doesn't help that the game always tells you exactly where to go and exactly what needs to be done at any given time. You'll rarely get lost or confused simply because the game goes out of its way to carve a path for you. For kids who could get easily frustrated, this is a fine way to curb that, but for players looking for some sort of challenge, you'll only get frustrated if you're a completionist or make up your own challenges.
de Blob 2 features multiplayer in both cooperative and competitive categories. At any time during the main story mode, a second player can jump in to take control of Pinky, Blob's robotic friend. Like Blob, Pinky's task is to paint everything around her and free citizens who have been hypnotized into Black's army of minions. Unlike Blob, though, Pinky uses her paint gun to do all of the work. The addition of Pinky works out the same way that the stars do in Super Mario Galaxy in that the second player simply helps the first player complete tasks faster without necessarily getting in the way. Her presence makes an already easy game much easier — but no less fun — to complete.
Blob Party, on the other hand, is both competitive and cooperative in nature. In this mode, two players compete against each other to see who can paint the most objects and get the most points in a set amount of time. There are, however, a few areas that require cooperation to access, so you and an opponent must try to figure out the best time to call a truce and the best time to break it. It is a fun mode that's only hampered by the fact that it can't be played online, and each area is only accessible once its counterpart has been conquered in the main story mode.
Unlike the Wii and PS3 versions, the Xbox 360 iteration doesn't have an option to use motion controls. This isn't much of an issue, though, as the game works fine with the standard control pad. The right analog stick moves the camera while the left analog stick moves Blob. The A button initiates jumping and, in combination with the left trigger, performs a smash attack. The right trigger helps Blob quickly absorb color but performs a dash attack when used with the left trigger. It's a simple control scheme that works flawlessly in the game. About the only time you'll miss motion controls is when you're playing as Pinky in co-op mode. Since she can fire off shots of color with her gun, controlling the aiming cursor with the left stick isn't as smooth or accurate as it is with a motion-controlled cursor.
The move from the Wii to the Xbox 360 gave the game a noticeable graphical boost. The architecture of each level is still nice due to the style of the buildings. The level layouts are easy to go through, and there's no opportunity to get stuck between objects. While the objects look fine in their plain white colors, they pop out more when colored in thanks to the color saturation and accompanying designs. With so much going on in the game and with so many moving objects, it's a surprise that there isn't a hint of slowdown or flickering when going through levels. The animations for your character and the various enemies are nice and fluid, while the particle effects don't overwhelm the scene. The move to HD makes the scenery more alive, with fewer jaggies on buildings and more depth to the color scheme when compared to the Wii original. It makes for a good way to test out your HDTV colors beyond the browns found in most other games.
For those who happen to be lucky enough to own 3-D TV sets, both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions support stereoscopic 3-D. While we don't have the equipment at the moment to test out that portion of the game, keep in mind that you always need to enable the option when you start up the game on your respective system.
The sound didn't get much of an overhaul during the transition to the sequel. Blob and all of the other inhabitants of the world still speak in gibberish, though some key words come out in a muffled manner. It's endearing enough that the overall flow still sounds fine when you're artificially advancing the dialogue and ensures none of the voices become grating for prolonged periods of time. The score for the first game was impressive, and the new score matches that one nicely. The technique is still in place where music in a blank world starts off slow and builds as you fill in the world with color, nicely matching the mood. Hearing the music gradually go from lifeless to vigorous as you add more color to an area never ceases to amaze, and the same can be said when you transition from colorful to colorless areas as well. The use of different sound effects depending on your chosen color is still a great mechanic, especially in free roam areas where you can have just as much fun making hip-hop, jazz, or funk remixes of the level's music as you would painting with your favorite color. The only minor gripe is that the effect doesn't seem to be enhanced much on a surround sound system.
de Blob 2 is a great game that now has the chance to be experienced by a wider audience thanks to its multiplatform status. The casual platformer is much easier this time around, but it's still an enjoyable experience. The addition of co-op makes it something younger kids could get into easily. The wonderful musical mechanic is still in place, with a soundtrack that's just as good as the original, and the brightly colored world garners favorable notice in a gaming landscape filled with drab and dark colors. Fans of more offbeat platformers will certainly enjoy painting the town red — or any color they want.
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