When the Vita released a few years ago, one of the more intriguing titles at launch was Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. The sequel to the PS3-only game Tales from Space: About a Blob, the newer title was a good game that was considered by some to be the best game on the platform at the time. It was charming and showed off the system's technical prowess without feeling like it did so out of necessity. A few months later, it was released to the PC, where it maintained the charm and sacrificed very little in the process. A little over two years have passed, and the game is on the Xbox 360 by way of Xbox Live Arcade. While the game has received some tweaks, time has definitely been good to Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack.
The story is reminiscent of classic monster movies of yesteryear. The local science lab is giving out tours of the facility to eager students. This same lab also happens to be a place where alien blobs are tortured in various science experiments. The blobs are sentient beings, and one has had just about enough of the abuse. When one of the scientists tries to grab it, the blob attacks the scientist and escapes, freeing the other blobs in the process and stowing himself away in an open backpack. Once outside of the lab, it plans its revenge and world domination.
If you've never played this game or its predecessor, you may have heard that this is essentially a 2-D version of Katamari Damacy. That description is pretty apt, since you grab bunches of items to grow in size. Much like Namco Bandai's hit game, the items you get are random, from cups to boxes to trash bags to army tanks and astronauts — and everything else in between. Your size determines what you'll be able to consume, and growth happens almost immediately, so you'll be able to eat previously larger items almost right away. You're also restricted in your travels by corks, which act like barriers and prevent you from progressing in a level until you reach the right size. That's where the similarities end, though, as the number of objects you can grab aren't as plentiful or wacky as the Katamari series. It also isn't a constant activity you partake in, so the collection levels are restricted to a few areas and the odd object here and there.
The rest of the game is standard platformer material with a few enemies. While you face an occasional missile-shooting tank or laser turret, the majority of things require jumping prowess or brute force to complete. Wall jumps to reach higher areas are often used, as is your inherent ability to be malleable, forcing you through narrow passages and letting you squeeze through very small gaps.
The regular movement, jumping, and eating abilities are complemented by new powers that appear at a nice clip. In some parts of the level, you can use telekinesis to control certain platforms. Most are used for added mobility to higher places, but others can be used to block lasers or fling items your way to help increase your size. You get a rocket ability in some areas to let you fly in all directions and get a speed boost. There are also a few levels taken from a top-down perspective instead of from the side, so you can maneuver through labyrinth-like levels without worrying about platforming. By far the more exciting ability is magnetism, which lets you become attracted to metal surfaces to defy gravity and repel yourself from those same surfaces for added jump boosts.
The platforming is solid, movement is smooth, and jumping feels just right. Pulling off wall jumps is quite easy, and the controls are very responsive. To complement that, the game is quite forgiving in several different areas. Lives are unlimited, and the checkpoints are generous enough that you don't need to worry about covering the same obstacles over and over again upon repeated failures. Some of the challenges are tricky and challenge your dexterity, but there's nothing impossible. The levels do a good job of varying things at every opportunity, since no platform type sticks around for too long. You may be performing magnet-related jumping tricks for a while before switching to a puzzle where you need to manipulate moving platforms to avoid getting fried by lasers, and then you'll go back to basics and squish your way through narrow vacuum pipes. The variety makes things feel fresh at every step.
The game also accomplishes all of the solid platforming with a nice sense of humor. The cut scenes are appropriately silly, as it depends more on visual humor rather than spoken humor. What people mostly notice are the various jokes and references lingering in the background. It starts off innocently enough with funny posters and hipster beer references in the college area, but it soon mutates into game references, like Angry Birds before throwing in several memes and shout-outs to some big indie games, like Awesomenauts, Retro City Rampage and Swords & Sorcery. While it may seem like the developers lay on the jokes too thick at times, it remains humorous the first time you see it.
The complaints are very few and rather minor. Mutant Blobs Attackprovidesnothing additional over what was offered to both the Vita and PC crowds, so those who waited get nothing extra. The result is a game with quite short individual levels, and the complete game can be finished in an afternoon if you aren't adamant about getting all of the stray blobs or getting gold medals in each level. Also, since the system has neither the gyroscopic nor touch-screen capabilities of the Vita, the challenge has been lessened. Moving platforms may not be extremely accurate, but it gets the job done without too much difficulty. The analog controls make it far too easy to complete the bonus levels, even if you aren't trying.
Graphically, the game is just as nice as it was on the Vita and PC. It's very colorful, but those colors are purposefully muted to provide the look of an old color movie, a trick amplified by the presence of an oval glass that covers most of the screen to give the illusion of watching it all on a classic CRT TV. The art style is very cartoon-like, with some exaggerated movements and a nice roundness to almost every object. The effects aren't special, but they are abundant in certain situations, and the frame rate holds steady. It looks great and shows that the older systems still have enough horsepower to produce very impressive-looking titles that don't necessarily resort to high polygon counts.
The sound is minimal in some places, but it works effectively, especially as far as the musical score is concerned. Despite the old horror vibe, the music is often upbeat and lighthearted. It evokes the feeling of 1950s shorts and commercials, and it helps to enhance the humor of you eating up everything in your path. As for voices, you'll mostly hear the screams of people running away from you before they are eaten up. The cut scenes of the newscasters are only done in gibberish.
The effects are where the minimalism doesn't work so well. Most objects give off appropriate sounds, like the sounds of crackling electricity when using your telekinetic powers to move metal floors or the squish of you landing from a jump. However, the consumables you can ingest produce nothing but silence, and their lack of sound is odd.
While Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack may be better suited to the handheld space due to its brevity, there's no denying that it's still a good fit for the home console. The platforming is both solid and silly, and the plethora of new powers and their pacing make the title feel fresh. The game is rather short, and the modified controls make the game a bit too easy in some spots, but overall, Mutant Blobs Attack is a great game to add to your library.
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