In depth review: a boy and his blob
Demontium reviews: A boy and his blob (8.5/10)
I said I would have this review up earlier than I did so I apologize in advance.
It happened at night when no one would notice – no one except for one special boy. We don’t know why he’s special, and just like a similar mystery on Lost, the wondering may never end. What happened that night is reminiscent of Superman’s arrival to Earth: after realizing that something (from outer space?) has crashed near his home, a young boy rushes to investigate.
His curiosity leads him to a blob-like creature that, under normal circumstances, would eat him alive. Instead, the blob finds a way to commune with the boy. They hug. They become friends. Together, they embark on a journey that would be absurd in film or TV – but is somehow plausible, even likable, in a video-game.
If you were to watch a boy and his blob being played without ever picking up the controller you might be duped into thinking it’s just another platformer. But it isn’t really a platformer at all, and you can’t call it a straight action/adventure either. The only way to describe a boy and his blob without losing its essence mid-sentence is to define it solely as one giant puzzle-based adventure game.
We’ve seen these kinds of games before, and when done right, they’re drastically different every time. Games like ICO, the first Prince of Persia remake (they early one for PS2/Xbox), and to some extent LittleBigPlanet, focused more on the world, its navigation and its solution than the act of running, jumping and crushing the enemy. While the latter can surely make for compelling gameplay, A Boy and his Blob is a wonderful substitute, particularly because it doesn’t conform to the idea of what a platformer or a puzzle game has to be.
As revealed by the screenshots, videos and mountains of hype the game received at this year’s E3, the blob is a much bigger star than the boy. The blob can transform into any shape you need – balls, parachutes, balloons, anvils and ladders, to name a few – while the boy can only take advantage of them. The blob is also quite good at transforming into things that don’t really exist, such as a pancake that forms a manhole-sized opening for dropping through solid ground.
It’s unclear if the developers built the levels around these transformations or vice versa, but in any case, the results are stellar. a boy and his blob starts you off with a near step-by-step explanation of what needs to be done. During these early stages, it seems like the game could be finished in a couple of hours. Most of the worlds are short – the only thing that ever holds you back is your inability to uncover the stage’s solution. But that is precisely what keeps the game from being defeated prematurely. Gradually, the hints are reduced while the quantity of options and the depth of each puzzle increases. The types of blob transformations change with each stage, and that too helps to increase the game’s depth and challenge.
On the visual side, a boy and his blob has received a lot of buzz for its distinct hand-drawn 2D graphics. They are fairly nice, but the character animations are basic at best. The backgrounds look good but there’s no depth to them – they don’t pop out at you because they are only comprised of one or two layers of artwork. There will no doubt be some gamers who look past that and appreciate the graphics as they are. But overall, the gameplay is a far greater achievement, and is worth so much more hype.
One thing to be aware of, however, is that, despite how amazing the gameplay will be for those who get into it, the controls are kind of stiff and the character movement is very slow. In the context of this game – a puzzle-based and puzzle-directed adventure game – speed is not much of an issue. But it is likely to be a barrier for some players. If they pick up the controller and can’t stand how slowly the game moves, they might stop playing and completely miss the blob’s magnificence.
Though it’s not necessarily a problem, a boy and his blob uses an old-school format for level completion: collect a few treasure chests and reach the goal. It works really well the first time you play through each stage. But after that you may not have the urge to play through them a second time. This is one of the drawbacks of a puzzle-based adventure game; the act of solving each scenario is so difficult that you remember the solution long after it has been found. Thus, when you go through a stage a second time, the fun of trying to figure out the solution is lost because you already have it.
Overall: 8.5 (4/5 stars)
An excellent and highly original puzzle-infused joyride of near-epic proportions.