Giant Bomb Review

30 Comments

A Boy and His Blob Review

4
  • Wii

A Boy and His Blob is a charming all-ages affair that one-ups the game it's based on in virtually every conceivable way.


 A Boy and His Blob: Friends Forever!
The original 1989 release of A Boy and His Blob for the NES is a game that's easier to appreciate for its ideas than its execution. Its pedigree is certified with the involvement of Pitfall! creator David Crane, and the concept of a protagonist coaxing varied utility out of his gelatinous companion by feeding it jelly beans is as weird as it is whimsical. Lots of clever ideas, but as a game, it was kind of gawky and awkward. In a sterling example of the right way to do a remake, WayForward's A Boy and His Blob for the Wii takes the underlying premise, amplifies that game's strengths, and shaves away its rougher edges. It's a far more approachable game, but it's also not condescending, making it suitable for players both young and old. It's also a seriously adorable game, with a gentle hand-drawn art style that really emphasizes the sweet, unspoken friendship of the two title characters.

Beyond the brief opening boy-meets-blob sequence, there's not much explicit storytelling in A Boy and His Blob. The dynamic duo travel through the woods, underground caves, and finally, the blob's contoured, pastel-hued home planet of Blobolonia, all the while collecting treasure and magic jelly beans while dodging sinister black blobs of varying shapes and sizes. On their own, either character wouldn't survive for too long in this treacherous world. The boy can't jump very high, can't swim, can't survive long falls, and doesn't have a life bar to buffer against fatal contact with bad blobs or spike pits. Aside from his peculiar companionship, he is just a boy. The blob, on the other hand, is basically invincible, though he's also just a shapeless wad of white stuff. (For whatever reason, I imagine the blob has a consistency somewhere between a marshmallow and Silly Putty.) But, when the boy feeds the blob a jelly bean, which you can select different flavors of through a simple radial menu, the blob can take on a myriad of forms, allowing the pair to overcome obstacles and subdue enemies.

This is the crux of the gameplay in A Boy and His Blob: figuring out how to use the blob's candy-induced abilities to get the boy from point A to point B. You start off with simple stuff like ladders, trampolines, and Looney Tunes-style portable holes. New abilities are introduced steadily over the course of the game, though the abilities you'll have on any given level are predetermined, creating limitations that force you to consider the less-than-obvious approach to a certain obstacle. There are fleeting moments in A Boy and His Blob that require a little twitch timing, particularly the game's incongruously unforgiving boss fights, but it's mostly a lot of deliberate puzzle-solving. There are moments that seem to demand some arbitrary trial-and-error, but for the most part the puzzling aspects of A Boy and His Blob rely on simple, straightforward, logical problem-solving.

 It looks even better in motion.
This review already says more about the gameplay in A Boy and His Blob than the game itself does, a point I particularly appreciate about this game. There's no heavy-handed tutorial, just some regular, helpful signage to clue you in on which jelly bean you might want to consider using. Beyond that, the game lets you figure it out for yourself, without too much penalty, as the levels are heavily checkpointed and you've got infinite jelly beans to toss around. Not that A Boy and His Blob is a terribly complex game, but I feel like one of the worst things a kids' game can do is talk down to the player.

If the simple efficiency of the gameplay doesn't grab you entirely, A Boy and His Blob might maintain your attention with the clean lines and sharp detail of the presentation. Visually, this is a much less adorned game than, say, Muramasa, but there's still ample craft to the smooth animation found throughout A Boy and His Blob. There are touches like the way the boy's shirt edges will flutter as he falls, the odd, tiny bits of blobby wildlife going about their business on Blobolonia, or the seamlessness with which the boy and his blob hug that really help bring the whole thing together. The sound follows the same clean and simple design philosophy, relying on a few pieces of lively mood music and some minimalist voice work for both boy and blob. I particularly appreciated that the voice work for the boy, whose speech is mostly limited to brief instruction, sounds like an actual boy, not a cartoon character. It's a subtle touch that gives the whole game a little bit of weight.

There's an unassuming thoughtfulness to A Boy and His Blob that, in an odd sort of way, has the feel of some of the better children's programming you might see on public television. It's not educational per se, but it values subdued atmosphere and elementary puzzle design over flashy, merchandise-friendly mascots with prepackaged catchphrases. Like public television, some might find it a little too sincere and slow-paced, but even if it doesn't suit your tastes, it's hard to deny the craft at work in A Boy and His Blob.
30 Comments
Posted by Blair

Great review, Ryan.
 
I'm on my way to pick it up right now!

Posted by MEBs

Vinny would have given this game five stars based on all the cute hugging alone. =]

Edited by buzz_killington

Great review, and this is the second recent 2D platformer WayForward has NAILED. They may just be the best 2D developers around...

Posted by Lustreplush

I've got a friend who loved Abe's Oddysee, and I'd been thinking this might be right up her alley.
 
Your quick look and review cinched it: I'm getting this for her for Christmas.

Posted by Nasar7

Looks like a breath of fresh air.

Posted by dbz1995
@MEBs said:
" Vinny would have given this game five stars based on all the cute hugging alone. =] "
He would have given it six stars, forget five.
 
This is a game I would buy the fuck outta if I had a Wii.
Posted by GalacticPunt

Dude, I would give this Six out of Five Stars based on the dedicated hug button!  It's launching at $40, getting this is a no-brainer if you have a Wii.  

Online
Posted by Kohe321

Great review!

Posted by Bigandtasty

If everyone in the world experienced the hug button, the world would be a lot better for it.

Posted by Coleslaw893

That does it, I'm getting this tomorrow. Great review.

Posted by ch3burashka

Vinny damn near made a scene on the Quick Look. It was cute though.

Posted by Erik

Creepy Ryan picture if you think of the game. Looks like he is enjoying that hug mechanic a little too much.

Posted by Media_Master

Looks too good to resist!

Posted by Osphere

Nicely written review, Ryan.

Posted by Willy105

I was honestly very impressed with this game when I saw the Quick Look. The attention to detail, the stunning graphics, the voice acting, it was all on the level of an animated movie and not on a videogame.
 
If I could even afford a $40 game right now, I would have gotten it day one.

Posted by billysea

The return of Classic Beautiful 2D platformer/adventure on the Wii:
Muramasa 
The Boy & His Blob 
Wario Land : Shake It 
Lost Wind  
Klonoa 
New Super Mario Bros.

Posted by demontium

GREAT review.... Way better than IGN's 
 
Thank you ryan!

Posted by Akel

The Hug button is revolutionary.

Posted by InFamous91

Great review Ryan...I love the art style, and way this game presents itself. I guess its time to show my Wii a little loving. I'm buying A Boy and His Blob, Lost Wind, and NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits. Tomorrow will be spend with Wii. =)

Posted by Tebbit
@Akel: I wish the hug button mechanic was the new cover system mechanic. Games would be so much nicer.
Posted by Shaanyboi

I love this game :D

Posted by Hawk456

Well said Ryan.  And with a dedicated hug button, how can it not be good!  Is it just me or would saying something mean about this game be the equivalent of stepping on a kitten's tail?
Posted by Linkyshinks

I will expect more complexity in a sequel. 
 
The game looks good, I may get it later.

Posted by WinterSnowblind

I've been really looking forward to this, I hope it sells well. 

I personally really just can't aford to spend any more money on games this year, and it's either this or Dragon Age.  And while I love the whole concept of this and the return to more puzzle based and challenging gameplay..  Dragon Age is also a return to more challenging gameplay and what more RPG's should be like, and I'm sure it'll have more replay value.
 
Sorry Blob, no hugs from me for a while.

Posted by FirstBossCutman

This game looks amazing! Great review!

Posted by trimon

Ryan's review pic perfectly describes this game :>

Edited by ratzombie

 "while dodging sinister black blobs" That's racist!
...
 
Nice review... glad to see more worthwhile games being released on the Wii.

Posted by lspear76

I haven't played a game on the Wii in about six months. I even bought Metroid Prime Trilogy and never put it in the console. I don't want to move the remote around constantly and stare at horribly dated graphics. But this game looks fun. I might pick it up someday and stare at the box if it ever comes down to $10.

Posted by Arrested_Developer

I'm listening to old bombcasts right now (I only just started listening and decided to start from the beginning) and am currently listening to the Jan 20, 2009 episode.  I bring this up because in this episode (and actually the one before it) Ryan predicts/dreads that Nintendo might make another Boy and his blob.  It's just funny to see that 10 months later not only was he right but he ended up liking the game.

Posted by ohhsoalyse

 
Whenever I love a game, I always look up a review of it to see if I'm crazy or if it's actually a good game. I love that you loved this game, Ryan! Thank you for the review! 
 
I would definitely agree on 4/5 stars. It had a scold button. :( I tried scolding the blob so much to see if it would get fed up and go away. But, it didn't. I just hugged it to show I still loved it and went about my business.