It’s an unfortunate and mildly ironic piece of timing that, at the same time as De Blob 2 hits the shelves, most of the UK’s gaming community will be blowing each other to smithereens in Killzone 3, or kicking each other and then blowing each other to smithereens in Bulletstorm.
Killing things has long been the lifeblood of videogames – even the amiable Super Mario spends much of his time battering turtles or jumping on sentient fungus – so De Blob 2‘s less violent objectives serve as a welcome change of pace from all this bad karma.
The original De Blob began as a student project, before appearing on the Nintendo Wii in 2008. The game garnered acclaim for its accessible, colourful gameplay, and earning respectable sales in the process.
Markedly similar to the first game, the premise of De Blob 2 is this: in defiance of the wishes of the miserable villain Comrade Black, amorphous hero Blob embarks on a kind of anarchic urban rejuvenation project, filling drab towns and villages with vibrant colour and dismantling Black’s evil regime in the process.
Controlling Blob with the left stick, you steer the little orb around the map, dunking him in reservoirs of ink and then rolling him over buildings and giggling citizens. As you do so, the landscape springs back to life – cars begin tootling around town, parasols open and trees blossom. It’s but one incidental yet charming detail in a game packed full of them.
Colouring in each area of the map has to be achieved within a time limit, though you can earn extra seconds by encouraging the townsfolk out of their houses – doing so also reveals other collectible items, including Inspiration points, which can be used to upgrade Blob’s power and paint meters.
Every time you touch a building or object, you lose a little ink from your reserves, so you have to return to the reservoirs occasionally to top them back up again. Later stages introduce little robot-like critters, some of whom can be relieved of their ink by jumping on them, while ghost-like creatures called Blancs will attempt to syphon off your pigment reserves, and must be shaken off with a wiggle of the controller if you don’t bounce on them in time.
Taking a leaf out of Sonic Adventure’s book, De Blob 2 has a handy lock-on mechanic, which makes leaping on platforms, switches and enemies far more easy than it would otherwise be in a 3D game such as this – in fact, an awkward, sometimes skittish camera (which can be manually controlled with the right stick) is the only blot in an otherwise clean copybook.
De Blob 2 also quietly lifts the two-player co-op element from another great platformer of recent years, Super Mario Galaxy – a friend can grab a controller and help Blob out on his quest, taking out enemies and splashing around the occasional daub of ink.
As well as its 3D main world, De Blob 2 takes occasional trips underground, in 2D platforming sections which feel a little like last year’s Sonic Colours, though without the sense of sugar-induced panic. Here, you’ll have to manipulate switches and lifts to return Blob to safety – a task made more tricky by the fact that Blob will have to be loaded up with the correct colour ink before he can operate certain switches.
Conceptually simple yet packed full of side-quests, optional challenges and light touches of incidental, sly humour (top line: “We don’t do deals with colourists”), De Blob 2 is a light-hearted, beautifully crafted platform puzzler.
Its vibrant worlds are rendered more crisply than ever before in its debut on HD consoles, and the transition to PS3 and Xbox 360 makes perfect sense – while the humble Wii has plenty of family-friendly, cute platformers to rival Blob’s adventures (not least the stunning Super Mario Galaxy games) the same can’t be said for its more powerful, current-gen systems, whose libraries are stuffed full of first-person shooters, driving games and RPGs.
And in a week that’s seen Killzone 3 and Bulletstorm bringing yet more (admittedly brilliant) gun-crazy action to consoles, De Blob 2 poses a refreshing, gloriously addictive alternative.