Released in 1989, "A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia" was one of the most unique and creative titles ever released for the NES. It was a story that sprang forth from the mind of David Crane, who, at that time, was best known as the designer of "Pitfall." Now, twenty years later, industry innovators WayForward Technology have finally released a follow up for the Nintendo Wii, that serves as more of a reimagining of the original, than actual sequel. At the same time, it fixes many of the problems of the classic, and adds a new coat of extra glossy paint.
The title pretty much says it all; "A Boy and His Blob" is the tale of a boy and his blob. This particular blob falls from the sky, in an attempt to escape his planet, which is being overtaken by an evil emperor. Upon crashing into Earth, the aforementioned boy discovers the blob, and they set off on a journey to help save the blob’s home planet. The blob also possesses the strange ability to morph into a variety of different, but helpful, shapes, sizes, and objects in order to help the boy solve puzzle after puzzle in each level.
From 8-Bit to Gorgeous
There are people out there that are still fans of the original NES version of this game (there are also a lot of people that still hate it) and if any of those fans decide to give this version a shot, they won’t be disappointed, as it keeps many of the key elements of the original in tact. However, the biggest, and most obvious, change came in the graphics department. The Wii version takes the boy and his blob from 8-bit sprites to stunning, hand drawn animated works of art. Beyond the characters, WayForward created some of the most lush and colorful environments that the Wii has seen since “Super Mario Galaxy.”
One of the biggest handicaps of the original "A Boy and His Blob" was the finite amount of jelly beans that the boy had to feed his blob, which meant that you had to plot your course through the game very carefully. The Wii updated fixes that by giving the player an infinite number of jelly beans to use at will, and it only gives you the beans you are going to need for that specific level, which significantly decreases time spent going through trial and error, and then running out of beans.
The main story line’s puzzles will run most experienced gamers about 10 to 12 hours to complete, which, for a retail release, falls just a little bit on the short side. However, as you play through each level in the main game, you have the option to search for three treasure chests that the blob can ingest and then regurgitate upon completion. If you find all three chests, you unlock a challenge level, and if you thought the story line’s levels were frustrating, way until you try these bad boys. If you can unlock all of them, it doubles the game’s overall number of levels, upping the total to 80. Add to that the fact that if you are able to work your way through them, you’re rewarded with bonus content like concept art, and you'll have a great reason to search for treasure in every nook and cranny of the game.
Hugs For All
While it has no bearing whatsoever on the gameplay, if you press down on the D-pad at any time during the game, the boy will give the blob a hug. Useless, but adorable.
"A Boy and His Blob" is a visual masterpiece of design and animation, so much so that it feels like you’re playing a Saturday morning cartoon. Unfortunately, even the most loosely strung together episode of SpongeBob SquarePants offers its viewers more of an idea of what’s going on than this game. There’s an opening cinematic, but it’s just video, there’s no audio, other than the soundtrack, and there's no visuals cues to really clue you into what's happening. The best way to find out what’s happening in the plot is to watch the trailer, and listen to the voice over.
I want to be clear that my problem with this game isn’t that it’s too hard, just that it may be too hard for some people, mostly young people. Mixing the game’s well-paced, progressive difficulty with its cutesy art style may result in more than a few copies of the games being purchased for young kids, who may, or may not, have difficulty with some of the levels, but more particularly the boss battles. For a game this bright and colorful, the boss battles are going to give everyone a run for your money, WayForward have a bit of a reputation for making challenging games (go play "Contra 4" if you don't believe me) and they live up to it with "Blob." Again, it’s not so much that the game is challenging, that’s actually a good thing, it’s that there may be some confusion on the behalf of consumers as to just how hard it is, and who the game is targeted it. On the plus side, the game is covered with hints as to which item the blob should transform into to pass a particular area, leveling the playing field a bit more.
Root Beer Jelly beans
In the original, a root beer flavored jelly bean transformed the blob into a rocket, which shot you through space from Earth to Blobonia, so you could play the second half of the game. In the entirety of the original title, there was only one root beer bean, meaning you had a one-way ticket on Blob Intergalactic Airlines. The Wii version of the game actually incorporates the rocket into the gameplay for multiple levels, but it’s a shame that the controls are beyond frustrating. For the most part, outside of flying the rocket, “A Boy and His Blob” has some pretty tight controls, but once you take the blob for a ride, it’s all over, and you’ll be crashing into walls and enemies left and right.
Where'd The Blob Go?
The blob has a limited jumping capability, which means that as you complete certain puzzles in the game, the blob may be left behind, or trapped on the other side of an impassable the wall. Every level gives the boy a balloon jelly bean to toss to the blob for just these kinds of situations that allows him to float him back to the boy, but, like other games where you have to drag along another NPC step-by-step, (think “ICO”) after a while, it gets to be tedious. However, the game does include the ability to simply call the blob to you, and if he is stuck behind something, all you need to do is call him three times and he’ll automatically turn into the balloon and return to you (it’s in the manual, but who reads those).
"A Boy and His Blob," much like its predecessor, is a unique and challenging action puzzle game. It may be a bit too challenging for the younger Wii gamers out there, but the ones that can enjoy a good brain twisting puzzle will truly appreciate the satisfaction from solving puzzles that are on par with Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece "Braid." Whether you're a fan of the original or not, "A Boy and His Blob" is a great reason to fire up your Wii, and put your brain to the test.