de Blob 2: The Underground First Look

We roll up our sleeves and get creative with our first hands-on look at the upcoming de Blob sequel.

Two years ago, a heroic blob of colour named de Blob brought his elegant platforming and idiosyncratic humour to the Wii and effectively charmed the pants off us (just metaphorically, mind you). Memories of crudely drawn stick figures and childhood finger paintings flooded back as we left our creative mark on de Blob's world, saving it from blandness and liberating its tiny citizens from monochromatic despair.

While the same ideas drive de Blob: The Underground (a title that may confuse some French people), developer Blue Tongue has tried to craft the sequel into a more challenging and complex experience geared toward attracting a larger core-gaming audience. The addition of new platforms--for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and DS--as well as new gameplay elements (such as a four-player co-op mode and as many pop culture references as a game can take), are all steps in this direction. In our first hands-on preview with de Blob: The Underground on the Wii, we tested out some of de Blob's new abilities and checked out the new 2D side-scrolling component of the game.

The sequel picks up roughly where the first game left off, with one notable difference. Blob now has a sidekick--a sassy flying robot named Pinky--to help him in his quest for world colouration. The game opens with Blob and Pinky arriving in a vast metropolis populated by some very disgruntled and downtrodden citizens; it doesn’t take long for the pair to discover that something is rotten in the state of Prisma City. Indeed, Blob's old enemy Comrade Black has staged a comeback, forming a religious cult named The Blanks and is trying to convince citizens to give up their colour to find the true meaning of life. In an excellent parody of modern economic thought and numerous nods to Christianity, Scientology, modern society, consumerism and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, de Blob sets about trying to rid the city of its dark, depressive state by sabotaging Black's plans to win the favour of the people.

Our demo began with the opening of the fourth level (there are 12 levels in total). Having just rigged an election, The Blanks were on Blob's tail as he tried to find the silenced election candidates and stop the inauguration of Comrade Black. The gameplay felt instantly familiar: Before us was a well laid out and colourless city grid, an empty canvas just waiting to be painted. One thing we did notice was the high level of detail in the environment and the ability to paint absolutely everything we touched, including the ground. As in the last game, each area you paint will earn you colour energy points, which you'll need to unlock the gate to the next level. Part of Blue Tongue’s strategy to let the narrative guide the gameplay was evident in the difficulty curve of the level: Our movements were guided by more specific missions that related to the overall story. We also saw a few new obstacles that helped shape the direction we took in completing the level. For instance, some walls were marked by the sign of The Blanks, and touching them caused Blob to lose his colours. Keeping away from these walls and still managing to paint every last surface made for a much more challenging way to play. As in the first game, we were able to choose de Blob’s mood and match it with an audio equivalent (Melbourne funk band The Bamboos return to provide the soundtrack for the sequel).

Blob goes underground for a dose of 2D side-scrolling action.

One of the most significant changes we saw was made to the game's control scheme, which has been given a thorough makeover. Blue Tongue was the first to admit it had received an endless list of messages from disgruntled gamers about Blob's jumping action in the first game, which involved a flick motion with the Wii controller. Frustration aside, this wasn't a very accurate way of moving from platform to platform, which is why this action has now been remapped to the A button. We felt the difference immediately when we were able to get on top of buildings with speed and accuracy and thus complete the level in a shorter amount of time. The new moves proved pretty handy in combat, too, which has become a lot tougher since the first game. We saw a new Inky with a spike gun, which we could only defeat with a charge attack by locking on with the Z button and pressing B (since jumping on him would have resulted in death), as well as a swarm of Blanks who tried to bleed us dry on contact (we had to jump on them from afar and turn them into bright, happy Raydians). We discovered that Blob can also use paintbots as weapons this time around, targeting them and shooting them at packs of Inkies. Although we didn’t get to fight any bosses in our demo, we did get a sneak peek at what’s in store--one boss we saw was cleverly modelled on the nameless monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

We also had the chance to use some of Blob's new power-ups, including a shield (a single-use pick-up); a graviton ball of energy, which Blob can use to suck in enemies around him like a vortex; a regeneration power-up; and a supercharge power-up. After painting most of the level, we completed a landmark challenge where we had to transform one of Comrade Black's strongholds. Immediately after this, we were able to go inside the landmark and finally check out the 2D side-scrolling component of the gameplay. The point of these 100-plus underground levels is to expand the world and give players a bit of variety. You'll still have to paint the environment, but the focus is much more on combat. In our demo, we entered a sewerlike environment with pipes and platforms where we bulldozed our way through a line of Blanks while splashing everything with colour. We’re also told there are lots of secret environments to explore in these levels, indicated by things like broken walls and shady-looking Blanks. Back above ground, we found our way to a "transform all" point, which has now also become a save point.

Watch out, it's Spidey Blob!

At the end of the demo, we were treated to some cutscenes to get a feel for the game's tone and its new environments. We saw an ice station, a bio-dome, and a beverage factory, as well as a glimpse of some of Blob's other abilities that will come into play later in the game (like the one where he can crawl on walls and ceilings). The humour also stood out and was reminiscent of Pixar's animated shorts (silent, slapstick). We picked out references to George Orwell, National Lampoon, and China’s take on political freedom (or lack thereof).

Although we didn't get to see any multiplayer, we know the game will allow players to opt in and out with a two-to-four-player split-screen mode and take control of Pinky to help Blob in combat. We also know the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions of the game will be the same, with the DS version slightly tweaked to expand on Pinky's background. De Blob: The Underground is shaping up to be a very clever game that has lost none of the charm of its predecessor, and we look forward to seeing more of the game at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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Discussion

29 comments
StrawberryWiz
StrawberryWiz

Awesome! deBlob was a great game, so I'm glad they're making a sequel for multiple platforms! It's just a shame that we still have to wait until the Spring of 2011.

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

I loved the first game. I might pick the PS3 version up, because I don't want to deal with motion controls. Thank god they have a save system now, because in the first one, I just had to keep the Wii on overnight, since I didn't want to deal with the levels. And hopefully the level design improves too, because God knows how many times I got lost in those levels looking for the damn gates. I also really like how they are putting in side-scrolling levels. I wonder how many years GS is going to cover this game for. Remember how they covered the first one for 2 years?

DrEvilKoala
DrEvilKoala

The first one was pretty darn good, and this just looks even better. I really like that fact that they're putting in side-scrolling levels. I might pick up the 360 version though, because I did have some problems with the controls of the first one. We'll see when it comes out, but either way, I'll probably end up buying it!

Pyro767
Pyro767

@gonzalezj1, I totally agree with you. The first game was an absolute blast, but by the time I had been playing a level for half an hour trying to 100% it, I grew bored of it. Now that they have a save system, I should be able to come to this game and enjoy it more often than I did with the first.

gonzalezj1
gonzalezj1

I really liked the first one but I never ended up finishing it. I thought the game itself was pretty great and I didn't really even have a problem with the controls. I had much more of a problem with the save system. The later levels could take an hour or more to complete the first time through and there was no mid-level save system - no save points or even a quick-save option. I felt this didn't mix very well with the pick-up-and-play feel that the game had. I also didn't have several hours available every time I sat down to play the game. I'm hoping that this sequel will have some kind of a quick-save feature or checkpoints or something. Otherwise I'm afraid I won't have the time to play this one either.

viggggo
viggggo

I liked they first one, but it had some major problems with the controls. If they make better controls, and a little more variet gameplay, this could be a great game.

007hawk25
007hawk25

I'm a fan of the original, I'm hoping this one will be better. :D

ScionofEntropy
ScionofEntropy

Sounds tougher and smoother than the first. It'll be worth a look when it hits.

PKA34000
PKA34000

de Blob 2, hell yeah i loved the first one but i found the first one was to short. i hope this one is longer cant wait for more in E3

Crazyguy105
Crazyguy105

Sweet. De Blob is one of my favorite Wii games. It is a bit strange they put it on all of the consoles but whatever.

zvaraly
zvaraly

Eh, the first one was pretty interesting. I liked it... didn't keep me coming back for more though. If blob 2.0 is basically "the same recipe"... maybe I'd be more interested if it was a lower priced live arcade or virtual console download. Who knows, maybe it'll be sweet. My hopes are not up.

Hungry_Homer111
Hungry_Homer111

I really liked what the original game did. It was fun, and creative. However, when I heard about this sequel, I have to admit, I wasn't completely sold. The main reason being, I just wasn't sure how much they could do with the sequel while keeping it fresh. So far, from what I read here, they are adding some nice things to the game, and hopefully those additions will make it worth getting this game. I'm also glad to hear about the change in the jump controls. @Gargaglio5tatus: Why limit yourself to just one game? Especially in a genre that allows for as much variety as the platforming genre. Coming from somebody who has played both Mario Galaxy games, de Blob feels nothing at all like those games. It has its own gameplay style, its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Hell, I'd say it's very loose when it comes to the ideas of the genre, feeling like a combination of platformer and free-roam painting game. Granted, given its shift in focus from completely 3D environments to mixture of 2D and 3D, this game could end up feeling a bit more like SMG2, but probably still won't be identical in what it's trying to do with the genre. While people have their right to their own opinions, and therefore can simply not buy this game because it doesn't appeal to them, I don't understand how playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 can be the main reason not to buy this game.

riou7
riou7 moderator moderator

I kinda like the first one, i hope the sequel will be better.

Krazykid3333
Krazykid3333

I loved the first game! This one looks even better! I can't wait for it!

Magnator
Magnator

the first game was cool and this seems to be better with a cooler story. too bad it will be out only next year. :\

unshtaka
unshtaka

im looking foward to buying it it might be a good game

Ripleness
Ripleness

The first game was BRILLIANT. hope this one will be as good and i agree multiplatform is a bit odd for it

CrimsonMaher
CrimsonMaher

I haven't got to playing the first one yet but from what I played so far I love it, so this news is just as exciting for me! While the move to Multiplat is a bit odd for a franchise that set itself on the Wii, I do hope it works out and more people get to enjoy the excellent work that Blue Tongue have made!

MischiefmAker
MischiefmAker

@ Gargaglio5tatus You are absolutely correct. Because, as we all know, once you buy one game of a particular genre you are in no way allowed to buy (and much less enjoy) any other game of said genre, esp. if you already have the best. No exceptions, not even things like coming out in different years (like this game, set to come out in 2011). That would be silly! :P :D PS: Not trying to be rude (like how you're not trying to be elitist), but... really?

matastig
matastig

this seems like it'll be better, looking forward to it.

Gargaglio5tatus
Gargaglio5tatus

Not trying to sound elitist or anything, but is there really a point in Wii owners buying this? SMG 2 is the best 3D platformer around, so I don't see the point in getting a platformer like this if you already have SMG 2. Whatever though; the only other 3D platformer I would buy would be a Donkey Kong 64 sequel or something, but that's not happening :(

MischiefmAker
MischiefmAker

@ pofolonies I've read that the DS version will be a different game, set for release this year, with a story that takes place between the events of the other 2 games.

Pikminmaniac
Pikminmaniac

I am very excited for the sequel to my favourite 3rd party game on the Wii

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

I loved the first one, I'm glad they reworked the controls, that was probably the biggest thing holding it back. The gravity of his jumps didn't mesh with the flick.

pofolonies
pofolonies

is this for the ds as well? or will that come out even later?

enrique_marrodz
enrique_marrodz

I really wonder if there is such demography at the PS3/360 platforms to welcome this game? Not challenging other users, just wanted to know if there are someone at those platforms really interested. I played the first one and is great, and I hope I can get my hands on this one too eventually...

c_rakestraw
c_rakestraw moderator moderator

Sounds good. I absolutely loved the original, and this seems like it'll be even better. Definitely looking forward to getting my hands on this.