Just before the Electronic Entertainment Expo kicked off this year, we got our first glimpse at de Blob: The Underground. Several months on, we're getting our follow-up peek, and two things are immediately obvious. The first is that the game has had a name change, dropping its "Underground" moniker; second, it has made the (previously announced) jump from the Wii to a slew of more powerful hardware platforms like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The latter meant that this time around, we put down the Wii Remote and picked up an Xbox 360 controller to gauge how well the game has made the leap.
We're pleased to report that a few finicky control and gameplay niggles aside, the game has transitioned well, already looking crisp and playing well in high definition. Our demo picked up near the beginning of the story and focused on a level dubbed The Senate. Comrade Black, under the pseudonym of Papa Blanc, was in the process of rigging the Prisma City election. Our cutscene introduction included all the de Blob hallmarks of unspoken, Lego-esque slapstick humour, and we watched as the INKT Corporation performed a litany of evils. Civilians were slapped across the face, beaten with truncheons, and had their choices made on their behalf by intrusive robotic hands as they attempted to cast their votes. The result was a landslide victory for the nasty candidate, and it wasn't long before things turned a shade of gray as the normally bright, cheery denizens were at the centre of their own coloured exsanguinations.
We leapt into action as Blob, an amorphous pile of paint hell-bent on stopping Black's inauguration and saving the day. As we were dropped into the familiar wide streets, a lone Raydian was standing defiantly before a row of tanks. It was a sobering, iconic image in what was an otherwise fun and lighthearted game, but despite the numerous homage and pop culture in-jokes, developer Blue Tongue Entertainment maintains that there's no political or social commentary agenda at play.
Our first job was to disable the black and white artillery before us. We did this with one of the new attacks at Blob's disposal--a barrage rush performed by targeting with the left trigger and tapping the right. We needed to be quite close to the enemy to land the move, but once within range, it obliterated the tank, leaving a plume of smoke in its wake. Destroying the handful of armaments opened the gates to the zone and granted access to the more free-form painting we've come to know and love.
Mission objective collection points appeared as coloured question mark balloons dotting the landscape, though you can go about your business at your own pace. You're at the mercy of the game's timer, but as was the case in the original game, it can be extended by freeing trapped Raydians and painting whole blocks of buildings. Electrified bases of buildings will drain your paint and deal damage, but by jumping to higher ground, you'll be able to paint some sections. Each paint colour is linked to a matching musical score, such as wah wah guitar, brass instruments, and DJ scratches.
Quests sent us scaling buildings using suction jump pads and scooting along skywalk platforms before unlocking a police station in need of infiltration and liberation. Once inside, the game's ordinarily 3D third-person perspective shifted into a 2D side-scroller. De Blob 2 will include more than 100 of these flatter levels, each with its own unique layout and puzzling elements to negotiate as you ride platforms and paint surfaces. Completing the challenge returns you to ground level. Targeting proved to be a slight hurdle both while indoors and out, and while you can whomp your body down on enemies to defeat them; you will need to release and then press the left trigger again to lock onto your next target. The lock snaps quickly, but it's particularly frustrating when attacking small groups, and you sustain damage while attempting to finish off the strays.
Back in the wide world, our job was to get from one built-up area to the next, travelling over water. Though perhaps not as threatening as the concept of a pit filled with chainsaw-wielding babies or acid-spitting leprechauns, it was still a precarious balancing act because the water below removed Blob's paint, returning him to a vulnerable, neutral-coloured state. The situation became considerably more frustrating when we were repeatedly mind controlled by an unseen enemy, leaving us with only a repeated button mash to regain our senses. Time and time again, we fell prey to the wet stuff below. The issue was further compounded when structures required certain colour combinations to be painted, resulting in multiple return trips to repaint sections painted before colour pots were available.
De Blob 2 is already shaping up as a worthy successor to 2008's Wii hit, bringing back all the fun of messing with paint and adding some much needed variety with its new 2D gameplay. You can get messy with it on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and DS when it splashes onto shelves on February 22 next year.