Since the rampant success of Portal late last year, it's in vogue these days to tap the freshly creative minds of academia for your next game idea. In that vein, THQ and developer Blue Tongue are working on de Blob, an original mission-based platformer for the Wii that's built on the work and concepts of a group of Dutch art students. Those students aren't involved with the development of this retail game--Australia-based Blue Tongue is handling those duties solo--but the game's got a unique heart beating inside it all the same. We had another chance to try out a new build of de Blob (the first two levels, precisely) to see how well it's congealing as its first-quarter release date approaches.
As we've reported previously, you and your blob will be fighting against the INKT Corporation, a homogeneous legion of monochromatic fuddy-duddies who would love nothing more than to suck all the color and life out of Chroma City, reducing it to boring shades of gray. Your blob will take part in an exuberant resistance which will attempt to undermine those INKT goons in every possible way. To do this, you infuse your blob via power-ups with various colors of paint, and then colorize everything from buildings to trees to park benches with the color you've currently got enabled. You'll only find the primary colors ambling around Chroma City, so if you want to get orange, for instance, you'll need to run into yellow and then red. For green, try blue and yellow. You can even mix up a bunch of colors to get a nice brown going on.
De Blob's 10 levels are each broken into multiple sections, whereby you'll have to score a certain number of points to open up the gate that feeds into each new area. The levels also work on a timer, so you'll have to get busy earning points (and finding time-bonus pickups) in order to make it from one section to the next. Luckily, there are two primary ways to boost your score, and you can do them both at the same time. For one, simply colorizing the various buildings and other landscape effects of Chroma City will give you points, so you can bop around painting the town red (or whatever color) to rack up combos and get a higher score.
The game also offers open-world-style selectable missions that you can pick up for major points. There are four kinds of missions: painting specific buildings a certain color; racing through a preset course; sabotaging various INKT structures by blitzing them with a large amount of paint; and fighting against the company's monochrome gestapo. We only got to try out missions in the first two levels, which double as a tutorial for de Blob's core mechanics, but we saw a video of later levels that showed off much more complex environments and timing-based platforming scenarios, so it looks like these missions will get much more involved in the later parts of the game.
We found de Blob's controls quite easy to pick up after just a few minutes. Your blob zooms around easily with the Nunchuk's analog stick, and he (it?) also turns on a dime, so it's easy to maneuver around Chroma City's trickier nooks and crannies. That's especially useful in situations where there are hazards like water (which will wash all your paint off) or ink (which will slow you and eventually kill you) standing in your way. Jumping is a simple flick of the Wii Remote, and you can control the camera and lock onto enemy and environmental targets with the C and Z buttons, respectively. The frame rate was smooth throughout our demo and the game has a clean art style with a good contrast between the initially drab environments and their enlivened, colorized versions.
One of the game's most compelling aspects is its surprisingly funky soundtrack. The gimmick here is that the amount and exuberance of the music you'll hear is directly tied to how much of the game world you've colorized, and there are specific instrument samples that are actually keyed to the colorization process. So you'll hear little drum fills or guitar riffs as you bring color to particular structures and areas that will then segue into a more consistent, livelier beat. It's a subtle effect that gives you a little extra sensory feedback on what you're doing within the level, in addition to the splashes of color flying every which way.
De Blob is looking like it may well turn out to be a unique action game for the duration of its 10-level starting campaign, though we're a little concerned about the game's potential longevity beyond that. Luckily, there will be some follow-up modes to unlock after you beat the game, such as a free paint that lets you roam around and paint each level without the threat of a timer, and the "paint the town" mode, which will go the other direction and give you a more restrictive time limit and a mandate to clear 100 percent of challenges on each level. De Blob is due for release this quarter, so look for more soon.