What would happen if you combined Katamari Damacy with a coloring book? You may get something like de Blob, a unique combination of puzzler and platformer from THQ and Blue Tongue. We not only got to take a first look at the family-friendly Wii version, but also managed some hands-on time in single-player and multiplayer modes.
De Blob began its life as a free PC demo created by students at the Utrecht School of the Arts in the Netherlands. Blue Tongue has literally picked up the ball and ran with it, creating a surprisingly engaging experience for such a simple idea. The game begins with a charming cutscene that explains the premise: The I.N.K.T. organization has sucked all the color and music out of the world, and it is up to you as an anamorphic globule of goop to restore the missing vibrance. To do this, you maneuver de blob with the Nunchuk's analog stick around the street, eating up characters of various colors. When you do that, the blob turns the same color, and afterward, almost any object you touch will also turn that hue. Colors mix too, so if the goo is blue, rolling over a red NPC will turn it purple. And like in the Katamari titles, you will gradually increase in size as you squash things.
But you don't just roll around: You jump and hop with a simple flick of the remote, which sends de blob bouncing into buildings and other objects. Continuous flicks cause you to rebound into other buildings, which not only paints all of those structures but also racks up combo points. You see, it's not just about rolling around aimlessly, though there's plenty of opportunity for that. Instead, you need to accumulate points by stringing together combos and completing objectives. For example, you must paint certain landmarks a particular color, though doing so isn't necessarily a matter of bumping into a building. Instead, you may need to bounce up a vertical pathway to find the landmark's entry point. You will also need to make sure you are the right color and size.
The maps include some unsavory elements, though. Inkies are on the lookout for you, and should you bump into one, you'll get coated in ink. Unless you find a body of water to wash off in, this will result in a messy explosion of ink, and you will respawn. There are also some fun platforming elements to deal with. With the Wii Remote in hand, we bounced de blob up a series of bridge girders to an upper platform, where we found a pattern that allowed us to add a design to our painted objects. The game makes it clear where objectives are located, and you target the necessary jump points using the Z button on the Nunchuk. Once the correct spot is targeted, you flick the Remote to jump to it, and then target the next one, and so on.
It doesn't take long to get used to the controls, which let you fluidly fling the blob around and get stuff messy. Even so, we didn't fare all that well in a multiplayer match against some experienced competition. Up to four players can participate in a split-screen match, where the goal is to spread more of your color around than your competitor can. But if you're the competitive type, take note: You can squash your opponent like a bug. Trying to squish other players was the most enjoyable part of the time we spent with the game, and though we were mercilessly crushed, it was fun trying to achieve dominance.
Blue Tongue is going for a soft vinyl look, and it comes across nicely in the lively visuals. Unlike in the PC demo, the blob isn't just a simple sphere: He's got stubby arms, an evil grin, and a crazy personality. The city itself is rather large and spans miles of in-game territory, and the varied architecture allows for some intricate platforming and combos. But you aren't just restoring color, but music as well, so as the blob spreads color, he will also add tunes to those areas.
De Blob has a lot of potential to appeal to a wide variety of players thanks to its accessible design and easygoing charisma. Blue Tongue promises us a number of levels and different objectives to keep things interesting. A Nintendo DS version is also in the works, though there was unfortunately no demonstration on hand. We had a lot of fun with our limited time with de Blob on the Wii and will provide you with more information as it develops.