No one should have to go through the torture that researchers inflict on blobs of jelly in the name of scientific progress. Locked in cages like cats in a pound, the quivering critters peer out through the grating on their high-security cells as they plot the moment they will have their revenge. Then, finally, their time comes. A careless scientist opens a cage without taking the proper precautions, and just like that, the mass of ooze waiting inside makes its daring escape. That unassuming little bundle of goop will be back for revenge, though, in…Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!
Mutant Blobs Attack starts small and expands in scale as you work your way through 29 levels. As the recently liberated ball of slime, you find that you can hardly absorb anything at all. You're a toothless wonder that is mostly defenseless unless you find something especially tiny, in which case you swallow it whole and gradually increase your mass. Throughout the course of your adventure, you gain the ability to attract items like a magnet (or repel them), plus you can fly through the air like a rocket. You're surprisingly nimble for a slime, and the responsive controls make it easy to take advantage of your agility. Mechanically, the game feels a lot like a side-scrolling take on Katamari Damacy or perhaps Twisted Pixel's first game, The Maw. Stages are broken into sections and can only be completed once you grow immense enough to chow down on the largest of the oversized corks that prevent you from squeezing through important openings.
Rather than working against a timer, you encounter difficulty in the form of a variety of environmental hazards. You can take as long as you want to reach a given level's goal, and there's no such thing as failure if you're willing to keep trying. Checkpoints are generously sprinkled throughout each environment as well, so you never have to backtrack far if you meet an untimely end. There are a variety of hazards that include industrial presses, tanks, helicopters, rotating lasers, and spike-lined passageways. Typically, you can withstand a decent amount of damage, and your life meter refills as you scarf down your surroundings, but there are a number of hazards that prove instantly fatal. Jelly and laser beams don't mix.
As you work through the stages, you score points for every item you consume. There's more to eat in each stage than you need to devour to progress, and the game maintains leaderboards to track who scores the most points by finishing fastest with the most mass. Every level also has two "friends" hidden away, which means that stages have decent replay value if you're competitive or just want to find everything. If you just rush through every area and don't worry about collecting everything, you can probably finish the adventure in four or five hours.
Though you can replay any completed stage, you might not always want to do so. Level design mostly amounts to puzzles with the aforementioned hazards thrown in to keep things tense. Once you figure out your way through the trickiest of the game's puzzles, there's not much left to challenge you. That's not to say the puzzles aren't challenging the first time through, though, particularly in the later areas. In one case, for instance, there are several laser beams positioned vertically in a shaft through which you must pass. The only way to dispose of them is to hit a switch that prompts four bombs to start rolling along some overhead girders. You then move an elevator up and down to route the bombs so that they explode and eliminate the beams. Next, you rush through the opening before the lasers reappear. It's an enjoyable enough puzzle to solve once, but sequences such as this one only serve to slow things down on subsequent trips through the stage.
Outside of the main stages, there are a few extra levels that mix things up with an overhead viewpoint. Looking down on the Vita from above, you tilt it to move the blob around, avoiding fresh hazards and consuming enough items to grow larger. Although the more standard action stages allow you to move platforms into place with finger swipes on the touch screen, the unnumbered bonus stages put the handheld's extra control options to their most natural use. Gliding around the stages feels effortless enough that you might find yourself wishing for more stages in a similar vein.
As you might glean from its silly title, Mutant Blobs Attack doesn't take itself too seriously. There are subtle bits of humor and sly nods to gaming scattered throughout, like when you launch from a cannon and fly toward a tower of oblong blocks to knock down a pig, as if playing a stage of Angry Birds. You pass a billboard that features a wagon and oxen along with a message advising you to watch that you don't die from dysentery. "OILs WELL that ends well," another billboard notes. Even when you're snacking on panicking humans like a monster from one of Midway's old Rampage titles, the mood is cheery rather than dark and brooding.
Mutant Blobs Attack also keeps things interesting by capturing the vibe of '50s sci-fi flicks. The art style resembles the vintage comic style of the time. There's often a lot going on in the background, but it looks faded most of the time so that you can easily focus on the important foreground activity. Music is suitably peppy as well; it's creepy enough that it feels appropriate for the subject matter but upbeat enough that it's not likely to leave you feeling depressed.
As one of the first downloadable games available for the Vita on the PlayStation Network, Mutant Blobs Attack sets the bar quite high. It's not a lengthy adventure, but it's effectively designed and doesn't let the hardware's features get in the way of a good time.