A Boy and His Blob Hands-On
After seeing the adorable puzzle platformer at E3, we finally got to play it for ourselves.
There were plenty of promising Wii games shown off at E3 2009, and one of the pick of the bunch was Majesco's re-creation of A Boy and His Blob. Based on the classic NES game, the development team at WayForward has given the puzzle-based platformer a gorgeous facelift for its Wii debut, and we were eager to see how the game's progressing.
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As the name suggests, you take on the role of a boy who has discovered a shape-shifting alien blob. By feeding him different coloured jelly beans, Blob is able to make various shapes to help you progress through the puzzle-filled levels. The game will certainly throw some challenging puzzles your way, but it won't be gruelling, and we're told that school-aged children should be wily enough to make their way through the game. It's been a long time since we've played the original, but the new Blob seems to feature fewer mind-bendingly, punishingly tough or obscure puzzles--at least from what we've seen. The story is being kept secret for now, but you'll encounter evil blobs in various forms along your journey.
You interact with Blob indirectly, using an on-screen selector to choose which bean to throw. Each colour of jelly bean has a corresponding ability. Unlike the original, however, you'll have unlimited beans at your disposal, so if you're not sure what to do, you can usually work it out with a bit of trial and error. Selecting and using beans is pretty easy, and you can hold down the B button before a throw to see where it will land. Throwing a jelly bean will make Blob transform, and the boy can call him back with a few cute phrases, including "blawb," and by whistling. You can also throw them to out of reach platforms above you, which is helpful when you need to make enemies drop onto a switch below.
We're told Blob will become distressed at times if you leave him alone for too long, and that's when the dedicated "hug" button comes in handy. This endearing action allows you to give your xenomorphic companion some reassuring care before moving on. There are 15 beans in total, although we only saw 10 in our time. One of the beans we didn't see allows Blob to turn into a protection bubble, and you can then roll inside him without taking any damage from enemies.
One of the first things you'll notice about Blob is the sumptuously hand-drawn art style. From the charming appearance of the boy and Blob to the detailed multilayered backgrounds, everything has been created with attention to detail and will certainly appeal to fans of Braid, Okami and other cel-shaded games. The first level we played was called Forest and featured a lush backdrop of trees, green grass, and flowers alongside some whimsical music. The level introduced us to basic abilities, including a hole, ladder, and balloon and was a good introduction to the game. Things got a bit scarier once we progressed to the swamp. For a start, you'll have to avoid falling into the murky waters. While the boy's jump is quite limited, you're able to take advantage of gusts of wind to carry you to the next platform, and we were introduced to the trampoline, which was another method of reaching higher platforms. We also met an irritating pest in the form of a golden bird. If you throw a bean while it's around, the bird will immediately swoop in and grab it before Blob. When you reach the end of each level, you'll find a golden bean, which transforms Blob into an exit door.
When we reached the next level, Caves, our variety of jelly beans had grown considerably, and we found four new shape-shifting abilities at our disposal. The bowling ball is useful for destroying blocks in your path, the anvil can be dropped onto blocks below you, the hop ball is used to bounce to higher platforms, and the parachute can glide across wide chasms. We encountered one of the more challenging puzzles in this level, which certainly required some fast thinking and reflexes. We needed to use a hole to make an evil blob drop down onto our platform. We then turned Blob into a trampoline and let the enemy charge at us. At that point, we jumped over him and he ploughed straight through a wall blocking our way.
Lastly, we saw the Gearworks level, which was a challenging industrial production line full of projectile-shooting blobs and switch-activated doors. Here, we saw some of Blob's other abilities, including a shield used to protect you from projectile attacks and a jack to jack up roof-mounted switches. It seems Blob isn't the only friendly alien around, and the nefarious forces of the evil blobs have trapped some of his friends in this level. By throwing them a blue jelly bean, they can transform into a balloon and float away to freedom. There will be 40-odd levels in total for you to explore, and while we didn't see it, you'll eventually make you way back to Blob's home world, Blobonia.
It's hard not to get swept up in the experience of playing Blob. The fun gameplay, lush hand-drawn environments, and cheery music all go a long way in making it feel like an enjoyable romp. While the preview build we saw had a few slow loading times, we're confident this will all be ironed out before release.
A Boy and His Blob will be heading exclusively to the Wii this October in both Europe and North America. For more on the game, take a look at our just published video preview and gameplay footage, as well as our coverage from E3 2009.
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