de Blob Updated Hands-On Impressions

We take another roll through Chroma City with superhero revolutionist de Blob in the latest build of Blue Tongue's amorphous game.

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It hasn't been long since we last visited Chroma City and its oppressed denizens, a group held captive by the drab walls of their black-and-white world where colour no longer lives. For the latecomers, the devious INKT Corporation has sucked all of the life out of the city, and as the Blob (a mild-mannered tree-dweller with a conscience) it's your job to return fun and colour to the place using various paint holders dotted around the landscape.

The game at its heart is like an eclectic mix of Katamari Damacy's rolling, Spider-Man's wall sticking and bouncing, and Viva Piñata's vibrant colour palette. The other major component of de Blob--and one that is almost subtle enough to miss--is the striking and sometimes subdued musical soundtrack. Although not a traditional rhythm game by any means, Blob's combination of both primary and secondary colours along with music gives it a real synesthetic feel by merging aural and visual senses. It's so infectious that even without noticing we found ourselves tapping our feet or shaking the Wii Remote controller in time with the music without realising we were doing so.

Although each level has its own unique soundtrack, the way you approach painting the level will also determine the sounds you will hear as you progress. Each colour combination gives the game a different audio feel, with red producing a saxophone-heavy mix, whereas purple and brown--achieved by mixing primary and secondary colours--will result in wah-wah guitar and DJ-style vinyl-scratching samples.

As befits the oppressive environment, the start of each level is uncomfortably quiet, but once you start splashing a bit of colour, the sky above the area in which you've worked your magic becomes more upbeat and lively, along with the audio.

The game has a very distinctly individual style, with the art bright and in your face, and it very closely mimics modern graffiti's street culture. Our demo also gave us a first look at stencils, which are unlockable items scattered throughout levels that automatically apply a veneer to buildings to give them a fresh perspective rather than a single, solid colour. Finding these automatically adds them to your painting repertoire, and a Blue Tongue rep on hand pointed out that as many as 16 bonus items are hidden per level. Many are placed in plain sight and ready for collection, but the well-hidden items will give more adventurous players a reason to explore all the nooks and crannies of the expansive environments.

Roaming and painting is all good and fun, but there's no challenge if you're not set a task. Although game levels are connected to a countdown timer, in our play we found that even when ignoring spot challenges (which restore time to your clock), we were never pushed to breaking point. Given that we played early in the career mode, we do expect this to scale accordingly, although the team made a point of noting they have no desire to force players to choose between exploration and completion.

Likewise, your score will play a role in your game progression, and higher-scoring totals at the end of levels will let you unlock bonus time-attack stages. The two we saw were free of enemies but required you to paint a space with buildings as quickly as possible using the colour that corresponded to the structure. Though not tough in itself, there is skill to knowing which colours to pick up to paint the most efficiently, as well as the route you'll need to navigate to avoid having to visit water pots to wash off unwanted potential paint mixes.

Exclusive to the Wii console, with a slated DS handheld version being developed by Helixe, the control system clearly hasn't been an afterthought in the process. From its simple beginning as a Dutch educational game at an information kiosk that was controlled using an oversized trackball, to its debut on the Wii, de Blob handles as well as it looks. Players use the Nunchuk analog stick to move Blob around the screen, and pressing the Z button will lock onto the nearest target. The A button on the top of the controller marks places of interest in a pop-up radial hub, indicating the nearest challenge, paint, and point of interest. Jumping is handled by giving the Wii Remote a quick shake, while using it in conjunction with the Z button will stomp-attack enemies or pull you up to hard-to-reach places. While you're jumping, you can make contact with a building wall and hold C to stick temporarily, which lets you squelch your way across multiple walls for quick painting. Be warned, though: The more paint you hold, the larger you will become. A larger size increases your resilience to enemy attacks, but it also makes you slower and less agile when it comes to performing Spider-Man moves from building to building.

Taken on the value of any one of its parts, De Blob is a solid game and introduces some original game mechanics, themes, and art styles. But as a whole, it's developing into quite an interesting and unusual experience, combining the equivalent of modernized finger painting with the fun of music composition within an open-ended world and experience. We'll be following this quirky but endearing game's development with interest.

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