De Blob 2 hands-on preview

We never got a chance to play the original de Blob, but we were curious since it got quite high review scores, and with de Blob 2 coming out soon on more systems than just the Wii, now other curious gamers will have a chance to see what it’s all about. The main theme is similar to Flower: it’s your job to bring color to a drab world. The gameplay is different, though: it’s a platformer, with the added component of puzzles surrounding mixing and matching colors. De Blob’s world is an adorable one, with teardrop-shaped citizens and characters speaking in mumbling gibberish. Just adding color to the world is satisfying and scratches certain obsessive-compulsive itches.

Above: These screens are from the PS3/360 version, so if you only have a Wii, just squint

As Blob, all you have to do is dip yourself in paint to change your color and then touch any part of the scenery to bring it to life. It’s not just about color: touch a parked car and it revs its engine, turns on its headlights and… hovers away? Well, the world is rather sci-fi, so sure. Painting things also brings musical flourishes to the soundtrack, creating a groove as a level progresses. The puzzle elements involve finding the right colors to paint with, sometimes mixing those colors, and working out the right order for changing the colors of buildings. It reminds us a bit of Q*bert because you change distinctly staircase-arranged buildings as you climb them with jumps.

The levels are enormous for what seems to be a casual kids’ game, and can easily take an hour to complete if you want to get all the side challenges done. The game, at least in its early stages, isn’t particularly challenging from a standpoint of dangerous things that can kill you, so we can see how it could appeal to all ages. The “combat” just involves locking on to enemies and hitting a button to slam into them, but you have to watch your paint meter because it costs paint every time you “kill” something (nothing actually dies, but rather gains color and becomes friendly).

Above: It's hard to not want to color every damn inch of the environment, even though you don't have to

All of the basic elements are the same as in the first de Blob, but the sequel adds some interesting accoutrements. There are a number of underground areas that take on an entirely 2D side-scrolling perspective, bringing traditional platforming into de Blob’s world. These sections are short asides in the overall 3D levels, but they’re definitely a positive addition. Sure, Blob’s jumps are still a bit floaty and aren’t perfectly suited to precise 2D jumping, but then these sections don’t require landing on narrow ledges and instead focus on finding the right paint colors to activate switches, which then open up more areas.

Above: We like how the 2D sections are framed in pure black, allowing for a focus on only the relevant play space and providing the proper "underground" feeling

There is also two-player co-op mode, which isn’t a symmetrical experience, instead bringing the second player in as a kind of helper and is clearly inspired by Super Mario Galaxy’s two player approach. We didn’t get to try this out during our hands-on, but we did get to play the game in 3D for a while. Obviously the Wii version doesn’t get to benefit from it, but we did enjoy the 3D effects and found that they suited a game like de Blob 2 perfectly, since the constantly rotating and simply-shaped platforms lend themselves to being portrayed in illusive 3D space, and of course all the painting and bringing the world into color complements the spatial eye-candy. Still, the game has incredibly simple graphics, so you won’t be missing much without 3D or even HD.

It looks like the game hasn’t changed a lot since the first go-round, and we imagine it’s because of the expansion to PS3 and 360, but it does offer bigger environments, new abilities like a charge attack, and a host of new enemies that need special tactics to overcome. In one section, we faced soldiers who would shoot you out of the air if you jumped, so you had to figure out a way to take them out without jumping, which goes against your instincts in a platforming game. That section, which took place later in the game, was pretty challenging, so it’s possible that the game overall becomes more “hardcore” as it progresses. We’ll know soon – expect a review when the game hits on February 22.

Feb 7, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.