Paint is reborn. Paint is now fun. It’s all thanks to de Blob, who’s basically a fat sponge. Fun-haters called the INKT Corporation have sucked all life from the world, presumably because they think it makes them big in front of the girls or something, and so everything is now grey and silent and has as much personality as an empty packet of biscuits. Enter fat sponge, stage left. He can absorb paint from the little robots that the baddies have conveniently left tottering around, and then splatter it onto almost anything in the environments, instantly transforming them from dull to da bomb.
The whole game is built around this core mechanism, which, depending on your point of view, makes it either the best coloring book in the world or a multicolored one-trick pony. Unless you’re an enemy of fun it’s the first option. Everywhere you squelch, color comes back. As you paint a row of buildings, the unearthly silence begins to fill with a little bit of noise. As you do more and more, and begin mixing up the colors and applying different styles, the soundtrack blossoms into life. Each big dash of color brings a different instrument to the fore, each splash a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.
By this time you’ll be releasing Raydians, the poor little saps who’ve had all the color sucked out of them and are trapped in apartment blocks. Freed by your new paint job, they spill onto the streets. You barrel through them, and they burst into life, cheering. The soundtrack’s bouncing along, the city’s springing back to life, the trees and billboards have turned Technicolor, and you’re off to smash the next wave of INKT drones. Rarely has a game been so obviously gratifying and focused on showing your achievements.
Part of the reason for this is the mission structure: there are four different types of mission that recur through all the levels – races, paint challenges, fights and landmark challenges (where you turn a big enemy building into something far cooler). They’re all arranged so that if you were to enter into a space and play through all of the missions, you’d eventually cover the whole section in color. But the clever part is that you don’t have to. You can just freewheel through the locations, painting what and where you want, picking fights whenever you choose, and accumulating enough points to open the next level while you do so. It’s an inspired mix of freedom and linearity, and so neatly interwoven that it’s a killer example of how to make games that players of any skill level can enjoy.
Sadly, it’s not all roses. There’s no denying that only having four types of mission can grow a little old in the later stages, and Blob himself sometimes feels a little floaty on the jump – you wish the developers had mapped it to the A button rather than a remote flick, which is the only significant waggle the game feels the need to include. But you know what? It feels a little cranky to moan about these minor problems when de Blob is so often just sheer for-the-hell-of-it fun. It’s a riot, with a witty story behind it and all manner of charming touches to its varied levels. Don’t stick with those grey marines on planet brown – join the color revolution!
Sep 23, 2008