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• A Boy and His Blob

developed by WayForward Technologies, published by Majesco Entertainment
1 player/1 save slot/Nintendo Wii/2009.10.13

A Boy and his Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia is one of those classic puzzle platform games from the 8-bit era that was long overdue for a remake on modern consoles.  An alien Blob from another planet crash lands on Earth, and befriends a young boy.  It turns out the Blob loves jellybeans, and will transform into any number of different tools depending on what beans it consumes.  The boy has to ration his jelly beans as he and the Blob overcome obstacles on their adventure.  It’s a strong premise for a game, but it wasn’t without its share of problems.

In the original you had a limited number of jellybeans, which meant you could run out and get stuck.  And though the 14 jellybeans were named in such a way to help you remember their function (e.g. apple = jack, and vanilla = umbrella) , it was difficult at times to know what beans to use or where to go.  It was a clever idea sadly ruined by poor execution.  The new version streamlines the design and tweaks it to be more player-friendly than ever before.

Game Redesigned

Players will appreciate that they have unlimited jellybeans, which means you can experiment at your leisure.  And rather than having to scroll through a list of beans with obscure functions, you can easily access available beans from a radial menu that displays exactly what form the blob will take if it eats the selected bean.  The game further simplifies things by only giving you access to beans relevant to the level you’re playing.  You also have much more precise control when throwing beans, which is important because often the exact placement of a ladder, trampoline, or hole is required to progress.  These changes alone make the fundamental experience that much easier and accessible, but that’s not all.

If you accidentally fall into a pit of spikes, for example, you’re promptly returned to a checkpoint nearby, so mistakes aren’t too punishing.  And rather than having an open world to explore, the game is partitioned into set levels with clear goals.  In the original, you could complete the entire game in less than 20 minutes if you knew exactly where to go and in what order.  Now, there’s a solid 12 hours of game play split between 40 main levels and 40 mini challenge levels.  The challenge levels can be unlocked by collecting treasure chests, and you unlock concept artwork and videos by completing those.  Completionists can always return to previously conquered stages if they happen to miss a chest.  Rounding out the new additions are boss battles which punctuate each major area.

Anomalies

Besides starting out slowly without a major “hook”, there are a few niggling issues which are worth mentioning.  The first is that the game only stores game data for 1 player.  The conventional save / loading screen is nowhere to be found.  That makes it impossible for two (or more) people to play through the game separately unless you move the data file to a memory card using the Wii’s buried memory management screen.  It will also take a little while to become acclimated to the controls, since the game uses both the Wii remote and nunchuk (and its buttons).  You do get used to it, though.  Aside from these issues, the hit detection can feel a little spotty in some spots.

Presentation

What with the original game’s design being majorly overhauled, you might think the graphics would go the 3D route.  WayForward’s titles are known for their excellent 2D graphics, and thankfully A Boy and His Blob is no exception.  Rather fittingly, they’ve given it a 2D hand-drawn “Saturday morning cartoon” look that fits the light-hearted adventure perfectly.  Simple but fluidly-animated characters pop out from the painterly backgrounds.  It’s a style that closely resembles the excellent Wario Land: Shake It! (also on the Wii).  The music is also quite good, and includes an excellent version of the original game’s main theme song.

Final Thoughts

The original A Boy and His Blob is considered one of the classics from the 8-bit era, but in all honesty I don’t think it has aged very well at all.  WayForward has taken the basic premise and updated it for the modern era, and the result is an excellent (if not quite perfect) game.  It may not be as flashy as some of the other games out there, with its simplistic game design and cute 2D graphics, but it’s a quality product through and through.  If you own a Wii, you could do a lot worse than add this to your library.  And because it doesn’t really use the Wii remote’s special functions, it seems like a game that should be ported to XBOX Live Arcade and the PSN network so that more people can enjoy it.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Fun concept
  • 40 main levels +40 mini challenge levels
  • Great animation
  • Good level design

CONs:

  • Allows only 1 save data at once
  • A little too easy in spots
  • A little too frustrating in spots

One Sentence Review: A charming puzzle platform game accessible to all ages, and well worth adding to any Wii owner’s collection.
One Word Review: Cute!

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