THQ’s de Blob series seems perfectly suited to an audience of casual game-playing Wii owners. The 2008 Wii-exclusive was the type of leisurely platform-puzzler that you could switch on for your kids to play on a Sunday afternoon; you could just sit back and enjoy the ambiance of its bright visuals, tapping your toes in rhythm to its light and fluffy, plinkety-plonk soundtrack. Charming and inoffensive, de Blob was an ideal game for the family, featuring some fairly simple environmental-based puzzles and lots of colouring in for the kids to enjoy. With de Blob 2, I firmly expected more of the same.
With solid review scores from the first game in the series, and the hard fact that multi-platform titles usually outsell console exclusives, it comes as no surprise that the de Blob series makes its first foray onto PS3 this year. What does surprise me, however, is how well de Blob 2 steps up to the challenge of becoming a multi-platform title that has mass appeal, catering impressively for the casual, as well as more serious fans of this genre. Although the gameplay can be fairly one-dimensional at times, and the happy-clappy soundtrack can grate after a while, it is utterly charming in design and unique in concept. There’s also something strangely gratifying about turning the black and white city of Chroma into a blossoming oasis of colour. In de Blob 2, it’s quite easy to get sucked into its world and absorbed by the feel good factor that you soak up from making something very dull look strikingly pretty.
If you didn’t play the original game, prepare yourselves for an assault on your senses — de Blob 2 is right in your face from the outset. The explosion of colour on your screen (imagine the aftermath of someone going mental in a paint factory in a Disney Pixar movie) looks great in HD, and probably even better in 3D. The story is clearly aimed at kids and is told via some impressively produced CG cut-scenes that play host to some bright and charming characters. The tale itself is a rather murkier affair, revolving around a mysterious priest called Papa Blanc and his legion of Inkies who have drained the colour out of the city. It’s down to you and members of The Colour Underground to bring it back to life and destroy the threat posed by the enigmatic leader and his religious cult of followers.
Your mission involves moving a small bouncing blob freely around the city in a 3D platform style. You come into contact with different colour paint and your blob then absorbs that colour. By hopping around and plonking your squidgy back-side onto buildings, objects and people, you paint the town red — or whatever colour you happen to be. The idea is that you colour in everything on a level before you can move onto the next one. Stamping on small paint pot robots gives you access to some primary colours and you get gather a range of secondary colours as you progress allowing you make a combination of colours to solve some of the trickier objectives.
It’s more fun and than it actually sounds. Although it definitely caters for kids early on, there’s challenge to be had in the later levels for the adults. Clever, multi-tiered level design ensures a mass of variety to the colouring in, and there are lots of objectives to carry out that require you to adopt a tactical approach. You might be tasked, for example, with painting certain objects a specific colour. To do that you have to ensure you have the correct paint for the job, deal with any enemies by stamping on them, and work quickly against the clock; it can be quite a challenge. As you progress and unlock more abilities, power-ups and devices, gameplay gets much trickier. I found myself devising strategies rather than just hopping around casually like the earlier levels. Against the clock, it becomes quite an absorbing test as levels grow in complexity and require more variations of colours to complete.
Gameplay is freshened up somewhat by some enjoyable 2D platforming sections where you take to the sewer system. You have to work your way towards unblocking a paint geyser which gives you access to even more colours back up on the city streets. There’s also a vast array of collectibles to search for, like pictures and lightbulbs, which adds some replay value (particularly for trophy hunters). These also give you a chance to earn points to purchase upgrades, improving your chances of completing levels before the time runs out. Co-op play and party games also provide some decent multiplayer shenanigans.
For all it’s innovation though, and despite the fact that it feels so different to any other platform game out there, de Blob 2’s gameplay does get a little stale — after all, you are just colouring in environments for the majority of the time. The main issue is the timer, however, which ticks down a little too quickly on each of the levels. If you fail to complete the level in the time allotted, you have start again right from scratch. While the inclusion of a time limit certainly gives de Blob 2 a broader appeal to more hardened gamers, a toggle option to turn the timer on and off would have been a far better idea. Having to start a level from scratch, and wade again through all the tutorial pop-ups, which crop up far too frequently, can be very frustrating. The age-old 3D platforming problem of poor camera angles also rears its ugly head and can get a little irritating when you’re trying to platform hop. Generally, though, de Blob 2 gets a lot of things right and strikes that fine balance between accessibility and challenge rather well.
Overall, I’ve found de Blob 2 utterly charming, instantly accessible and a refreshing take on the platform genre, largely due to its impressive fusion of colour and sound. Overall, I’ve also found it quite mentally challenging during some of the trickier sections later on in the game, which I didn’t expect that from a ‘kids’ game. THQ’s feel-good puzzler isn’t free from irritation or repetition, but it does deliver a solid and unique platform experience that charms, challenges and even has the power to brighten your mood — you can’t say that about many games.