Review by WishingTikal
"Who would have thought a blob could be so lovable?"
A Boy And His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia was originally released in 1989 on Nintendo's 8-bit system, and was developed by the man who brought us the long-running series of Pitfall. The game, which was already well-thought out for the time, featured a boy who had to save a planet called Blobolonia with the help of a blob named Blobert (not too shabby). The goal was to overcome several platforming and puzzle challenges by feeding the blob various colored jelly beans with each a different blob transformation which could be used throughout the game. The Wii version, simply titled A Boy and His Blob, is not exactly a remake of the NES version, but rather a re-imagining of it. It keeps most the aspects of the original and corrects many of its shortcomings, but you'll find different transformations, new challenges and a much more charming relation between the boy and the blob; sadly not without its own flaws.
The game starts with a very "Earthbound-esque" feel. The Boy wakes up to a meteorite crashing not too far, after which he investigates and finds the Blob. The characters and graphics are very reminiscent of said title, so fans should like the homage paid to it, even if not intended. There is no proper story per se to the game, no dialogue at all -- the only thing you know is that the Blob is friendly to the Boy, and will answer to any of his commands, just like a dog. If you don't read the manual or figure it out on your own, you wouldn't even know that you're playing to save some faraway planet from evil blobs. The game never makes mention of anything, but it's okay that way, because it gives the game some sort of isolation feeling where you're all alone on your own, with the Blob as only friend, and that's part of the game's charm.
A Boy And His Blob is a 2D side-scrolling puzzle/platformer, but you'll do more puzzle-solving than platforming. The game is divided into four worlds, with each about ten levels, making for a total of 40 levels, plus another 40 bonus levels, for a grand total of 80 levels. That's quite a lot, so although the quest itself isn't all that long, there are three treasure chests to find within each level to unlock the bonus missions, so if you take all of that into consideration, it's still quite a lengthy game. Two of the worlds are located on the Boy's planet, so you'll find forests and caves, and the two other worlds are located on the Blob's planet, where you'll find odd-looking fantasy landscapes and an eerie castle. What I was most disappointed with this is, the four areas mentioned above are the only areas in the game. Although the backgrounds change a bit every five-levels, all ten levels within a world take place in the same environment, which gets redundant.
When playing the levels, the Boy can't do much on his own. That's why you'll need the Blob to do everything, from jumping to killing enemies. Thanks to a pack of jelly beans of different colors, the Boy can turn the Blob into various objects, such as a trampoline, a ladder, a rocket, a ball, a parachute, a canon, a shield... among other things. Using these transformation, you'll be able to work your way through the obstacles-filled levels and solve the puzzles on your way. Each of the many transformations has more than one use, so you'll have to think about how to use them in the appropriate situation. For example, the canon can be used to propel the Boy across a chasm, smash through walls, or even shoot enemies back at other enemies. Other objects are required for the platforming, like jumping with the trampoline to reach high places or safely gliding down with the parachute, but sometimes things will be a lot more complicated, and you'll really need to think about the items' many uses. Unlike the NES version, you now have unlimited jelly beans, and many checkpoints, so you get as many tries as you want.
The game reminds me a lot of Lemmings in some aspects, although it never gets anywhere close to being as hard. A Boy And His Blob is a very easy game, with a quick learning curve. The two first worlds are extremely easy, and the two last worlds are still easy, just a bit harder. You do have to think a lot, but the puzzles flow very well and it's always quite obvious what to do once you get the hang of things. However, that's not a bad thing. I felt the game was meant to be easy, and if it had been too hard, I probably wouldn't have liked it as much. The puzzles were still clever despite being easy to figure out, and the overall experience feels satisfying, especially near the end. The only real problem here is that the game does get tedious after a while. You solve similar puzzles in all the levels, and even if there are a lot of transformations, you can only use some of them in some levels, so you're quite limited in what you can do. When I got to the fourth world, I was already starting to wish the game would just end, or the puzzles would get more interesting, but just as the game finally becomes more complicated and reaches its full potential, it ends, making the first few worlds feel like it was all just a practice.
Then you have the bosses. With the game's set-up, there was a lot of potential for brilliant boss battles, but unfortunately, the bosses are nothing more than a flimsy obstacle, all of them only taking about two or three minutes to defeat, even the final boss. There are other things that don't really work well here and there, like the Blob's AI, and although it doesn't really hinder the experience, it can get really annoying. The Blob often gets behind in levels, so you have an option to call him so he returns to you quickly. Sometimes it works, but other times the Blob still takes his sweet time. It gets irritating to constantly have to call the Blob because he can't follow you or gets stuck somewhere, even if it's just a ten second delay. Another thing that occasionally happens is that the Blob won't transform at the exact right spot you've thrown the jelly bean at, and if you're not placed right, sometimes the puzzles won't work. And that's because throwing a jelly bean at an exact spot is hard with the control stick (there are no wii-specific controls); the trajectory is shown but hard to position.
Nonetheless, despite some few technical shortcomings, I don't really have anything negative to say about the game. It's a fun adventure, also very cute and charming, and quite long. It's certainly a bit on the easy side, but the puzzles are still fun to work around with the Blob's transformations, and finding the treasure chests can be harder. The game also has some of the best looking 2D graphics on the Wii, if you like the hand-drawn art style. The worlds are very colorful, detailed, with lush backdrops and little touches here and there like moving grass and nice animations. The music is very beautiful and endearing too, although it could be a bit more varied. All in all, A Boy And His Blob is a must game for puzzle fans, maybe not so much for platformer fans, but still a great experience and re-imagining. In spite of the couple of flaws, it's still something to try, especially if liked Lemming back in the day. It's not as good, but it's the closest you'll get to that genre -- plus, it's just so adorable.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/23/09, Updated 11/24/09
Game Release: A Boy and His Blob (US, 10/13/09)
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