I'm a fan of off-beat games, and the Wii is blessed with many. While the XBox 360 and PS3 get the same old concepts recycled with pretty HD dressing, it's been the Wii this generation that really has benefited from indie creativity. At this point in the generation it may be odd to call the Wii the underdog -- 46 percent of gamers worldwide can't be too wrong -- but it still suffers from habitual underrating by core gamers. While it's always a bummer when a previous Wii exclusive goes multiplatform, in this case I'm willing to let it slide now that the HD consoles have a crack at one of the most pleasant surprises on Wii: de Blob.
The original game was my Game of the Year for 2008, a thoroughly original 3D platformer based on the idea of mixing colors and painting the landscape. Blob and the Color Underground battled the evil minions of Comrade Black and the INKT Corporation, ending in a spectacular climax, turning Black's spaceship into a burgeoning ball of music before exploding to bits. Comrade Black fell back to the planet of the Raydians onto a desert island. And that is where de Blob 2 picks up.
The Color Underground is now off doing its thing, and Blob is a bit at loose ends until Prof sends him off to mop up Comrade Black. Sure enough, evidence of Black's influence are found on Paradise Island. The first level, Paradise Island, is the tutorial level, and many of the game's play mechanics are introduced. At first, I was rather dismayed that all colors were available in pools and bowls. One of the most charming mechanics of the original was the mixing of colors. It turns out, however, that it's not been removed, just delayed. Basic skills like picking up paint and applying it to buildings, freeing Graydians, the new power charge move, and picking up styles, gallery cards, extra lives, and inspiration bulbs (points that can be applied towards character upgrades) are similar to the original. The second level, Prisma City Downtown, re-introduces many of the great features from the original game. The paint bots and subsequent color mixing first appear here, as well as the leech-bots. Plus a new foe is introduced: Papa Blanc and his colorless acolytes. He's running for president, and converting many of Prisma City's colorful landmarks into use by his grey followers. Where might this go? Are Papa Blanc and Comrade Black in league?
Developer Blue Tongue polishes the 3D platforming aspects of de Blob 2. The art direction is still great, the controls are about the same...as tight as a gelatinous blob can be. Blob still has a bit of weight to him that you have to watch out for, and he can be a bit sticky on vertical surfaces, especially when jumping, but for the most part it's adequate. And to demonstrate that they can steal from the best, they also introduce new 2D platforming sequences ala Super Mario Galaxy 2. These usually appear within buildings or underground, and they're very well done. It's definitely a nice change of pace.
You have at your disposal a radar that orbits Blob (press the "1" button to display it), indicating the direction of color sources, quests, and powerups. For some reason, though, it no longer seems to indicate the direction of unpainted objects, which makes finishing a level at 100 percent more difficult. It doesn't seem to be all that important really, other than for OCD purposes (and we all know how many platform gamers suffer from that!). Instead, other things are counted for completeness purposes. Painting trees, freeing Graydians, collecting styles, and collecting inspiration seem to be the main collectables. Fewer items appear to be paintable, as well. I suppose that makes the game focused more on the gameplay and quests, but for some odd reason, I miss it.
Blob has a new sidekick, Pinky, which reminds me strongly of EVE from WALL-E crossed with an Elebit. She permits one of the new features of the game, a "girlfriend mode" that can draw and squirt color energy to destroy enemies and pick up unreachable powerups. Controlling Pinky is as easy as pointing at the screen. Blob, too, controls very much as he did in the first game, with one heartbreaking exception: nearly all of the motion control has been removed from the game. While nobody was particularly fond of using motion for jumping, I really really miss using a nice sharp downward motion to pound things. The "A" button is fine for jumping, but using it for pounding when locking on with the "Z" button just feels disappointing. The new powered charge move is similarly a bit of a letdown -- locking onto a target with "Z" and just pressing the "B" trigger isn't the least bit satisfying. The in-game IR pointing has also disappeared, although pointing in the game menus is still there. The camera is about as good as cameras tend to be these days, but you can always center it behind you with the "C" button.
But man, I am disappointed with the disappearance of the motion controls. Shaking the Wii remote to get leech-bots and Blancs off you is the only motion in the game. I object to the idea that just because a game goes multi-platform, you have to reduce the controls to the lowest common denominator. I would expect the Wii version to embrace motion, as well as the PS3 version -- the Sixaxis control could easily accomodate some simple motion, and Move is as good as the Wii remote....I guess 360 owners are out of luck, but oh well. But at this point in the gaming generation, I expect more, better motion control, not less. Points off for that.
I'm divided on whether the graphics of the game look as good at the original game or not. Playing both games back to back, there are parts that look better, and parts that look worse. The trees look awful, straight lines appearing on buildings look heavily aliased, the water looks worse, the text is frequently difficult to read, and characters look lower-poly than before. On the other hand, some of the buildings in later levels look better, especially fancy decorations like signs and billboards. Overall, I'll call it even.
The music continues to be a high point in the game. Just as before, the tunes start out subdued and then build in intensity as you color more of the world, and each color features its own instrument. The tunes are different, some are better, and some are worse. They seem to lean away from the jazz of the first game and more towards surf rock in this game. The sounds effects are similar to what came before, with modest use of the remote speaker here and there.
The game seems to be of about the same length of the original, or maybe a tad longer. Each level, if played to 100 percent completion of all tasks, will take an hour or more, and there are 11 levels. There are also single- and multi-player mini-games attached to each level. I don't know how much appeal the mini-games will have. In the original, each level had three mini-levels to complete that were pretty challenging, and a separate multi-player mode with split screen co-op and competitive games. In de Blob 2, the level-specific games are gone, and they've all been put into a Party mode. Honestly, I can take or leave them myself, but they're worth at least a once-through. No on-line play, but that would have been a long shot to get anyway, so I'm not too upset.
The original de Blob approached greatness, and by my measure, achieved it, even though most of the rest of the gaming community didn't agree with me. The second romp is definitely enjoyable, but less of a revelation and less of a Wii game. I still recommend de Blob 2 to nearly all gamers, and it's a must-buy for platformer fans. But you won't be quite as wowed this time out. Hopefully a third game will be in our future that will take the next big step forward.
I also have de Blob 2 but haven't played it yet, its the other halves game rather than mine though and she prefers the controls or checkpoints but shes doesn't like the underground areas very much, she prefers the above ground exclusive gameplay of the orignal.
I just gave the 60 minute trial for this game on PSN a shot, and it's... more De Blob. Which isn't really something I want right now apparently. Now I know the game probably differentiates itself more later on, but I'm sure it remains a whole lot of painting buildings, something of which I've had my fill.
Actually they're completely different games.
de Blob was centred on the freedom of painting and choosing your missions and exploring as you wanted and going at your own pace. Its general concept was a race against the clock with a "the more time you spend the higher score you have, but the more time you spend the lower ranking you have" mechanic, and you had to develop different strategies according to your goals (for example, picking up everything, or trying for the best time with a gold medal, or just fooling around and having fun).
de Blob 2 tries to copy linear platformers like Super Mario Galaxy 2, which it shamelessly steals many ideas from (2D gameplay, gravity, planetoids). You can't choose your missions, you have to play them exactly in the order the game decided, the next mission lighting up after the current one is solved. The entirely linear 2D parts are mandatory. It's only after you complete the level that you can go back and have some say in picking up or ignoring side missions. the game also tries to be more action based and tries to wow you with some pieces.
And I totally disliked it, because the formula doesn't work for de Blob physics and mechanics and controls. If you shift your platformer's basis from freedom/exploration/strategy to make a linear platformer supposedly based on skill, it damn well be 100% tight, and it isn't here, since it's the same engine. Overall I found the game incredibly tedious, the 2D parts in particular because they're long and ask for no skill nor joy, and the universe isn't as funny this time.
The pacing is completely screwed up and what made the core of the first one isn't there. When you compete directly against the big guns, you pretty damn should have the same tightness and quality of ideas and challenge. The first one is still among my favourite games on Wii, the sequel has been sold a long time ago.
I didn't mind the linearity, because I most likely would have completed the missions in that order anyways. The way they guide you around the stage just makes sense. And I also thought the controls were tighter than the original de Blob, with more of a challenge in fighting enemies. The side scrolling sections were easy but I wouldn't say they were not fun.
Edit: it's definitely a game for younger/inexperienced gamers, now that I recall more of it. I remember thinking, wow my girlfriend will LOVE this game, whilst playing, and I never really thought that during the original.
Edit 2: I don't know if Simba is implying the game bombed because of its design, but I'm pretty sure it bombed because it was a sequel to a surprise hit on the Wii, released at a time when nobody bought Wii games other than Nintendo releases, and not to mention THQ decided to release it on two consoles where it had absolutely no potential to sell whatsoever.
I'd been seeing de Blob 2 on sale/clearance lately and couldn't decide whether to get it (since the first one made me motionsick). Or which system, Wii is cheaper but PS3 is prettier. But I have the first on Wii and feel like I should just continue on with that system... has anyone tried it on both systems?