Oh the joys of classic games. It's why the Wii Virtual Console exists, so gamers have the chance to once again play the greatest hits that only get better with age. The NES is well known for its abundance of hits, yet this game is not one of them. No sir, and, no madam, this game should not be your first, second, or even tenth choice of the NES library. This game has the ability to drive even the most hardened game veterans crazy with its unfair game design and control. From the moment you reach the title screen, you know you're in for a treat when you hear a pathetic Indiana Jones theme song rip-off.
Title theme music
Dude, I'm not in this game!
I remember playing this game on the NES one time at my friend's house when I was a kid. The game was intriguing, yet frustrating, and made me realize how cool it would be to have my own pet blob who could transform, based on the jellybean flavor I fed him.
In case you've never heard of this game or its sequels, this game can be categorized as an action puzzle game. It's not much of a platformer. For starters, the main hero, the nameless 'Boy', cannot jump. He is completely at the mercy of using jelly beans to feed his friend, the Blob, where each flavor transforms the Blob into a different object that the Boy can use to overcome obstacles and traverse his environment. The Blob essentially acts as the Boy's all-in-one utility belt that gives him access to all the tools he'll need. By making the Blob a living creature, I guess the designers wanted the player to have a more personal connection.
You navigate one large world while collecting treasures and avoiding death. Other than that, you won't really have a clue about what you're supposed to do unless you read the Wii VC in-game manual. The only clue I found is:
In-game manual said:
Remember: after you've collected all the treasure, you'll still have to return to the street, get to the health-food store, and purchase the vitamins.
Yeah, sure, ok...
It doesn't even mention you'll need a new jelly bean flavor. One big flaw with the game, in fact, is that you can easily end up making the long journey toward the final area of the game right from the start, and you won't even know you're missing that critical item to finish the game if you didn't explore the OTHER area first.There's absolutely no indication at all that you're supposed to do this.
Oh, and on that note, the manual says the story is:
Blob has come to Earth looking for someone to help him defeat the evil emperor.
First thing to note is that as bad as the game is, it's not absolute trash. Yes, there are a few things this game does a good job with.
- The whole concept of using the Blob's different transformations creatively makes the game more challenging in that you are left to explore on your own. I'm sure at the time this game came out, this was a somewhat novel concept. - There's a fun little bonus where the music plays a fun melody indicating when the Blob finishes helping you and transforms back to normal. - The Blob's simple facial expressions are actually pretty well done and are quite humorous. He has a cheerful smile many times, his bouncy bouncy animation as he trails behind the boy is lively, and seeing his huge frown when you miss throwing the jelly bean into his mouth is one of the best expressions of disappointment! - There's actually some clever animations in the game. Sometimes, but not always, if the boy runs off a ledge, he will continue walking through the air for a while, then, in classic cartoon fashion, look down, realize he's no longer on solid ground, then let gravity do it's job.
But, oh! my brothers and sisters of Negative World, there are a great. many. things terribly wrong with this game. Things that will bring out rage and fury within each and every one of us! Either that or you may simply be bored to tears. Both scenarios are entirely possible. Regardless, you will most likely end up not finishing the game or making significant progress, due to things such as:
- Level design is atrocious. This game thrives on trial and error gameplay, where you essentially have to guess where to take the plunge and hope for the best. For example, pick the wrong spot to create a 'hole' Blob, and you fall to your death. You try again, this time with the knowledge of what to do. This wouldn't be a bad thing except you only get 5 lives (and you're very limited in earning any extra lives). So basically, memorize the level layouts (or hand draw them like we used to do with these games back in the old days, right?!). You're never given any indication on where to go next. At all.
You're not really heading anywhere, ya know... you'll get this feeling a lot
- The game is broken in several areas. A good example is when you rocket over to the day time forest, you run into screens with falling cherry bombs. If a cherry bomb touches the ground, you die, no matter where you may be. There's one batch of cherry bombs that is impossible to safely run past. According to some online guides, a supposed solution is to use coconut Blob and roll him along so that the 'camera' follows him and clears out the cherry bombs, but not ONCE when I played did the screen actually follow Blob as he rolled along.
- The game does not have scrolling screens, much like the SNES game Out of this World. This is not a flaw in itself, but the level design makes it quite difficult to progress. For example, when you're trying to get a certain treasure underwater surrounded by large spikes, the screen is constantly flickering back and forth since you're navigating on the edge (and the bubble controls terribly!!! You push a little bit left or right and the bubble is moving all over the place. You simply can't control it with enough accuracy).
- The music is terrible. It's noisy, it's irritating, and it sounds like a mechanical chicken is trying to sing along in the few songs there are in this game. All the notes seem perfectly off, in a cacophony of nastiness.
- The Boy is sooooo helpless, defenseless... There are a surprising number of things that can kill you, including walking into a spider web. Oops, spider web touched, instant death. It doesn't make sense because you never actually actually see a spider. Plus, his control is extremely slippery. There's no run button, but you do gain some speed very quickly when you move. When you try to stop, the Boy simply slides for a looong distance, putting even Luigi's slipperiness to shame!
Perhaps we're in Australia, and Shadowlink's pet is on the loose...
- Nothing in this game makes sense. Among other things: umbrella Blob is good against... falling rocks, but not the killer marshmallows? You can float down at a safe speed from high distances using the umbrella. And the falling rocks are a first example of the unforgiving hit detection in the game. Your umbrella protects you, but if you walk forward just as the rock misses the umbrella and the rock lands on your foot... instant death! This boy is so frail he should have rejected the Blob's plea for help. Sadly, Blob will never make it home!
Falling rocks, and death by marshmallow
- In stark contrast to Blob's delicious animation and overall look, the boy is an embarrassment of a sprite figure, looking like he was pulled straight out of an old Atari 2600 game. (This kind of makes sense, as David Crane started his programming career at Atari, making games for the Atari 2600. Crane left Atari in 1979 and co-founded Activision, where he was best known as the designer of Pitfall!)
- Using the jellybeans is tedious. You will have to memorize the jellybean flavors' effects, as you have no indicator of what each jellybean does until you actually use it. As a courtesy, though, the game does give you text at the bottom of the screen indicating what the Blob transformed into, in case you weren't sure. And some of the jellybean flavors are easy to remember their effect. Apple flavor turns Blob into a hydraulic jack (like the Apple Jak cereal, har har). I guess it makes sense that licorice turns Blob into a ladder, they both start with 'L.' But why is vanilla = umbrella or strawberry = bridge?
- And selecting jellybeans is a chore itself! You press Select to scroll the beans one by one, and you can only scroll forward. Also, they don't appear to be in any specific kind of order... not alphabetical, not by quantity... Well, there's no time limit in the game, so maybe the designers thought why make it any easier? You've got all the time in the world to find that damn little bean. Speaking of jellybeans, you only get a limited number of each flavor, with some of them being limited to just a few!
To sum it up: Don't spend your 5 bucks on this game, please. Use that money for the far superior Wii version developed by WayForward, which can found for a low price at most retail locations. This NES game has some interesting game mechanics that would have made it a challenging puzzle platfomer if it weren't for the poorly designed gameplay aspects.
The game was chiefly designed and programmed by former Activision employees David Crane and Garry Kitchen. Kitchen was the president of the Activision spin-off company Absolute, which began self-publishing in 1988. Crane joined his colleague at Absolute around the same time. The development team was given only six weeks to complete A Boy and His Blob. Crane himself rented out a flophouse near his office and put in several 16-hour days of the work on the project. During the last two weeks of development, Crane worked 20-hour days, flew to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for trade demonstrations, then spent nights at his hotel fixing bugs. The concept of a boy accompanied by a shapeshifting blob was described by Crane as "an off-the-wall idea". He stated that Blob's design was heavily inspired by the characters Gloop and Gleep from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Herculoids. To ease the game's difficulty level, the jelly bean flavors were named specifically as either puns or alliteration to help the player remember them.
Great review @roykoopa64. It's too bad that the game sucks, though. I remember that I wanted this game really bad when I was a kid. My mother ordered it online for me but the order got mixed up and I got The Adventures of Bayou Billy instead. I guess it all worked out for the best in the end. I got a better game out of the whole deal after all. I never did play A Boy and his Blob ,though. I'm really interested in playing the new one. By the way, I'm honored to have inspired you to add some trivia.
Thanks. Yeah, it's a shame it wasn't better, but I'm so glad WayForward's Wii version corrected so many things that were wrong with the NES game while keeping the charm and puzzle aspects intact. Haha, I remember Bayou Billy. That voice intro was amazing for the NES: "The Adventures of Bayou Billy!" whoa...
Nice find! I don't know if it's just a coincidence (there's no mention of the Strawberry Mansion Bridge being a famous bridge or anything memorable like that), but who knows, maybe that bridge means something special to David Crane...
Roy, I'm so glad that you scored this game appropriately; I usually expect high ratings for classic reviews...
But this game is pure dogshit, and that's saying something because I can usually find the fun in a 'bad' game (like licensed movie titles), but this... I honestly don't see how anyone can enjoy this game. The concept is great, but the execution (even simple stuff like item navigation) is abysmal. This is one game I can say with confidence that I'll never touch again.
Honestly, I'd give this game a 1.3. IMO, it's THAT bad!
Fun review! The first pic is broken for me, though.
Yeah, I watched a playthrough on youtube and that was enough for me, I'm satisfied having only played the Wii game.
I think I can see why a kid without anything else to play would enjoy it in some way, however. The idea that secrets could be literally anywhere, you just have to find them, is a very compelling one. It's just too bad Crane was a dick and gave limited lives and jellybeans.