de Blob slaps a new coat of paint on itself for a PS4 release. It’s been nearly a decade, will gamers find it outdated or surprisingly fun to play? If you’re interested, then it’s time to get your inner Bob Ross on.
Genre: Puzzle Platformer, Coloring
Publisher: THQ Nordic Games
Release date: 14 Nov, 2017
de Blob is back!
de Blob is a single player time-based puzzle platformer published by THQ that originally released on the Wii back in 2008. Recently, it was released on Steam with a PC port and as of November 14th, 2017 it is available on PS4. The main goal of the game is to go about saving your city from a corporate invasion that has drained all the color from the land and put the inhabitants to work in a dystopian police state. It incorporates a variety of different game styles, but it generally follows the path of a puzzle platformer with the main aim of coloring in everything that is black and white.
De Blob Trailer
Class of ’08
I have to admit, back in 2008 I actually bought de Blob on the Wii. However, the motion controls really bummed me out with all the swinging and shaking, so I ended up trading it for something else as I just could not get into it. Now that it is on the PS4, I thought I’d give it a try again to see if it held up over the years and if I could finally play the game with a controller other than a Wiimote and nunchuck.
Suffice it to say, the full motion videos and graphics still look good and come out quite well upscaled to 1080p. It has barely aged at all, which is a huge accomplishment in this day and age. You start out as a blob of plain water, absorbing the ink colors from these paintbots which are filled with colored ink. You do this by using a sort of targeted ground pound to smash them and this allows you to change colors on the fly. There are primary colors like yellow, red, and blue. From those, you can mix inks to make other colors such as green, purple, orange, and brown. Each paintbot has color points that can be amassed, with a limit of 100 points in total held by de Blob. Every time you bump into something or land somewhere, you color the area and use up a color point. There are also bonus patterns to unlock along with spare lives and paint bombs that color in a whole area at once. Now, you can either go willy-nilly, painting the city like Bob Ross cheerfully talking about happy little trees, or you can activate some missions which have specific timed actions to perform. These missions are crucial to unlocking the next part of a given level.
The missions tend to be the same level after level. There are ones where you must jump into a building and color it in with a certain number of color points in a specific color, ones where you have to attack the police, ones where you have to play follow the leader and chase a sparkly dot, and lastly ones where you must color certain buildings or billboards with a particular number of color points. All of these are timed, so if you fail by the end of the time limit then you must start all over again. This isn’t quite as irritating when it comes to coloring because you get to keep the buildings you’ve colored and just finish up the ones you missed to complete that type of mission. What makes it difficult time after time is the environment around you. There are black ink traps that will kill you within seconds unless you wash it off. Additionally, there are cops, attack drones, tanks, fire pits, moving gears, and even these flying motorcycles a la Return of the Jedi. Also, the paintbots themselves can get in the way while trying to color something. I lost count of how many times I went to paint a building blue, for example, only to accidentally bump into some yellow ink and turn green, making me run to wash it off and start over again. Since these are timed missions, every second counts. It’s not as easy you might think it is.
Platforming varies quite a bit as you move from place to place in this world. One area may be covered in lots of platforms, while others are in sewers, boatyards, or fenced off areas. If you get a color mission you have to traverse these areas carefully. You could risk falling down and getting stuck in a corner, or worse, having to start all over from the beginning. One thing I didn’t particularly like was that platforming as a moving ball carries the movement physics of a ball. You can’t double jump or move around like you would with say, Mario or Ratchet and Clank. Your move-set is limited to the way a ball of water moves. You can stick to the sides of buildings sometimes, but it is a little tricky to get out of a sewer when you fall down due to the high walls around it. I’m still not thrilled with how the controls work on the platforming, it just doesn’t feel tight to me. However, it’s workable and with practice, it gets better.
Some areas gave me lots of trouble with the controls. I’d be jumping on a building trying to follow the sparkling light missions when I’d jump up and somehow bounce backward for what seemed like half a block. It was hit or miss, so I either I never got the knack for the controls or there are some spots where the controls get wonky. For example, on the Chroma Dam I was trying to target the building to fill with purple points and yet the building never registered me even though I was right next to it. I just kept getting pummeled by an ink tank. Eventually, I had to kill the tank to get closer, but even then I’d be jumping around trying to get the points added, yet the building would not let me in. After a solid minute, and that is a lot of time in a timed mission, I was able to get in and finish the mission. It was quite frustrating, though.
As for the follow the leader missions, those were a little hard to see at times. Sometimes I’d be right next to it, but unable to see the flashing light if it was directly on top of a fire hazard or two steps down where I didn’t expect the light to be. Generally, I had a little issue doing these, but the difficulty always lay with the course it was following, as it was almost always beset with traps and enemies. A good mission type though, and more along the lines of the puzzle platform aspect.
Fighting the police was my favorite type of mission and I polished those guys off with targeted ground pounds with glee. There was never any worry of being overwhelmed and it was just the right amount of difficulty when playing these. Once in a while I’d get inked and have to run to wash off the ink. If you are low on paint points, you will die within seconds. The only way to clear yourself is to find some source of water or a water-bot if one is nearby. I died a handful of times this way, and some missions are designed in such a way that you actually need to repeatedly wash in order to complete the objective at hand.
My least favorite missions were actually the coloring missions where I have to color specific buildings or billboards. Why? Mostly because I kept bonking into other ink colors and painting buildings the wrong color. It’s well devised to make each mission more and more challenging, but no other type of mission was as frustrating to complete. Occasionally, I’d color everything and still not complete the mission, mostly because there was a single building tucked in between others that was a little difficult to reach and I could not always figure out a way to get to it. If it were not for the timer ticking away I would have taken my time, but with a timed mission, I sometimes would not bother with every single coloring mission on a level unless it was the only way to progress to the next section.
Controls, Graphics, and Sound
I have to say that I much prefer using a PS4 controller compared to a Wiimote. It’s a huge improvement and I think if I had used a controller back in 2008 I would have kept my de Blob game instead of trading it. Motion controls were a janky mess for a lot of games and de Blob was no exception. The PS4 version plays wonderfully and looks fantastic. Kudos for bringing this game to the PS4.
The art style is gorgeous in its simplicity and presentation, as it is really unique for its time and still holds up well. There is a whimsical nature to it that feels carefree once the areas are all colored in. Also, the more you paint and color in the city, the louder and more intense the music becomes, which is just absolutely brilliant. On top of that, the music is some of the best I’ve heard in any game, period. Well, as long as you enjoy jazz and funk that is. There are some optional soundtracks and unlockable ones as well. There is just something fantastic about coloring a city and freeing the citizens with a funk guitar chord hammering louder and louder and a clever melody working its way in sort of blizzard of jazzy funk notes that is incredibly toe-tapping. Loved it.
I think the only bad part of my experience with the graphics was dealing with the camera angle. It can leave you exasperated at times. Say you are jumping back and forth between buildings in an alley, many times the camera will close-up on de Blob and then you can’t really see anything outside of the close-up area. This makes maneuvering difficult when the areas you need to investigate are cut off from view.
So, what do I make of this game? De Blob feels like a platforming Splatoon with Super Monkeyball physics and Zen Pinball all wrapped up into one. It’s a very original game and one that is rather interesting to play despite the repetition of the missions. The difficulty ramps up just a wee bit the further you go and the traps and obstacles honestly are quite carefully placed to make sure that you don’t just breeze through the game without first mastering the core gameplay mechanics. It’s well done. My only caveat is that the platforming itself is a bit frustrating for me because I keep thinking I can double jump when I cannot actually do that. I’m just not fond of the platforming ball of water physics.
Here is the thing, de Blob is somewhat tedious. It can turn off a certain number of gamers. My son tried it out and didn’t really want to play after just two levels. However, as I went on playing the game he would sneak in and watch from the sidelines commenting that the game is sort of annoying and yet cool at the same time. That totally sums it up. The repetition may get to you. Also, If you don’t like coloring then don’t get this game. If you prefer there to be more action involved, it happens but not in a Rachet and Clank kind of way. However, it’s just so very original and has these well-designed levels that slowly increase the difficulty stage by stage like someone making a sundae one layer at a time. The world has interesting changes in the environment between stages and it’s entertaining even though I’m not fond of the moving ball movement. It’s not quite as casual a game as some might expect, but it certainly does what it does very well. While not a must buy game, I can heartily recommend it because at the end of each level you’ll likely say “Well, that was kinda cool”, and that’s de Blob for you. It such an amazing amount of character that many games these days completely lack. I say it’s a Save for Later game, but definitely give it a go sometime soon if you enjoy puzzle platformers.