REVIEW: Raining Blobs

Oct
21

REVIEW: Raining Blobs

Although it’s a novel take on a Puyo-like puzzle game, this niche aspect may harm it more than help. The steep learning curve and limited tutorial prevents it from gaining more traction amongst possible gamers.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-Player
Genres: Puzzle, Strategy
Developer: Endi Milojkoski
Publisher: Black Shell Media
Release date: 15 Jan, 2016

First Impressions

At a passing glance, Raining Blobs (RB) could come off as a Puyo copy, but the gameplay is more complicated than matching 4 or more same-colored pieces. Instead, it plays more like Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, where any amount of pieces can be destroyed, but only by an activating piece. Even that isn’t exactly the same, as RB requires 2 activators to trigger the destruction of pieces, instead of only 1. It may seem insignificant, but this makes the game more difficult, as it adds another variable you have to keep track of and requires constant double-checking.

The Main Menu screen.

Gameplay

There are 4 game modes in RB, 1 of which I’ll save for a later section. In Arcade Mode, your objective is to make it to level 100, with levels increasing based on clearing blobs. For Puzzle Mode, the field has blobs scattered around, and, using only 1 piece, you have to clear the entire screen. Your aim, like the previous mode, is to beat 100 rounds. A key problem is 1 piece limits how many unique puzzles can be made, and it becomes repetitive. Another problem is that all the pieces fall constantly, so you have to solve each in a short time limit. Both of these constraints go against the spirit of most puzzle modes, which tend to focus on complex set-ups with precise solutions. Unlike the other modes that stop after you reach an objective, in Endless Mode it only stops when you quit or your pieces reach the ceiling. An interesting feature of RB is that each of these modes can be played with other people or AI tagging along, though it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll square off against them. It’s just as likely that they’ll simply be there, perhaps mocking you with how much better they’re progressing by comparison.

Things are starting to look really bad for me.

What I think hurts the game most is an insufficient learning curve. Unless you’re already quite good at RB, which is unlikely with its unique mechanic, you’ll get destroyed by AI that’s supposed to represent the baseline. I beat Tournament Mode on Normal difficulty using 9 continues, but I felt overwhelmed and panicked. It wasn’t uncommon for me to set off what felt like a great play that should devastate the opponent and still lose, while winning rounds where I thought I did terribly. To be fair, I don’t have the same level of experience in RB as I do other puzzlers, which helps me get that sense without having to watch the enemy’s side of the screen. However, since I’m so unaware of how this game functions, I never knew when they were in dire straits or humming along without concern, as well as what I did that crushed them or made little impact.

Then suddenly I pull off an incredible chain that almost clears my side completely.

Controls

One positive about RB is that you can play with either a keyboard or controller, and I found the controller functioned without any problems with lag or input delay. You’ll use the ‘D-pad’ to move the pieces around the screen; holding the ‘down’ direction will make the piece fall faster, while pressing the ‘up’ direction will make it drop in place instantly. Using the ‘A’ button turns pieces counterclockwise, while ‘B’ turns it clockwise. Hitting ‘X’ brings up an options menu.

Of course, I can obviously tell everything going on in this picture. Can’t you?

Story

The mode I haven’t yet addressed, Tournament Mode, would more accurately be Story Mode based on the opening and ending scenes and how you progress against all the other characters. Either way, you’ll select 1 of 9 characters and subsequently beat all the others. However, though it puts up the general presentation of a story, all that really carries it is some trash talk, and after beating the last one, your character does something nice for the others, and they’re all friends again. As far as I can tell, the reason they fought in the first place is because a robot woman wants to break up their friendship because… robot logic? I suppose it could be argued that this is the reason for calling it Tournament Mode, but with all the hallmarks of a story that’s simply underdeveloped, I don’t think it’s reasonable to say it’s only a variant on the game’s Arcade Mode.

Burns like this can traumatize a person.

Graphics

RB uses pixel graphics, and most things look pretty good. The 9 different backgrounds make good use of color, and the titular blobs look fully round and are shaded. However, I don’t think the characters look great, and though they have different hair color and outfits, they blend together to me. For instance, they all appear to be the same height, age, similar body shapes, skin tones, etc. There isn’t enough to show their personalities or passions, such as a more developed Story Mode or voice acting, so they don’t stand out strongly amongst one another. Many puzzlers have excelled in this department, while RB seems drab by contrast. One of my favorites would be Tetris Attack, though that has the unfair advantage of using characters from the Mario franchise.

The graphics aren’t too bad in this game.

Sound Design

I really like the soundtrack in RB. Most of the songs have a nice blend of percussion and upbeat rhythms. The basis of the music makes me think of earlier console chiptunes, and it gives the music a funky vibe I enjoy. There’s not much to comment on regarding SFX, but nothing struck me as an annoying sound.

Pros

  • When selecting a game mode, it’s possible to change the rules and mechanics. One variant makes it a Puyo game, and the other reduces the number of activators from 2 to 1. Additionally though, you determine when you get those activators, instead of it being part of the RNG like when playing under normal rules. This isn’t the game’s foundation or intent though, so I still view this game from the basis of its core mechanics.
  • If you had the right set-up for it, in theory you and 7 other people could play all at once locally or use remote play.
  • It’s very easy to quit out of a game you’ve started in order to reset or switch to a different rule-set or mode.

Cons

  • As you get into higher levels in Arcade and Puzzle Mode, the girls start posing provocatively and revealing more of their bodies. It’d be PG-13, if that, but it’s needless and cheapens the game, especially with an all-female cast.
  • I’m not sure how the damage output works in Versus Mode, as in whether it’s better to build one massive blob of a single color and burst it or several small groups in a longer chain.
  • When completing chains, though you’ll see numbers flashing on the screen, it doesn’t hype the moment up as well as other puzzlers do. Bust-A-Move 4 is a great example of this.

Tips

  • If you have problems solving Puzzle Mode, play against the AI, as you can watch and copy them. This is certainly easier said than done with how quickly they move.
  • With how difficult the AI is, I’d suggest starting on Easy difficulty.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, the impression I get from RB is that at a certain point, instead of fully developing the content in a way that would make sense, it simply ended at some point. For instance, the scant amount of dialogue and story points presented in Tournament Mode. It’s not like it’s difficult programming-wise to flesh out the personalities of the characters you make, or add more exposition so we have any idea what’s going on in the story. If you’re craving a puzzler with something new to offer, RB’s unique mechanics may satisfy that urge, especially when looking at Steam exclusively. Plus, in RB’s defense, it has been made by a single person, whereas the other games I’m referencing have been made by teams. However, it shows the importance of fine-tuning the details and making sure all elements are well polished. It does well audio/visually, but it’s still a bit shy of where it needs to be for me to recommend playing it.

Leave a comment

Recent Posts

Archived Reviews