Platformers dominated the early days on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and it’s easy to see why when we look back at the catalogue of classic titles to come out of the era. One that is often overlooked is A Boy and His Blob, created by the mind behind the Pitfall series David Crane. The game provided a relationship between a boy and a bouncing, jiggling blob that needed the boy’s help to save his home planet. The boy was happy to help, but often needed the help of tools that the blob was able to change into. It was this mechanic that made the original stand out as a thinking gamers platformer.
Twenty years on WayForward Technologies bring us a re-imagining of the classic, featuring all new levels and gameplay features, topped off with some fantastic presentation that makes this stand out as a gorgeous game. A Boy and His Blob for the Wii is a smart, fun platforming adventure that very rarely falls short.
Keeping true to the titles roots, the story is weaker than diet cordial. The blob crash-lands on our little planet and meets the boy, they team up and embark on an adventure across our planet and beyond to defeat the emperor who has taken control of Blobolonia. That’s about as detailed as the story gets, and while it works in this situation, it still would have been nice to have it fleshed out a little more.
The presentation of A Boy and his Blob is what really makes the game stand out. Boy and Blob travel through unique worlds which range from the lush green wilderness, which looks stunning under the moonlit sky, the bright and outlandish planet of Blobolonia and the dark, brooding mechanical citadel. Each world feels unmistakably different, each with it’s own feeling which keeps the game interesting and fresh. 2D platforming has never looked so good.
What makes A Boy and his Blob look so darn good is the fact that every facet of the game has been hand drawn and animated to perfection. The characters all feature an amazing amount of detail that draw the player in, enemies splatter in a way that brings a smile to your face, and the backgrounds and scenery are some of the best artwork on the Wii today. The art design takes a minimalistic approach at times, but it works rather well. The real-time lighting brings a warm and fuzzy quality, lighting up the scenery and the boy and his blob too. Running a smooth and consistent frame rate, this is one gorgeous game for the Nintendo Wii.
The adventure is spread our across four worlds featuring ten levels each and they will manage to keep you busy for a number of hours. Completionists on the other hand will find themselves replaying each level to collect all three treasure chests hidden in each level. If you collect all three, bonus levels are unlocked (40 of them) which can be beaten to unlock concept art, videos and more. This is an adventure that is lengthy and has plenty of re-playability for those of you who want to unlock everything.
While the charm of the characters manage to draw you into the game, the immersion is severely hampered by a series of loading times, which manage to destroy the momentum created by the game. There are stage loads that are fine, but the mid-level loading times manage to destroy the illusion that the world is not a seamless stage, but merely a conglomerate of conjoined areas. While this isn’t a deal breaker to the games appeal of functionality, it certainly does make the pacing feel broken and slow.
Many gamers will just write Blob off as another 2D platformer, but upon spending some time with it, you will find yourself relying on brainpower rather than the run and jump formula that is found in most platforming games. You take control of the boy, using the nunchuck to move around, using the A button to perform a jump. The boy’s jumping abilities aren’t that great, so more often than not you will rely on your blob to transform into something to allow you to navigate the hostile world. Using the Z button you open up a wheel with different coloured jelly beans, each with a special power that will cause your jiggly blob friend to transform into useful tools. Some of these include ladders for climbing, trampoline to jump over hazards or up rather high, a hole to make your enemies fall to their doom, and even a spaceship when you need to fly somewhere.
Blob’s control scheme is okay once you get used to it, but more often than not it feels boated and sluggish. What should be a quick and simple task of transforming your blob into the tool you desire is slowed down by a number of steps. First you need to hit the Z button to bring up the jelly bean menu, you then need to use the analogue stick to navigate to the desired jelly bean, which changes every level as each level has it’s own designated powers, then you need to press the B-trigger and use the analogue stick to choose your trajectory to throw the said jelly bean. After all this you sill need to hit the C button to call the blob over to you and make him eat the jelly bean. The AI of the blob can be rather cumbersome, more often than not you’ll find yourself waiting for him to catch up. It’s not a deal breaker, but some alternative control methods would have been nice.
THE FINAL VERDICT
A Boy and His Blob is a fantastic homage to the titles roots on the NES, featuring 2D platforming at it’s best. A gorgeous game to look at, the only downfalls are in the bloated control system and staggering load times that really break immersion. If you want a platformer that has more than just running and jumping, A Boy and His Blob will keep you entertained for hours.
GAMEPLAY: 7.8/10 – A unique blend of puzzle and platforming. Great characters and fantastic level designs. Unfortunately is let down by a bloated and sluggish control system.
GRAPHICS: 8.5/10 – Hand drawn and animated characters with stunning backdrops and real-time lighting effects. Rarely do 2D platformers looks this good!
AUDIO: 6.5/10 – The soundtrack is atmospheric but often feels bare. The Blob is humorous but the boy calling out to the boy will get on your nerves rather quickly.
VALUE: 7.2/10 – 40 story levels that will keep you busy for quite some time, and with 40 bonus missions, concept art other unlockables on offer this will keep you busy for a while, but the bonus levels are rather short lived.