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8 Reviews

A Boy and his Blob

Just a case of 'bean there, done that'?

Coo all you want, we don't trust Blob. Exhibit A: he crawled out of a meteorite. Nothing good crawls from meteorites. Exhibit B: when you hug him, his lifeless eyes wear the same disconnected gaze as Damien in The Omen. Exhibit C: when the Boy dies - be it speared, drowned or dropped - Blob stands idly by and sheds not a tear for his fallen master. Cold and calculating, Blob has boy murder in mind.

So do WayForward. Their shape-shifting puzzler harks back to a time of insta-kills. For a game with a hug button (AKA the vomit button) it has a hard heart, punishing deviation from its solutions with death. That a small boy does all this dying is creepy, more so when you unlock videos showing the devs filming one their kids for the purposes of animating the boy. Heaven knows how they captured the 'crumpled body after a long fall' look. Yikes.

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Repeat cycle of shattered boy bones aside, the game is gently paced. Feed Blob beans, use his new form, call him hither - a plodding routine from the first level to the last. Only a handful of Blob's transformations revolve around urgent manoeuvres - flying rocket Blob through a maze or swooping through minefields on a Blob parachute - but they're hardly arcade thrills. Piecing together the solutions is like watching Midsomer Murders - peril in the politest way.

But it's a politeness that occasionally verges on meekness. Forgetting the cemetery's worth of boys we churned through, puzzle design often has a gutless lack of faith in the player. Signs tell you which Blob form to use. A preselected choice of beans further limits your approach.

More worryingly, the rules of what Blob can and can't do (specifically what he can and can't pass through) are kept deliberately hazy, offering sloppy workarounds to some of the game's better conundrums.

In his balloon form Blob can pass through any surface. Bizarrely, WayForward seem to have forgotten this, basing puzzles on the task of reuniting Boy and Blob. Why muck around with switches to open the door in Blob's way when he's one inflate away from your side? Put it down to the mysteries of quantum tunnelling or clumsy design - either way, it's a sloppy piece of execution.

That's a shame, as Blob's well defined forms support plenty of confident puzzling. Weights trigger switches and thunk into enemy skulls to form impromptu platforms. A car jack realigns entire levels with a couple of cranks. Feeding evil toads bowling ball Blob before reforming him in their stomachs causes a comically icky reaction (and is further proof of Blob's inherent malicious streak). And the ability to infinitely switch form is a huge improvement on the original's fastidious bean-counting.

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Has bean
Alas, as is the way with jelly beans, there's always a coconut/liquorice/Savlon-flavoured nugget to poison the batch. Space-hopper Blob forces a clumsy memory game of when to jump soft or hard. His most elaborate transformation, Zorb Ball, is the least fun to use.

Not only is its application limited to traversing slopes and half-pipes but it responds to horribly rigid physics, making it tough to steer (in a world of delicate frame-by-frame hand animation there's no room for the chaos of physics).

That we mainly remember the few bad moments from a meaty 40 levels of good bits is indicative of A Boy And His Blob as a whole. In the gorgeous art style, dialogue-free story and clever morphing there's lots to love, but the game's too much of a wimp to seize you by the lapel and demand you love them. We wanted a passionate embrace; we got a safe, snuggly hug.

Forget jelly beans, A Boy And His Blob is a family-sized tin of Roses: several kilos of nondescript pleasantness.

The verdict

Lovingly crafted, sure, but for a game revolving around the rich variety of jelly beans A Boy And His Blob can be flavourless stuff.

7.6
Format
Nintendo Wii
Developer
Unknown
Publisher
Unknown
Genre
Platformer, Adventure

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