Thursday, 2 January 2014

Look back: De Blob (Wii, 2008)

A retrospective videogame review

Developed by Blue Tongue studios

de Blob is a deceptively simple game. At first glance, it appears to be a game designed for children, with its cartoon graphics and humour and simplistic gameplay based, of all things, matching colours. But beneath that is a deep subtext examining the effects oppression, governmental controls, imperialism and censorship upon a society consisting of Liberal values... not that the games target audience of the "3+" will quite appreciate this.

Advantages: brilliant music, bursting with colour and imaginative characters, funny slapstick humour

Disadvantages: controls, tests your patience, not very casual

The story revolves around the city of Raydia, a land filled with colours and where citizens spend their time in museums, playing music and sports, writing and painting art. However, an invading alien army, the Inkies led by Comrade Black (notice the allusion?). They drain Raydia of all its colours, institute a police state and oppress the citizens by, literally, clamping them in metal suits.

The city's only hope is "the colour underground" a group of radical artists and revolutionaries, who are, at the start of the game, quite useless, until the game's protagonist, Blob emerges from the jungle to save them all.

You basically play a bizarre cross between the Hulk, Tarzan, Picasso and Che Guervara, fighting the Inkies by swining around the city, bouncing off walls and covering the city in paint. Note, our protagonist mass murders the Inky race, literally squashing them and causing them to burst. Imagine if the inkies left blood and bone, instead of puddle of ink, i don't think this game qould have kept its rating.

The highlights of the game are its allusions to the Fascist and Communist regimes, and its rewarding game system. Each level starts with a grey world, with a grey sky and no music. As you repaint the world, different instruments play and the sky clear, so that by the end of the level, life reutrns to the city along with an inspiring score. The game contains absolutely brilliant jazz and funk music, perfectly portraying the left-wing, freedom loving, pacifisctic socity that you try to save.

It is also a game for completionists with around ten awards offered each level for completing certain tasks, such as speed runs, painting every tree and freeing every citizen. It is challenging, in fact, almost impossible to get all awards in one playthrough of level, so the game offers replayability.

However, it is marred by several issues. The most major is the control system. Blob jumps by swinging the Wiimote. And pretty much all the game involves constant jumping, which leaves you with an incredible sore wrist. This would be an incredibly easy game, if not for an often unresponsive control scheme, which can create immense frustration, when you fail a level bacause the game didn't register your jump.

On top of this, each level is massive with a sprawling cityscape, but don't expect a sandbox style game. The game is heavily railroaded, so if you want to go to an earlier section of a level, have fun walking all the way back. But the size of each level means it takes roughly 40 minutes to an hour to complete a level, depending on how much perfection you're going for, but even speed running later levels will mean 20 minutes straight of basic, repetitve gameplay. This problem could of been resolved with the means of in-game save points, but these aren't here. Instead you have to complete a whole level in one go, which requires a big investment of time. For a casual game, that is not very casual.

Overall, this is a game bursting with imagination, characters and originiality, that many other games fail to offer. Its premise of repainting a city in as many colours as possible, directly challenges and lampoons the current gaming landscape, where the only colour is rusty brown or hollow grey. Yet it is hampered by a frustrating control system, which cannot be customised and lengthy levels offering no breaks.

Summary: strongly recommended for anyone who wants light-hearted entertainment, as well as true originality.


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