A Boy and His Blob
Release Date: 10/13/2009
The original A Boy and His Blob was a very popular franchise back in the early days of gaming. Absolute Entertainment developer both it and the Game Boy sequel, The Rescue of Princess Blobette. Both games were developed by David Crane, the mastermind behind the original Pitfall, Grand Prix, Night Trap and Ghostbusters games and was considered one of the most instrumental forces behind the early days of Atari and Activision. The original A Boy and His Blob would win Game of the Year from nearly every gaming publication in 1989, which the sequel earning less praise, but still being both a critical and financial success. The third game in Crane’s series A Boy and His Blob: Jelly’s Cosmic Adventure was supposed to be released in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance, but it was ultimately cancelled. In 2005, a DS remake of the original game was supposed to be released by Skyworks Technologies and the publisher Majesco, but this too was cancelled. Considering Skyworks track record, this can only be a good thing.
Now here we are in 2009 and Majesco has finally made use of their ownership of the A Boy and His Blob license, teaming up with WayForward to start the franchise over with the same basic story and gameplay, but all new levels and modern graphics. I have to admit my first experience with Wayforward was the odd side-scrolling beat ’em drama WWF Betrayal, which is better left forgotten. They did, however, give me Sigma Star Saga which won several awards from us in 2005. I haven’t actually played a game by them since, but with nostalgia firmly behind me, I wanted to see if A Boy and His Blob would do David Crane proud, even though he wasn’t actually involved in this production, and there are little to no nods to either of the first two titles.
So how does the new A Boy and His Blob hold up?
I should point out there is little to no dialogue in this game. Nearly everything is done wordlessly save for the occasional sound effect. You will not get any narration or script running across your screen explaining everything. Instead, you’ll have to watch everything unfold by using your own judgment as to what is happening. Of course, this is all down beautifully and everything makes perfect sense. This is a very artistic way to go, and the entire story comes off very charming and sweet.
Boy (and yes, he’s just Boy) when a meteor crashes to earth, waking him up. When Boy goes to investigate, a creature emerges from the wreckage. Although both are scared of each other at first, they warm up to each other and as the game progresses you really get to see the two bond. In fact, you can hug your blob at any time in the game and it’s so cute I found myself doing it just for the sake of doing it. Awwww.
The Blob has come to Earth seeking help for his home planet of Blobolonia has been taken over by evil tar things led by an evil more evil emperor. After discovering various flavours of jelly beans can bestow certain powers on the Blob, the Boy and his Blob set forth to save the day before this alien schmoo like creature can develop diabetes. Okay, the diabetes part isn’t in there.
Although the plot of A Boy and His Blob is identical to the original, it unfolds in a very different manner. Here you get four worlds comprised of ten levels each. There are also ten challenges levels per world that you can unlock by finding treasure chests (three per level) give you a total of 80 levels to explore! That’s a lot of content. You’ll quickly grow to love both the Boy and the Blob as even without any scripting and very little dialogue (You’ll only hear Boy talk to the blob or scream when he falls from a far enough distance), everything is conveyed beautifully. Whether you played the first two games or this is your first experience with the franchise, this is one of those timeless classic tales from gaming that anyone can enjoy from beginning to end.
Story Rating: Classic
This game may not boast next gen high definition graphics or 3-D visuals accompanied by the usual god-awful camera angles, but man is this game pretty. A Boy and His Blob has stayed true to its roots by giving us 2-D graphics that and beautifully rendered. Even though most characters in the game are black or white blobs, they are each given distinct personalities and look amazing on the screen. The animation is so fluid, you’d swear this was a movie at times.
Even better are the backgrounds. Everything is so detailed and vibrant, you can’t help but be impressed. The game’s use of colour and imagery just helps to make you fall further in love with the characters and the adventure they’re taking part in. This is easily the prettiest game I’ve played on the Wii this year. The visuals feel a little bit retro-stalgic, a little bit reminiscent of the cell-shading craze of the late 1990’s and yet are a style unto themselves. I really applaud the art direction.
If you ever needed proof a good 2-D game can still look as good, if not better, than most of the 3-D games out there today, all you need is to pick up a copy of A Boy and His Blob
Graphics Rating: Great
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there really isn’t a lot of dialogue or voice acting. The Boy with occasionally say something like, “Blob! Over Here” or he’ll whistle for the Blob and even tell it to calm down when it gets hyper. Other than that, everything is said or told through visuals. This does make the few pieces of vocals in the game all the more striking and noticeable. The Boy’s voice is perfect and with only a few words, he’s able to convey emotion and importance. In the few cut scenes in the game, you’ll get a little bit more out of both Boy and Blob, but again, this game shows a little can go a long way.
The music to the game is excellent as well. The myriad of background tracks are serene and fit the family friendly nature of the game perfectly. Although I never found myself humming along or getting any of these tracks stuck in my head after the fact, I did find them catchy and fun to listen to while I tried to figure out a puzzle.
Finally there are sound effects. There’s a great deal of different effects. Each evil blob has their own range of noises, each form the Blob can take on has its own distinct sound, and everything from falling into a river (and thus dying because no one seems to be able to swim in platformers) or even the hucking of a jelly bean sounds great.
Like everything else about A Boy and His Blob, Wayforward did a fine job here.
Sound Rating: Good
4. Control and Gameplay
One of the big complaints about the original game was that, much like the old King’s Quest games, that you could feasibly run out of the type of jellybean you need to progress in the game and thus have to start over. This could be pretty frustrating, especially for younger gamers. You’ll be happy to know that in this reboot, Boy will have unlimited jelly beans and will only bring the flavours needed to pass the current level with him. This means you won’t waste any jelly beans or eventually run out of a flavour due to trial and error. This makes life a lot easier, but it doesn’t make it any less fun.
You have two different control schemes open to you: The Wiimote/Nunchuk combo or the classic controller configuration. Both work just fine, but I prefer the classic controller for the retro feel and the button placement.
You use the left analog stick to move around, the A button to huck jelly beans, the B button to jump and the L trigger (Or C button with the Wiimote/Nunchuk option) to bring up the list of beans you have and the effect they have on the Blob. The D pad has all sorts of minor uses such a huging the Blob, telling it to calm down or making the camera center on the Blob when it is far away.
As mentioned earlier, the game is a combination platformer/puzzle game. You’ll have to use the right Blob power at the right time to get by enemies, obstacles and traps. You’ll also try to get all three treasure chests in a level to unlock the corresponding challenge level.
You’ll find the controls easy to pick up and much of the game is pretty instinctive. The only really problems I had were with the very rare times you needed to put a jelly bean in an exact spot in order to advance. That and trying to access the challenge levels in your home base can be a bit of a pain as for some reason there, and only there, the analog stick is more than a little unresponsive.
Overall, the engine powering A Boy and His Blob is extremely well built and the puzzle-platformer aspects make this game as engaging and delightful as the original. I have to admit that, due to the unlimited jelly beans, I feel this version actually surpasses the original 8-Bit game. Excellent job WayForward!
Control and Gameplay Rating: Classic
If there is any one weakness with A Boy and His Blob, it’s right here. Each of the levels in the game are pretty short and you have to play all forty of the main levels in a row, so things are quite linear. You can also only have a single save file of this game at a time, which kind of sucks if you have more than one person in your household wanting to play.
With forty challenge levels, the game does gain a bit of replay value. If you miss all three treasure chests in a normal level to unlock a challenge level, you can always go back and replay those sections for the missing chests. With the challenge levels, you can play them in any order you want, as long as you have them unlocked. These are all quite short as well; maybe one to three minutes at most. Beating the challenge level unlocks artwork or some in game weirdness.
Still, once you’ve beaten the game, there’s no real reason to return to it unless you loved the title so much you want to play it again and again. It really is a one and done game, no matter how brilliant it is.
Replayability Rating: Poor
Because Wayforward has corrected some issues that used to plague the original game, gamers will find this an easier and, more than likely, more enjoyable experience. As longtime readers know, I like my guys to be a bit of a challenge. However, I draw the line at making any game unbeatable at certain points, which is what the original did. Now with the ability to have unlimited jelly beans, you can concentrate on solving the puzzles and the adventure at hand.
None of the levels are really long, but they will give you a bit of a mental workout, especially the later ones. Each level you finish makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something rather than having just played the game. You don’t normally get that rewarding feeling when you progress in a game these days, so I was happy to see I would smile after finishing a level, especially after having stumbled a few times to get through.
After you complete each world, you get a boss battle. These are more puzzles than normal platformer boss fights and they’re a pretty well designed. The first boss fight puts you up a against a giant snake blob and you’ll have to time things so it accidentally bites the blob in anvil form, then electrocutes itself on its second attempt to bite you and finally make it fall through the remaining land into the murky depth below. Again, this was a real treat to figure out and each boss fight was very well done.
Challenge levels ramp up the difficulty drastically, but they’re not going to have you ripping your hair out in frustration. As beating each of these bonus levels gives you extra content, they’re well worth experiencing and could actually be more fun than the main part of the game if you’re a puzzle addict.
A Boy and His Blob was exceptionally designed from the first level all the way up until you finally come face to face with the emperor. No matter your age, skill level or genre preference, you’ll find A Boy and His Blob one of the most rewarding experiences this year.
Balance Rating: Great
It’s been twenty years since the original game came out and eighteen since the sequel. That’s a very long time between games, which will help to keep this game feeling fresh and new to anyone who plays it. As this isn’t a straight up remake, long time fans of the series will be able to play through all new levels and also be pleased to see that the few issues people had with the original have been corrected.
A Boy and His Blob stands out from the original games of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s while still holding true to the original gameplay and style. The game is a great blend of puzzle action and platformer pratfalls and there’s nothing really quite like it for any next-gen system.
This is a perfect example of how to properly revive a long slumbering but well respected franchise name. Wayforward has definitely made a game that is both innovative and yet familiar with this Wii remake.
Originality Rating: Good
Look, I usually hate platformers. I mean, HATE. It is my least favourite genre of video games ever. I’ve liked ONE, count them ONE Mario game and that’s the third one. However, 2009 has been the best year for platformers EVER. Before this year, there were only four platformers I could stand. 2009 has given me THREE I enjoyed Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?, The Legendary Starfy and now this. Honestly, this is probably the best Wii game I’ve played this year from a critical standpoint even though Onechanbara is my favorite and Gold Gym’s Cardio Workout is a game I play the most often as an addition piece of my exercise routine. There is absolutely nothing this game does wrong and it sucked me in like no other Platformer ever has. It’s so charming and it is more of a platformer than the original game, which was more akin to the old Maniac Mansion style Adventure games.
Even now I’m wishing this had been released in a less busy time period for gaming, say in August or December, so I could have savored this instead of having to rush through this so I could play one of a zillion other games.
From the second you boot this up until the very last stage, this game will be a highly entertaining time suck.
Addictiveness Rating: Great
9. Appeal Factor
As I said earlier, I hate platformers and even I can’t deny this is a Wii GOTY nomination if not the outright winner. I adored my time with A Boy and His Blob and the only people I can think of that won’t is that sad but very loud minority of gamers that seem to think just because a game is rated E or because it’s on the Wii that it’s “for kids.” It’s that sadly embarrassing sect of gamers that forgets they were kids when they first started gaming themselves and that they now scorn what actually brought them to the dance in the first place.
Honestly, unless you’re part of that repugnant mindset (and if you are, please stop reading my site), you’re going to love this game. It’s beautiful, it’s sweet, it’s fun for all ages and it tests your brain and well as your fingers. It’s just too bad Majesco doesn’t have the budget to give this a full on ad campaign like a ton of crappy games that come from Electronic Arts or THQ. This really deserves to be a huge success.
Appeal Factor: Classic
With a price tag between $35 and $39.99, A Boy and His Blob is one of the best deals for the Wii right now. Not only did it launch with a budget price, but it’s better than 95% (if not more) of the titles out there for the system. Wayforward managed to take a classic franchise that had been dead for two decades and make a game that lives up to the original. The fact they’ve made a GOTY contender is one thing. The fact they managed to respect the quality and style of the original, while actually surpassing it in several ways is quite another.
THIS is how you do a remake people. About the only negative thing I can say is that although this is a Wii Exclusive, it doesn’t make use of any of the Wii’s motion detection abilities. Still, this game is proof that the Wii has some potential system sellers, that great 2-D games can be still be made, and that often the best games of the year, along with the most innovative come from the smaller publishers rather than the large bloated one that just churn out the same retread crap from year to year.
A Boy and His Blob is destined to become a sleeper hit and I won’t be surprised at all if this game is remembered as fondly in twenty years as the original still is today.
Miscellaneous Rating: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Appeal Factor: Classic
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
A Boy and His Blob isn’t just one of the best games for the Nintendo Wii this year, it’s one of the best games of 2009 regardless of system. David Crane can be proud of Wayforward’s resurrection and remake of this classic gaming franchise. The story is charming, the art direction is wonderful and the gameplay is timeless. Can this game win GOTY like the original did back in 1989? Unlikely, but we’ll have to wait and see.