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Blue Tongue and THQ's de Blob comes around for another paint-soaked pass...
The best blob since Mr Blobby has made his return in Blue Tongue's sequel to the Wii-exclusive de Blob. de Blob 2 picks up where its predecessor left off, with players once again tasked with adding colour to the drab, monochrome world that is under the control of the evil Comrade Black.
Assuming the control of Blob, you are cast into the familiar whites and greys of the first game. After splashing around in some conveniently-laid pools of paint, Blob is able to fill the world with colour, as each building, tree and citizen is returned to triumphant saturation by his touch. The game has a stronger focus upon platforming than ever before, and players will soon find themselves in a wide range of locales, from futuro-metropolises to University campuses. Gameplay isn't entirely restricted to enriching an otherwise dull world however, as the developers have thrown in a handful of new elements to vary the experience.
Comrade Black's ardent followers are all intent on preventing Blob from succeeding in his revolutionary cause, and there are at least a dozen different enemy types to defeat. It's disappointing then that Blob's technique of lock-on-and-smash has echoes of the 3D Sonic games, and that few of the enemies require much more thought or skill than pulling the left trigger and hammering A or RT.
Other novelties in the formula are the various power-ups and transport nodes that can be used. Some, like the multi-colour power, can provide a helpful shortcut when painting buildings whilst others, like the wrecking ball, have the unfortunate tendency of adding to the monotony of the task in hand rather than enlivening it. One superb feature is the implementation of 2D side-scrolling segments, of which there are at least two or three in each of the game's ten levels. These sections are a hybrid between a puzzler and a platform game, and make for an enjoyable and interesting distraction from the main event.
Similarly brilliant are de Blob 2's animated cut-scenes, which are not only stunning to look at, but also manage to provoke a few laughs and tell the story despite not using any legible dialogue at all. It's the game's great sense of humour and light-hearted tone that will keep players interested, as De Blob 2 frequently delves into Pixar-esque territory, where the jokes that may well be missed by kids still find their way to more mature players (gags include allusions to leaving a brown surprise on the Dean's doorstep). Moreover, the story is actually rather sophisticated, much of which will certainly be lost on younger gamers. A mix of overt anarchistic, anti-capitalist sentiment and twee, childish visuals is quite striking, and although the story is well-thought out and delivered, it should be noted that the content is perhaps a little controversial at times, especially considering the target audience. Indeed, one spectacularly hard to navigate level is largely focused at the dismantling of a 'Cola' bottling plant and is laden with anti-corporate ideology.
As Blob flicks his way around the level, the once drab environment is morphed into a beautiful, fun place to be. Amazingly, the music manages to match this transformation; the sombre, sparse jazz tones of the start are gradually and seamlessly modified into a bustling melody, replete with fills and riffs every time Blob paints something. The sound design overall is as good as the aforementioned cinematics, and the isolated sound effects are an absolute pleasure. A real sense of reward is felt as the world is coloured in, perhaps akin to something from the house that Miyamoto built.
The game does indeed borrow heavily from Nintendo throughout, and it's not an overstatement to say that de Blob 2 is the closest thing you'll get to the Nintendo experience on another platform. It's perhaps a shame, though, that Blue Tongue's addition of 2-player is little more than the limited-control given to a companion in Mario Galaxy. Many of the gravity-experimentation and 2D sections feel like Galaxy too, and Mario Sunshine's Isle Delfino has definitely had an influence upon the world of Prisma City.
Unfortunately however, de Blob 2 never manages to quite pull it off as well as Mario. Jumping feels frustratingly sluggish compared to the fat little plumber, and there are many points at which the level design is very frustrating. de Blob 2 is not a short game, though by the halfway point it begins to feel tired. The same old mechanics are thrown around and even though the game does its utmost to compel you to soldier on with its relentless charm, it can soon become a chore.
Despite efforts to change enemy types, power-ups, music, locations and contexts, de Blob 2 is essentially the same level played through ten times. It's a testament to the original template that the game still just about stands up stretched over the fifteen hour playthrough time, though it also serves to show the innate weakness in the formula.
Blue Tongue has put together a really good effort with de Blob 2. The simple gameplay concept has been improved and packaged together with superb sound design and an artistic flourish. Apart from a few niggles, there is little more that could have been done than what is on offer here, though the stagnation that occurs after a few hours does prevent the game from being much fun for long.
This title would be far better suited to an XBL or PSN release. A four-hour game length would suit the mechanic well, and the developers have shown they can put something together to be proud of. By padding the game with unnecessary features and time-sapping scenarios, enjoyment of the game suffers. The biggest criticism of de Blob 2 isn't the shortcomings of the sound, the presentation, the art or the gameplay, rather that it just drags on forever and becomes far too repetitive. In this case, less would be more.
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