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Nintendo Wii Review: de Blob

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de Blob first came to live as a simple looking freeware PC title created by university students in the Netherlands. After it got some notice on the Internet, THQ picked up the rights to the game for console versions and later decided to launch the game on the Nintendo Wii. And yet, while THQ has their name front and center on the box, de Blob was worked on by Blue Tongue Entertainment. Looking at Blue Tongue's development history and seeing the utter crap they've put out in the past as licensed games might scare you off from ever touching de Blob, but don't let their past fool you: the Australian studio has put together a well-developed title.

In de Blob, Chroma City and the Raydians who live there come under attack from the evil INKT Corporation. Their goal is to create the perfect kind of society, based upon a model of a totally colorless world. The end result is not only the loss of color, but a loss of spirit, as the once-vibrant Raydians become the boring, dull Graydians, ready to do the task work of INKT. However, a few Raydians escape, calling themselves the Color Underground and promising to return color to their once proud city. In the midst of all this, Blob, who just happens to be relaxing nearby, sees all this take place and jumps into action to save the day. It's a simple storyline, to say the least, but Blue Tongue has added in several humorous cut-scenes that really help explain the plight of the Raydians and give a good chuckle while they're at it.

The game has a few basic modes, but the one you'll be playing in the most is the level-based story mode. The levels themselves are not designed with much complexity; there's a lot of room to move around and explore, and a lot of things to paint. The level structure is pretty straightforward: you reach a certain goal or complete a certain challenge, usually either beating a boss or achieving a specific score in a specified amount of time, and the next section opens up for you. While that aspect is decidedly linear, the freedom you have to explore is enough to distract you from that fact and make you feel like you're playing in a much larger world. The game is also just the right length, featuring 10 very fun and challenging levels to play through.

In de Blob, game play focuses around painting the town red. Or orange. Or brown. Or purple. You get the point. Blob starts out as a clear, water-like ball, unable to affect the world around him with much effect. However, by smashing Paintbots wandering around the city, he can collect one of three primary colors, or mix any of the three together to create secondary colors, which Blob can then use to paint the various parts of the city. The painting process itself is simple, as you only have to bump into an object to paint it. It's enjoyable in that you have total control over Blob as you roll around each level, but it's also annoying in that you can accidentally paint over something without intending to, causing you to have to go back and find the right color to paint over your mistake. Each Paintbot gives Blob 10 Paint points, and each time Blob rolls around into something, he loses a point. Water removes any color and points Blob has on him, returning him to his original state, while other pitfalls like ink and spikes hinder his performance by taking away points or making him unable to paint. It seems so simple — and being derived from a freeware PC game, that makes sense — that it sometimes borders on the monotonous. Most of the missions have the same basic structure, albeit with different twists thrown in here and there to provide challenge. Game play is really the one area where the title is a mixed bag, as the simplicity works well, but there needs to be more to it.

de Blob's controls make very subtle use of the Wii's control-sensing abilities, and it doesn't turn out to be an issue. In fact, in a world where waggle is sometimes overdone, it's very nice to see Blue Tongue and THQ use control-sensing in conjunction with the Wii remote's face buttons to deliver a satisfying, yet simple experience. The Wii remote's waggle is mainly used for jumping and attacking in mid-air, as well as for a mini-game of sorts in which you have to shake the Wii remote and nunchuk to return color to a major landmark. Those mini-games tend to appear at the end of levels, keeping de Blob from turning into a shakefest. The only real control problems I encountered appeared via the game's camera, which can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes. Most of this comes from the fact that the camera has mainly been mapped to the Control Pad on the Wii remote, so rotating it or getting Blob's viewpoint isn't always easy. Several times, I found myself trying to maneuver the camera while at the same time leading Blob around obstacles, and much to my disappointment, had some trouble in doing so. Fixing the camera should be at the top of the priority list for any sequels.

The game employs a cel-shaded art style that fits well with the cartoon-like atmosphere. It also helps with the theme of restoring color to the world, as the levels pop with vibrant shades of blue, red, and other colors as you repaint Chroma City. It also polarizes well with the INKT Corporation and their army of grayscale minions. Still, there is at time a feeling of blandness in the design which is noticeable but not a significant detraction.

Easily the best part of de Blob is the game's bouncing soundtrack. Not only are the tunes upbeat, fresh and funky, but as you paint the world around you, subtle beats are added to the background music, depending on what color Blob is. It's a great little idea that fits well with the game's mechanics, allowing for players to have some fun, especially in free-run mode.

There are also a few mutliplayer modes for up to four players. Paint Match is a lot like the old Bomberman Paint Bomb mode in that you basically have to paint as big an area as you can, stealing other people's buildings and defending your own territory until time runs out. Blob on the Run features one Blob with the ability to paint and three others trying to hunt him down, hit him, and gain the ability to paint. Blob Race features all four blobs trying to find the right color and right building to paint, adding a bit more of a strategy element to the game. They're fun multiplayer modes, but given the glut of multiplayer options available on the Wii, this part of the game is likely to get ignored in favor of Wii Sports or Wii Play.

de Blob is one of those Wii games that a lot of people forget when they make their lists of must-have games. Sadly, it belongs on those lists. While it started out as a PC freeware game, de Blob has been turned into an interactive and interesting experience courtesy of Blue Tongue Entertainment. It's not without its faults, but this is the kind of game every Wii owner should celebrate and have in their library.

Pros: Controls are easy to learn. Great, fun, story with enough challenge for core and casual gamers alike. Fantastic soundtrack and great use of painting to add to the game's music.

Cons: Camera is sometimes a hindrance. Sometimes gets a bit repetitive.

de Blob is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.


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