Fair warning: de Blob 2 is ruthlessly adorable. The game’s frequently hilarious cutscenes have an almost Pixar-like quality to them, and its character designs rival Kirby’s Epic Yarn in raw cuteness. Even Blob’s fascist oppressors look like they just goose-stepped their way out of the International Snuggly-Wuggly Summit.
So many things about de Blob 2 scream, “Love me!” — yet I’m not exactly head-over-heels for it. Maybe that’s because, while the premise and aesthetic are fun for all ages, this puzzle-driven platformer from developer Blue Tongue Entertainment fails to deliver gameplay that’s enjoyable for kids and grown-ups alike.
Although it ditches its predecessor’s arbitrary, motion-controlled jumping, Blue Tongue’s multi-platform de Blob sequel plays almost identically to the Wii-exclusive original. You control the titular Blob, a roly-poly mass of goop with the ability to paint anything he touches, and it’s your mission to re-color a world rendered drab and lifeless by the sinister Comrade Blanc. That’s usually accomplished by rolling around the world, picking up paint, and manically flinging yourself against every visible surface.
The simple act of painting Blob’s surroundings produces some spectacular audiovisual effects. Splatter paint on a piece of scenery and it not only causes the area to spring to life with color, it also sets off a brief snippet of additional background music. The instrument triggered varies depending on the color you’re currently using, so blue might prompt a mean saxophone solo while purple lets loose a jazzy guitar riff. By the time you’ve finished coloring an entire neighborhood, it’s gone from a silent, blank slate to a vibrant, rainbow-colored and music-filled cityscape.
Occasionally you’re required to perform some slightly more advanced maneuvers, like painting objects a specific color, or mixing two or more primary colors together, but the puzzle design doesn’t evolve much from there. Levels start to feel formulaic pretty quickly, and, creative as the basic gameplay seems initially, things go stale well before the lengthy story mode reaches its conclusion.
The only real difficulty comes in when the game’s auto-targeting decides to randomly lock-on to the wrong object. Sometimes that means attacking an enemy you’re not yet equipped to fight, as many late-game foes can only be damaged when your color matches their own. And, more annoyingly, you can sometimes target a nearby color pick-up, inadvertently wrecking whatever carefully-laid solution you’ve cooked up for a puzzle.
Click the image above to check out all de Blob 2 screens.
Other control issues arise from de Blob’s use of a single face button for virtually every action. A quick press of the A button, for example, translates into a jump. Hold the button down a bit longer, however, and you’ll stick to a surface for a Prince of Persia-style wall-run. As you can probably imagine, it’s a total bummer whenever you get stuck to the side of the platform you’re trying to ascend, or, conversely, when you accidentally dive into a bottomless pit rather than sprint to safety across a wall.
Much like Super Mario Galaxy and its Co-Star mode, de Blob 2 allows a second player to control an onscreen cursor capable of collecting distant items and shooting enemies. This comes in handy more often than you might expect, due to player two’s ability to store hard-to-find colors for later use. Because of the dedicated pointer devices on either console, you’ll find the best implementation of this mode on the Wii or a Move-equipped PlayStation 3. Meanwhile, clumsy controls and a glitchy targeting reticule kind of ruin the co-op on Xbox 360.
What ultimately disappoints me most about Blob’s second outing is the sheer amount of untapped potential. Gameplay concepts this imaginative deserve more thorough exploration than the handful of basic, regurgitated puzzles that populate de Blob 2. Instead, we’re stuck with a mediocre platformer that’s too easy for adults and too repetitive for most anyone, kids in particular. But hey, at least it’s cute, right?