De Blob (PC [reviewed], iOS, Wii)
Developer: Universomo (iOS), Blue Tongue Entertainment (Wii), Blitworks (PC)
Publisher: THQ (iOS, Wii), THQ Nordic (PC)
Released: July 8, 2008 (iOS), September 22, 2008 (Wii), April 27, 2017 (PC)
While the whole monochrome versus bright juxtaposition has been done to death by now, there was a time when De Blob was one of the only convincing projects that was tackling it. As a one-man army (the titular de Blob) fighting the evil INKT Corporation, this underdog against the conglomerate narrative is no less relevant than it was back then. Thankfully it’s not plagued by underdeveloped cast members or lengthy cutscenes — just rapid-fire action puzzles and a lot of experimentation.
You see, de Blob needs to paint the town to make up for INKT’s “war on color.” Sometimes there’s a point to it, and you’re rescuing some oppressed citizens or something. Most of the time the game kind of just says “have fun and paint shit,” which I very much appreciate. Blob will start as a neutral agent of color, but if he strikes Paintbots (with a modern Sonic-like slam) he can alter his hue.
If you don’t know your primary color combinations you better consult a chart, as many puzzles involve swift alterations and precise tints. It’s like a giant version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater‘s graffiti mode, but with an adorable set of semi-open worlds. Except here instead of dreading your inability to find that last mystery tape tucked away in some obscure area, you’re mostly experiencing everything De Blob has to offer in a zen-like state.
Missions are easygoing (if a bit limited in scope), and randomly coloring trees, citizens, buildings, or objects by simply making contact with them is really fun. The time limit tacked to each world seems unnecessary (it could have easily been taken out with the port and replaced with a separate speedrun mode), but it’s forgiving, and the worlds aren’t overly-gigantic — in a good way. De Blob‘s main virtue is that it still holds up just as well as it ever did.
It presents levels without the open world bloat and the art style is as eye-catching (and ear-catching, with an amazing funky soundtrack) as ever with some touch-ups. It’s just a very well crafted, chill game in just about every respect. Take the HUD — it’s simplified and not in your face like other games. Your avatar sports a radial map on their person as opposed to entering an entirely new menu littered with hundreds of points of interest. You can do the missions in any given map, or mostly just paint things as you go to progress. My only real gripe is the camera. While I’m okay with manipulating the right analog stick just fine it’s frustrating when the game takes away your ability to even do that.
There’s a four-player multiple element but it’s nothing more than an afterthought. It’s thrilling for an hour or so, screwing around in its graffiti skirmish mode, races, or its rendition of tag, but it’s clear that the game wasn’t really built for it. The limited level pool and rulesets also don’t do it any favors if you’re looking to tweak anything for your group.
Years later De Blob feels like a worthwhile experiment. It hits the ground running with its likable tone and doesn’t really let up with its no-strings-attached sandbox approach. Ironically after seeing the landscape so packed with open world busywork since its retirement, it’s a welcome respite.