Have you ever noticed how saying (or reading) the same word over and over causes that word to look very strange after a while? This discussion of de blob 2 is going to do that for the word “colour”. Of course, for those for whom the “u” is superfluous, you’ll start with it looking somewhat strange, and it’ll just go downhill from there.
So apparently there is this game called de blob 2. I didn’t even know about it until my housemate bought me de blob 2 in a fit of Christmas induced insanity. I’m assuming there’s also a de blob, though perhaps the “2” is simply a marketing gimmick and I’m wrong. I may be wrong that I’m wrong.
You play as ‘Blob’ a blob like creature with the ability to suck up colour and use it on the 3D world he inhabits. This is a useful skill as the world is currently very bleached by a Comrade Black (I guess Communists are still the Bad Guys?), and it’s your job to free the world from monochrome and return it to the glorious rainbow of colours. Or something.
You’re assisted by Pinky, a robot of your long acquaintance. She acts as both tutor and guide, teaching you the world, and handing out “challenges” to keep the plot moving.
As Blob bounces and rolls around the world, if he has collected some colour (it doesn’t matter which colour), the environment is coloured in. Just touching a part of a building colours in that section of a building. Touching a dead stump of a tree brings it to colourful life. You get the idea.
As I mentioned, each level is a series of challenges, given either by Pinky, or various inhabitants (Prismanians). Most of the challenges are colouring related: usually colour in buildings. Though you occasionally colour in inhabitants, or just smash/splat enemy equipment or enemies themselves.
You start with a certain amount of time, and completing challenges gives you more. Run out of time, and you either use up a life (of which you start with one!) or you go back to the last checkpoint.
Blob can store up to 100 units of colour (initially, you can increase it later). Colour is used by touching things in the world, or destroying certain monochrome objects or beings. Colour is lost completely if Blob falls into water, or ink. Ink is poison to him, so you need to get to water quickly, and then you need to get your colour back.
In most cases there’s plenty of colour around to suck up, either in the form of pools, or occasionally paint-bots that you can splat and steal from. Sometimes the puzzles instead revolve around how to get that colour so you can continue colouring the world.
Occasionally Blob will need to enter a cave, sewer, building or similar where the gameplay changes from the 3D-platforming-go-anywhere style play to a side-on platformer. This mixes the gameplay up a little and changes the tactics used slightly.
Colouring in the world while bouncing and rolling around is really satisfying. The world, starting out bland and boring, quickly becomes cute and attractive. It’s quite fascinating to watch the world being coloured in, and by the end of it you get buildings with rooftop gardens, grassy side-walks and even some cute animals bouncing around. The fact that you can do what you like with colours (unless in a specific colour challenge) means you can just go for it and have fun.
For a collector like me, there’s also a lot to do. There are colour atoms, gallery pickups (which unlock things such as concept art), Inspirations (which allow you to unlock more lives, increase your “colour storage” and more) and styles (which paint buildings in different styles). And if you’re a completionist, then you can liberate all the Prismanians, colour all of the environment, and destroy all of your enemy’s equipment and the rubbish lying around. Oh, and finish all of the challenges, of course.
You can either do all of these while within the main series of challenges making up the story, or once the story for that level is done. The latter is usually the best approach, as doing it during the story means you can run out of time without noticing.
There are also a few neat ideas with the control. If you need to make a longer jump over ink or water, and there’s an enemy of some kind on the other side, you can jump, target the enemy and press the ‘splat’ button to rocket over the remaining distance. In practice it’s fun, and you can clean up some areas quickly by using the targetting idea.
There’s a lot to do. And a lot of fun to be had. Mostly.
Unfortunately, woven into the fun are a whole series of design choices that make me wonder if some bits were either rushed, or just not thought about.
I’ll start with my old favourite: cut scenes that you can’t pause – and in many cases can’t skip. If you’re re-doing an area for the n’th time, I don’t care about the cut scenes. However, on the first play through I do, and would like to be able to pause them for when (inevitably) RL raises its ugly head.
The camera is another sore point with me. While you can adjust the speed with which it reacts, it’ll often just do whatever the hell it wants (especially in some more enclosed areas), meaning you’re heading off in directions you didn’t want to – and often losing colour, falling into ink or other bad things. This all sucks up time, which becomes more precious as you go on.
And what happens when you die? I mentioned the lack of initial lives, and going back to earlier checkpoints. In terms of work done, a checkpoint can be quite a ways back, and with those annoying cut-scenes, this is just hell.
I will say, that even after playing for a while, Blob still feels a little “clunky” to control. I’m not sure if his inertia is a bit too high, or perhaps the fact that you don’t often realise you’re “stuck” to a wall (for wall running) before it’s too late; but there are times that he goes off edges or leaps to his inky doom without much encouragement at all. Of course, I may just suck.
I mentioned the targetting, and when it works, it’s brilliant. However it appears to only work when Blob is facing the thing you want to target, and the way that damned camera works, this isn’t always the case. This means you miss the target, and then have to get back to where you were. If that was the top of a tall building, then bad luck …
The final nail in this coffin for me is the way that the game handles each level when you want to play the collector/completist. If you go back to an earlier level where you’ve completed the story, but not all of the challenges, you have to play the level again. In other words, it’s as if you never played that level. You have to do the story again (with time limits), to get you to the point where you can now continue collecting and completing things. And while you’re doing the story, you have to go through each tutorial section and cut-scene that you went through in the beginning. There is no escape.
This is just such a plain stupid decision that I really don’t think that those designing the game understand how this sort of thing should work. I’m assuming they didn’t want to save out each level’s state of colour/completion/etc, but I can live with huge save files if it means I can go back and complete things at my leisure. As it is, this, along with the other issues, broke the game for me, and I doubt I’ll be going back to it.
It’s a pity, because there is a really fun, beautiful game in there. Unfortunately it’s been shackled by some very silly design choices.