de Blob
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-12-20 Wii Action/Puzzle E (Everyone) Blue Tongue / THQ

I've had my eye on de Blob ever since I saw a preview of the title from E3. As others immediately compared the title to Katamari Damacy, which has always been one of my favorites, I assumed the game would be right up my alley, and I was correct.

de Blob is set in Chroma City, a peaceful, fun-loving town inhabited by thousands of small, bubbly and extremely colorful Raydians. Unsatisfied with the easy-going life presented by Chroma City, the evil Comrade Black, who is literally a walking, talking glob of black ink, takes over the city with the help of the INKT Corporation (pronounced "inked") and sucks all of the color out of Chroma City, including its citizens, turning these once happy-go-lucky Raydians into colorless Graydians and slaves.

Unbeknownst to Comrade Black, a few survivors, including the game's title character de Blob have formed a group called the Color Underground, and with the help of your friends within the resistance, you must make your way through each burrow of Chroma City as de Blob, returning the color to the world while rescuing every Graydian in sight and defeating any and all Inky soldiers who stand in your path.

de Blob is comprised of ten surprisingly expansive, loosely timed levels, each located in a different part of Chroma City, with obvious locations like Uptown and Downtown mixed with more creative locals such as the city's amusement park and botanical gardens. The gameplay in each level is the same and does a nice job of taking advantage of the Wii's motion controls, but still maintains an intuitive control scheme for veterans of the platforming genre.

Your first goal in each level is to load de Blob up with a bit of paint, which is achieved by smashing into various different colored Paintbots that are conveniently found at multiple locations throughout each level. By smashing into a single Paintbot, you receive ten paint points (with later Paintbots giving you up to thirty), and also turn de Blob to that color.

As you move de Blob around the environment with the Nunchuk, he leaves a trail of paint behind him, matching whatever color he currently is. By simply running into different objects, most notably buildings and trees, you transfer some of your paint to them, returning the color to that small part of the world. To bring the Wii's motion controls into play, jumping is achieved by swinging the Wii-mote downwards, which literally causes de Blob to slam off of the ground into the air.

Once airborne, you can pull off various Parkour-like moves such as wall running (or rather rolling), jumping along rooftops and over barriers, and even bouncing from the side of one building to the side of another (say, down a narrow alleyway) by flinging the Wii-mote in a zigzag pattern. Other, more extreme moves are performed by using what are called Z-Jumps, which are glowing discs that, once stepped on, cause you to be flung through the air with the touch of the nun-chuck's Z button and a downward swing of the Wii-mote.

These daredevil moves aside, it's the game's painting mechanic that comprises that vast majority of gameplay. Paintbots are available in the three primary colors: blue, red, and yellow, and by smashing into different colors in certain patterns, you can turn de Blob into virtually every color of the spectrum, excluding white and black, with black only occurring after you have been attacked by an Inky enemy. For example, if you are currently blue and smash into a red Paintbot, de Blob turns purple. If you are red and then collect yellow paint, you turn orange, and so on.

By turning de Blob into several different colors, you allow yourself to literally paint the town red, or any other color of the rainbow. Aside from basic buildings and plant life, your painting must extend to the INKT Corporation' billboards, flyers strewn along the various streets and sidewalks, massive silos and storage containers where the INKT Corporation has stored the city's color, and even small piles of trash on the street. Almost everything in the environment, with the exception of streets and sidewalks, is paintable, and you will need to paint everything in sight in order to complete each level and receive the top prize.

As you begin to return the color to each location, you will undoubtedly notice that certain areas of each level are blocked off to you, and can only be accessed after achieving a certain amount of points, with points being earned by simply painting the town, rescuing Graydians, or completing various challenges set down to you by your allies.

Helping you in your quest are the four other members of the Color Underground. The Prof is a technological genius, the father-figure of the group, who leads de Blob through each level pointing out former Raydian landmarks that have been transformed by the INKT Corporation to meet their own needs. His challenges, as you might have guessed, involve returning these landmarks to their former glory, tasks which tend to require a certain amount of paint points of a specific color.

Next is Arty, who is desperately longing to see the color of Chroma City returned. While you can paint the entire city using colors of your own choosing, Arty will ask you to paint certain areas, for example an entire city block, a row of high rise apartments, a sector of industrial factories, etc. to match the city's original color scheme. These challenges come in very handy when trying to find areas (especially in crowded city blocks) that you may have passed by unknowingly, as when you complete an entire city block, you rescue a group of Graydians and receive a 60 second time boost.

The third in the quartet is Zip, a sports nut who challenges you to travel to a set point within the city in a certain amount of time, while following his set path of travel. These challenges, as with all other challenges, vary in difficulty, and can be as simple as running from one end of the block to another to much more complex and daring locations like the top of a skyscraper which can only be reached via use of the game's Z-Jumps.

Last but not least is the strength and brawn of the group, Bif, who has a black belt in Paint-Fu, and tracks down various groups of Inky soldiers for you to do away with. These Inkies are simplistic at first, a small grouping of walking blobs of black ink, but eventually become much more complex and dangerous, firing streams of black ink in your direction, utilizing turrets to fire at your from afar and even riding floating motorcycle-like contraptions that will quickly slam into you from behind.

Regardless of the Inky type, each can be eliminated by targeting them with the Z button and then smashing them with a downward swing of the Wii-mote. While said decimation can normally be achieved with a de Blob of any color, later in the game, Elite Inkies are created which wear colored uniforms, with that color telling you which color you need to be in order to attack them.

If you happen to get hit by an Inky, you are covered in black ink, and must quickly find a broken fire hydrant or clear river, pond, etc. in order to wash yourself off, as the ink drains away your paint points. If you run out of paint points due to this ink, you lose a life and will regenerate at a random place within the level.

No matter which challenge you accept, if you are successful at completing them, you receive a time boost of at least 60 seconds (with Bif's challenges coming with additional 30 second boosts, which are given after defeating large groups of Inkies). With at least 20 challenges, hundreds of Graydians to rescue, and dozens of Inky soldiers to defeat in each level, the aforementioned time limit isn't of much concern, as, if you're a completionist like me, you will likely have upwards of 15 minutes on your clock at any one time.

The only instance when said time limit might become an issue is if you are set on painting 100% of a level (the game's progress screen, accessible via the pause menu, tracks your painting completion), as it only takes one small pile of trash or lone boulder to keep you at 99%, and tracking down the missing piece can take some time.

Other items on this progress screen keep track of how many trees you have painted, how many Graydians you have rescued, how many billboards you have left to paint and so on, with the entire progress menu being an absolutely fantastic addition for those who like completing as much of a stage as they can before moving on.

Even if 99% completion is perfectly fine for you, each level easily takes upwards of an hour to complete. After you receive the Gold Medal (either Bronze, Silver, or Gold is awarded based on your completion of various tasks within a level) in a level, you'll unlock two mini-challenges, accessible via the level selection screen, that are short (under 5 minute) levels tasking you to eliminate a mass of Inky Soldiers, make a speed run through a location of the city, paint a certain, normally inaccessible location, and so on. This being said, with ten levels in all, plus 20 mini-challenges, you can expect to spend at least a dozen hours with the game, and that's if you only play through each level once.

While the game has plenty to offer to those who want to methodically collect everything in sight, de Blob is also perfect for speed runners, as special awards are given if you can complete a level in 20 or so minutes (depending on the level), a task which is easier said than done. In order to receive these awards, players must take the time to strategize their every move in order to receive the most points in the least amount of time (thereby unlocking the barricaded sections of each level in the shortest time possible).

No matter if you choose to play the game at breakneck pace or if you wish to truly take in your surroundings, the entirety of gameplay is incredibly addictive and offers a limitless amount of replayability, as there is virtually no way to paint the town the same way twice in a row. The only negative necessary to point out is the fact that, after a time, the challenges within the game do become a bit repetitive, but with each level containing its own unique layout and theme, it's never enough to make the game boring.

Likewise, the game's technical aspects are just as impressive and add an infinite amount of charm and humor to the title. The game's story is presented in short cutscenes at the beginning of every level, and progresses much like any rebellion should. Comrade Black takes over, much to the chagrin of surrounding cities, but via a television campaign, Black makes his "ink is better than paint" scheme seem fairly desirable. Our heroes then show people the light, and hilarity ensues as Black's plan begins to unfold.

Adding even more humor to the mix is the fact that Black's legions of Inky soldiers are curious to a fault, mischievous and oftentimes dimwitted, to the point that they find themselves in hilarious situations, and can be compared to the Rayman Raving Rabbids in that their curiosity often leads them to suffer a terrible demise or take out their aggression on each other after de Blob has made progress in defeating the Corporation.

Not only are all of the title's graphics incredibly colorful, but they are remarkably well done, and take on the look and feel of a Pixar movie, rather than an ordinary video game. Furthermore, instead of simply painting each building in a matte finish, each level is instead transformed into a pattern filled feast for the eyes, with buildings taking on a "graffiti" look when all is said and done.

This attention to detail has been carried over into the sound department as well, which offers a combination of upbeat jazz and surfer music as the game's soundtrack, along with various sound effects that convey either happiness on the side of the Graydians who have been rescued (and who will cheer for you as you progress) or anger and pain on the part of the Inkies, who will humorously grunt as you interact with them.

Even though the game's characters can talk, their language is similar to Simlish (that is, a jumble of random sounds), leaving the majority of the story to be told through physical actions and facial expressions, rather than through speech. The game's loading screens however do offer a bit of text, as a comic-book like storyboard is presented that makes you forget that you're sitting through a loading screen altogether.

Other added touches are presented in your ability to use your cursor to draw on the menu screens as you navigate them, and an in-depth multiplayer mode that allows for various competitions of up to four players that have you either seeing who can paint the most area within a set time limit, or determining who can reach a checkpoint the fastest while trying to sabotage your opponents.

All of the above combines to create one heck of a game, a light-hearted, engaging and truly fulfilling experience that I can easily see myself pouring dozens more hours into.

Now, after playing through the game, I have to admit that I find the comparison to Katamari Damacy a bit odd, but that doesn't take anything away from de Blob itself. In fact, it's easily the best Wii game I've played to date. With its undeniable charm, fantastic graphical style, genuinely funny cutscenes and gameplay so addictive that it's downright scary, de Blob is the first "must buy/play" game, regardless of console, that I've come across in quite some time.

Special thanks to Kristina Kirk and THQ for providing a copy of this title.