When we first saw Katamari Damacy at E3 several years ago, nothing the PR reps said could have convinced us that the game was particularly compelling, let alone that its would be so successful that gamers would be clamoring for sequels as well as King of All Cosmos T-shirts. With that history as our guide, when we first heard about de Blob, a game that’s part platformer, part action game and part color-mixing tutorial, we were puzzled but less pessimistic about its potential.
When de Blob dropped off gamers’ radar for a year, we began to question our lack of skepticism. After all, maybe THQ had decided to can it, having lost their faith that the game would carry the same Katamari vibe. Um, no. Rather than abandon the game, THQ has instead spent its time refining the motion-sensitive gameplay on the Wii and finding a balance between casual-gamer appeal and experienced-gamer challenge. The result could very well make de Blob the most unique Wii game in 2008, maybe even the next Katamari Damacy.
The plot of de Blob’s main Story Mode is arguably more coherent than Katamari Damacy’s, though no less bizarre. In de Blob, an evil corporation called INKT (“inked”) has descended upon a vibrant town and removed all color from the world. Although INKT’s purpose isn’t initially clear, the task of the main character (named de Blob) surely is: restore the color to his town. de Blob’s missions begin as sabotage missions in which he covertly absorbs ink blotches and paints buildings. Eventually, though, players take the battle right to INKT headquarters, doing battle with grunt-like troopers and ink-shooting soldiers.
None of this is done through a traditional third-person mechanic, though. Remember, de Blob is a Wii game. Instead, players will find themselves using the Nunchuck and Wii Remote to pounce on top of various color droplets and absorb their color, which must then be used to paint certain landmarks various colors. The more same-colored droplets a player absorbs, the more times he or she can paint a building that color. However, if players need to paint a building a non-primary color (green, for instance), they must find the correct color combination (yellow and blue, in this case) and absorb the correct droplets before bouncing on the building to paint it that color.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is — at first. deBlob’s town-painting stages have various challenges, from time-based missions to ones that require certain color combinations to some that require jumping a certain distance without touching the ground (akin to wall running, basically). The farther players go in the game, the more challenging these missions become, but the core gameplay always remains approachable.
For instance, players always control de Blob’s “foot movement” with the Nunchuck, while his jumping motion is controlled by flicking the Wii Remote. de Blob always absorbs colors by jumping on top of the little droplets, and yellow and blue always make green. However, new areas, challenges and colors unlock as players pass certain point thresholds (points are accumulated based on players’ painting proficiency), and the precision that some of these challenges require will challenge even the best platforming masters. And, as INKT soldiers enter the picture with their batons and color-zapping ink guns, the obstacles to completing those painting challenges increase tenfold.
In addition to its Story Mode, de Blob will ship in September with two additional modes: Blob Party and Sprint Levels. In Blob Party, players can partake in five mini-modes that resemble party games, with the focus always on painting the town red (and blue, and green, and yellow, and …). In Sprint Levels, players encounter a selection of timed objectives such as needing to paint a certain number of buildings a certain color within a given amount of time. These sound simple and tedious, but some of the Sprint Levels are actually quite advanced, whether due to the presence of water puddles that wash off all of deBlob’s color or due to the precise placement of color droplets that can either help or destroy players’ chances of finding the right color combination to paint each building.
Pouncing on little drops of ink and bouncing a colored ball around town sounds boring. But hey, who ever thought that rolling sushi, thumbtacks and batteries into a ball would be so addicting? Katamari Damacy showed gamers that fun doesn’t have to come with a first-person mode or tried-and-true gameplay. Likewise, de Blob is showing us that “quirky” doesn’t mean “bad,” and that the Wii is perfectly suited for this type of unique gameplay. Although it may not garner as much attention as GTA IV or Killzone 2, de Blob is designed for a more-casual crowd anyway, and maybe, just maybe, its unique look, feel and mechanics will find their way into hardcore gamers’ hands between trips to Liberty City and Helghast stomping grounds.
— Jonas Allen