|System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS|
|Dev: Blue Tongue Entertainment|
|Release: February 22, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Andrew Groen
De Blob 2 is the most surprising game I've played in a long time. Its mechanics aren't surprising – most hardcore gamers are pretty well aware of de Blob's environmental coloring mechanic by now – but how much fun I had with it was. This game wasn't on my radar at all until the day I sat down to do the review. From that point forward, I was completely won over by this energetic and downright fun experience.
De Blob 2 is a difficult game to explain. Most of what makes it great involves the actual experience of playing it. I simply cannot relate to you the energetic vibe that courses through the entire experience. There is a powerful cathartic feeling that comes from not just painting a blank cityscape, but imbuing it with life. De Blob 2 is truly a game that demands to be played rather than talked about.
However, we must talk about it. The game is not perfect, but its faults are small next to its numerous successes. Before I go off overinflating your expectations, here's a caveat: de Blob 2 is a modest game. It's not the type of game that succeeds by challenging all of our notions of what a game can be, like Heavy Rain. It's not filled with incredible, bombastic action like Gears of War 2. It's a game with a small budget that understands exactly what it needs to be to succeed, and it nails it. The developer didn't aim for the stars, and the game is much better for it.
There are two paths that games of de Blob's ilk tend to take: The developer gets overambitious, introducing too many new concepts without polishing the basics, or the developer isn't ambitious enough and creates a ho-hum, me-too platformer. De Blob 2 straddles the line between those two doomed paths.
The main gameplay mechanic is fun even hours after the game introduces it. I'm still not tired of watching an entire neighborhood blossom with life as I plow through it. The trick is that your painting doesn't just produce new colors: it also produces plants, people, cars, and all manner of other visual effects. When you begin, the city will be a dormant, stale, black-and-white canvas. When you leave, there will be little blobs partying in the streets, giant trees, flowers blooming, colorful buildings, and beautiful birds chirping. It's a confluence of audio-visual engineering that combines to create an satisfying aura of levity.
As mentioned, the feat isn't just about the visuals; there's also some fantastic sound design. It's hard to pick out at first, but I noticed the awesome jazz soundtrack was actually subtly playing to my actions in the game. The music is soft and smooth when the player isn't doing anything, but as you paint, a quick saxophone tune will chime in. The sound also changes according to what colors dominate the level. The instrument sets change based on the amount of purple, red, yellow, etc. that you've painted the world. Even if you don't notice it outright, it's still the kind of thing that seeps into your brain, enhancing the experience. It's one of many things that makes painting your way through de Blob 2 so much fun. Very few games devote this much effort to sound design, but they would do well to learn from this lesson.
Wonderful visuals and presentation are something we've come to expect from de Blob. That wasn't all that surprising to me (although I certainly didn't expect them to be impressive to the extent that they are). What surprised me most is that the story is actually really effective. This is an all-ages platformer, so you expect the story to be a throwaway excuse to march the player through a series of challenges until the credits roll. However, de Blob 2 leverages its visual design to deliver a story that is as surprising as it is engaging.