The Wii console takes a lot of flack for the quality of games in its library. It’s true that dozens of new, low-budget casual games are made available for Nintendo’s console every month, and that trend doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. Fortunately, the Wii library has also seen a resurgence in high-quality 2D games, a niche once thought dead. But games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and the upcoming New Super Mario Bros Wii are proving that belief wrong. Majesco and developer WayForward Technologies recently released another 2D platformer that’s out to prove that the side-scroller isn’t dead: the beautiful hand-drawn adventure A Boy and His Blob.
A Boy and His Blob is a loose remake of the NES game A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia, which was created by Pitfall mastermind David Crane. Both the original game and this new remake share the same simple plot: An unnamed boy meets an alien blob who transforms into different shapes when fed various flavors of jellybeans. Together, the boy and the blob adventure through various locations on the path to a final showdown with the evil Emperor of Blobolonia. It’s as simple as video game plots get, but told masterfully by WayForward. From the moment the boy and the blob meet at the alien’s crash site, the story of their friendship is told completely in-game, the experiences that bond them together are always under your control. You will feel the link between these two characters, and WayForward knows it; at any time, you can hit the “hug” button to make the two characters snuggle. It’s as cute as it sounds.
It’s easy to get sucked into the world of A Boy and His Blob thanks to the gorgeous presentation. Featuring a beautiful hand-drawn art style with lovely painted backgrounds and silky animation, A Boy and His Blob’s visuals are simply great. Cute without being syrupy and cartoonish without being too simple, A Boy and His Blob is one of the prettiest games on the Wii console. From the impressive lighting effects and vivid particle effects to the pastoral, multi-layered backgrounds, every element of the art is completely consistent, and the game feels like a real world as a result. Coupled with a nice score and some good, minimal voice work for the boy, the presentation of the game is stellar, marred only by loading screens that appear far too frequently.
Over the course of the adventure, the blob transforms into 15 different items to help you traverse this colorful world. Starting off with basic items like the trampoline, ladder, and balloon, the game does a great job of introducing new transformations until the very end. You’ll eventually turn the blob into a parachute, a bowling ball, rocket ship, anvil, clone, and much more. Each item has its own specific use, with no item that feels useless or like a duplicate. However, you’ll never have access to every jellybean during a single level, only the tools you need to solve your way through the stage. At first, the puzzles are simple; you’ll use a trampoline to jump up to a platform or change the blob into a hole to fall down to the next level. Initially, most enemies can simply be avoided, but as the game goes on you’ll need to clear evil blob-bombs with the bowling ball, lift giant blobs out of your way with the jack transformation, or otherwise figure out how to defeat your enemies.
As the levels progress, the puzzles become more difficult and require multiple steps to figure out, especially in the final world, where you’ll often need to figure out how to depress three floor switches at the same time. Yet even near the end of the game, few of the puzzles will feel overly taxing to most players; the game frequently tells you what tools to use with signs in the environment, and even the trickiest parts are fairly obvious. You’ll know what you need to do right away, but it might take you a moment to figure out how to do it.
While A Boy and His Blob is a pretty solid puzzle/platforming hybrid, a few quibbles keep the gameplay from being as strong as the visuals. The mechanic for feeding the blob the jellybeans is somewhat cumbersome, requiring you to select a flavor from a radial menu with the analog stick, aim and throw your jellybean, then call the blob if he’s too far away. A couple of the blob’s transformations are finicky to control, especially the rocket ship and rolling protective bubble, which often results in death. Several of the later puzzles require as much luck as skill – for example, flying the rocket down a long corridor filled with bombs. Since the screen scrolls with you, there’s no way to know what obstacles are straight ahead of you.
Some gameplay elements require exacting precision that might be frustrating for younger gamers. While there are no lives or continues in A Boy and His Blob, expect to die a lot in later stages as you miss a jump by a hair or fail to trigger a protective blob transformation early enough, only to get hit by an enemy and die while the poky blob animation is still unfolding. The four boss fights are particularly devious. The solutions are simple, but when the slow-moving titular duo is faced against huge, fast-moving creatures with several unpredictable attacks, multiple deaths are imminent.
The demanding boss fights and obvious puzzles combine into what is perhaps A Boy and His Blob’s biggest flaw: Some parts might be too challenging for younger gamers, while the forgiving nature of the puzzles might be too simple for older players. While there’s a great learning curve for the blob’s transformations, WayForward missed the mark on overall gameplay balance by a hair.
Fortunately, if you can look past the occasionally frustrating section or aggravating boss fight, A Boy and His Blob has a ton of content that will keep gamers coming back for more. Every level in the lengthy 40-stage adventure features three treasure chests that unlock trophies for the hub world and more substantial unlockables like videos, concept art, and more.
On top of the campaign, there are an additional 40 challenge stages for even more gameplay. A Boy and His Blob is packed with a lot of content, and there’s one thing it has more of than nearly any other game around: heart. It’s a sweet, well-meaning game that manages to elicit an emotional response more effectively than most so-called art games. The relationship between the two main characters is remarkably real – so much so that the ending of the game comes off as bittersweet. Thankfully, the moment it ends you can return to the game, and the adventures of the boy and the blob can continue for as long as you’d like them to.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Gorgeous hand-drawn graphics are amongst the best on the Wii platform. 3.3 Control
Mostly solid, but occasionally frustrating or too exacting. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Minimal voice work and nice score fits well with the visuals. 3.9
Lots of content, but perhaps too frustrating for some younger gamers.
3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.