Following hot on the heels of de Blob’s first adventure being re-released comes the sequel, the imaginatively named de Blob 2. Bigger! Better! Blobbier!… are all words that aren’t in the advertising blurb for this game, but they should be, dagnabbit! This time around, the game in question had previously seen a release on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and was originally released way back in February 2011. So, the big question here is has time been kind to de Blob, and is his second outing worthy of your time?
The plot of the story, such as it is, again revolves around the nefarious Comrade Black, who after the events of the first was marooned on an island off the coast of Prisma City, the scene for the first game. After hatching a ridiculous escape plan involving a giant cannon and being fired through the air into Prisma City again, Comrade Black seems to disappear. At the same time, coincidentally, a new force in Prisma City politics makes itself felt, with Papa Blanc depicted in cutscenes as rigging the election by installing mechanical arms in the cities voting booths, forcing the citizens to vote for his party. Could there be some connection between the colour hating Comrade Black, and the priest Papa Blanc, who wants the city drained of colour and everything turned to a sterile white? It’s up to de Blob and the returning Colour Underground to find out and expose the corruption at the heart of Raydian culture.
So, gameplay wise and there are a few new tweaks to report, the most exciting of which is the ability to play couch co-op in this game. Player One will always be in charge of de Blob, but this time a second player can come along for the ride, taking control of a pink robot cat-type thing (that’s honestly the best description I can come up with) – Pinky. While Pinky can’t do all the things de Blob can, like painting buildings and freeing Graydians, she can fly around and assist by shooting enemies and helping out with some of the platform puzzles.
Meanwhile, de Blob has all of his previous powers, allowing him to suck up paint from pools dotted around the place. In a new function, de Blob can now be filled to capacity in the pools by holding down the RT button, but in a strange move, if he has paint in him and jumps into a pool, instead of mixing the colours, he’s filled with the new colour. To achieve paint colour mixing, de Blob has to slam the little paint pots that scuttle about the place. When colour mixing was introduced, it did take me a while to figure out that the pots were the key, as the explanations offered in game seem to be somewhat lacking.
de Blob also has a few more tricks up his colourful sleeves, including new slam and dash attacks that allow him to break through destructible walls in the levels, but with a hefty paint point cost. There are also new pickups for de Blob to find, including HazMat suits that protect him from the Ink or any other environmental hazards, whilst the Rainbow allows him to paint in any of the seven colours. In a nice touch this automatically paints the houses the colour that they need to be. Another nice new feature is the map function, with puts a halo around de Blob, showing where the next objective and paint colours are. This saves a lot of confusion, allowing us to plot the most direct course to our next story objective without wasting time.
The game itself has also undergone a rethink. In the first title, when de Blob needed to take over a building, it was a simple matter of collecting enough paint points of the correct colour and the rest happened automatically. This time around, after de Blob has got the requisite number and colour of paint points, he is taken inside the target building and placed into a 2D platforming section. In these, the same rules apply as in the overworld; de Blob must collect paint to power switches, and take out the enemies until the transformation engine is triggered and the building is liberated. These sections are a real departure from the usual de Blob gameplay, and can be quite challenging, with Ink and water around to rob Blob of the colour that you are trying desperately to marshal through to another part of the level. The controls here are very good indeed, tight and responsive, allowing some real fun to shine through.
Sadly, up in the open-world 3D sections, the picture isn’t quite so rosy. The camera is the worst I have seen in a game for a very long time, almost seeming to be wilfully wayward. If you are close to a building, it’s very difficult to get the camera to pan up so you can see how much paint you need to put into it. With a greater emphasis on jumping and rolling along narrow walkways this time around, this camera conspires against you to make the game harder than it needs to be. Added to this, de Blob’s “eccentric” jumping style has been ported across all present and correct, so sometimes he’ll jump as you want him to, sometimes he won’t, and sometimes he will just stick to a wall and refuse to get off, despite your best efforts.
This can make the game so frustrating it’s hard to put things into words, at least words that can be used on a family friendly website. With a brutal time limit being imposed as well, even with freeing Graydians and painting buildings above and beyond the call of duty for the extra time it awards, it is still staggeringly tight. I never ran out of time in the first game, but here in de Blob 2 I found I was skipping any secondary objectives to give myself the best chance of finishing in the time allowed. If not, then well, game over!
All in all then and de Blob is the very definition of a game of two halves. The 2D sections are fun and just the right amount of challenging, with some head scratching moments to figure out the best way to proceed. The over world, 3D sections are flashier to look at and do come across visually as very good, but they can be horribly difficult to play, with tight sections making demands of the controls and camera that they just can’t meet.
There’s fun to be had here, especially in couch co-op, but the niggles sit in the mix like a bunch of wasps at a picnic; you can try to ignore them, but sooner or later they are going to sting you.