First appearing way back in 2008 on the Nintendo Wii, de Blob is a platform-puzzle game coming from THQ Nordic. I missed this game the first time around, so the news that it has been ported to the Xbox One off the back of a successful port to PC is good news for me. The big question that I will attempt to answer in this review though is, is it good news for Xbox gamers in general? Come with me to Chroma City as I try and find out!
The evil INKT Corporation have attacked Chroma City, and have used their technology to suck the place dry of colour. Where once there was a vibrant, colourful metropolis, now only shades of grey can be seen. The inhabitants have likewise been drained of colour and turned into Graydians, crying out to be rescued and have some colour brought to their cheeks. Comrade Black, the leader of the INKT Corporation, uses the Graydians as the source of his Ink, obtaining the black pigment from the despair of the Graydians. Luckily for the enslaved inhabitants, there exists the Colour Underground, a resistance movement dedicated to recolouring the world and freeing the enslaved masses.
Their secret weapon is de Blob, a colourless, transparent creature able to take on the colours of the paint pot robots that he crushes. There are red, blue and yellow paint bots roaming the city, and if de Blob crushes them, they imbue with a number of paint points, which he can use to colour in buildings, trees, cars and ships – the list is endless. Obviously, if he crushes two pots, the resulting colour becomes a mix of the two, so crushing red and yellow will make de Blob orange, for instance.
The colour that Blob rolls around as is important, as certain missions are available in the levels, with there being four basic types that can be undertaken. The simplest are the race challenges, which require Blob to roll through the cityscape following marker flares, which go out when they are rolled over. Getting to the end can require some blob-like parkour, as often the target will be high above the city streets. There are also some combat missions available, where a new minion of the INKT Corporation is introduced. Called Inkies, these come in many different types, from grunts that can be squished without a second thought, through to tanks and Elite Inkies, which can only be defeated by matching their colour and squashing them. Different Inkies need different amounts of paint points to defeat as well, so it can get a bit challenging when you have two tanks to take down, each costing 100 paint points.
The third mission type is basically colouring in. A member of the Colour Underground will ask you to paint structures in a certain colour against the clock, and that’s about the size of it. Luckily, failing to colour them in in time will leave the buildings you have painted the correct colour, so the mission actually gets easier the more you fail. The last mission meanwhile is to take out vital buildings and liberate them from the INKT Corporation. These buildings require Blob to squeeze inside and pump various amounts of paint points in specific colours into them to turn them back into the happy buildings they used to be, rather than prisons and police stations. Each mission that is successfully completed gives you extra time to play with in the level. Yes, in a hark back to the old skool roots of the game, there is a time limit and there are a finite number of lives, although extra lives are liberally scattered around the levels if you care to explore a little.
This then is the entire premise of de Blob. Each level is introduced with a comic strip style introduction and pre-rendered cut scenes. The Color Underground and the Inkies all speak a nonsense language, but the subtitles help out and you’re never left in any doubt as to what you are supposed to do. As you colour in the buildings by rolling on and over them, you score points. And what do points make? Yes, that’s right – points make the gates to the next section of the level open. It may not be as catchy as Brucie’s famous phrase, but it is a lot more applicable to the game!
Completing missions, freeing Graydians and more all add to the points tally. It is possible to complete a level without doing all of the challenges or painting all the buildings, it just depends on how long you want to spend in each of the sprawling levels. Colouring in an entire city block, or a full avenue will cause Graydians to be released, and Blob can roll over these to help them escape their gray prison suits and burst forth in glorious colour again.
Of course, as you roll about the place dispensing colour based justice, the Inkies are not just sitting on their hands. If they manage to successfully hit you, either with their truncheons or any of their Ink based weaponry, Blob will become INKed, turning a nasty black colour and causing the music to become muffled and distorted, with the amount of paint points you have beginning to count down. If the paint points reach zero while you are Inked, that’s one life lost! The only way to get rid of the ink is via water, either from broken hydrants dotted about the town or from the lake or the sea. Be wary though, as contact with the water when full of paint will cause Blob to lose the pigment, and this is annoying, particularly if you mistake a hydrant for a blue Paint Bot.
Another point to bear in mind is that if Blob is hit while he has no paint points, he will instantly die, so it’s a good idea to always have some paint in your system. As the game goes on, the Inkies start to introduce various static traps around the buildings, such as spikes or hotplates, and even electric traps. These can normally be neutralised for a short period of time by hitting a nearby switch, and if a Landmark building is transformed, nearby traps are usually deactivated permanently.
Getting down to the actual playing and the levels are good fun, large and expansive with a pleasing verticality. Add in air cannons and Z-Jumps, and soon de Blob will be flying around the levels, hitting those hard to reach spots and generally causing a ruckus. It is at this point however that a few niggles begin to raise their heads.
First up is de Blob’s jumping. It is so inconsistent that sometimes Blob will fly over large gaps with ease, whilst at others he’ll dribble off the edge and fall to the street below. When this happens, as you sit on a narrow platform, high in the air, it can be pad-bitingly frustrating. They say that white men can’t jump, but that saying needs updating to include “Blobs of various colours often can’t jump!” The best way I found to make sure he jumps is to roll to an edge, cease all directional input, then hit jump and a direction at the same time. Doing this at least makes him attempt to clear the gap.
The camera can be a little unruly too, swinging round to give a lovely view of a wall or a rock face if Blob is in a strange part of the level. Moving the camera solves this, but it just doesn’t “feel” right. And while I have my critical head on, every level is largely the same on a different map – colour, hit challenges, open a gate, rinse, repeat.
In conclusion then, de Blob is a worthy entry onto the Xbox One. The levels are large and challenging, and the various missions to be completed add a welcome layer of complexity. Painting 100% of a level is a real big ask, as there is always an out of reach corner or a tree that you’ll miss. It isn’t the most varied game in the world, but even despite the control issues, there’s enough fun here to keep you playing to finally see Comrade Black get his comeuppance. Until the remaster of Okami comes out, this is the most fun you can have with a paint filled creature on Xbox One.