Absence is bliss. Whereas most games these days bog you down with plot and character details, A Boy and His Blob gives you a most bizarre scenario, but asks you just not to ask questions. A boy finds a lump of, erm, whiteness and decides to go on a quest to the unknown with it. He doesn’t check it, test it or even ask it any questions before deciding to become best friend with the blob. Why not? Because we don’t really care.
WayForward recognise that the people buying A Boy And His Blob don’t want the world’s most advanced cinematic stylings in their games: They want level after level of solid platforming. And WayForward deliver. The game comprises of 40 main stages, however, each of these has three hidden treasure chests in them. Beat it, and you unlock a harder bonus level, doubling the length of the game if you can be bothered to go that far in. (We cleared the main game and then called it quits after 12 of the bonus stages, which tend to be very dry and lacking in imagination.)
What of these original 40 stages, then? ABAHB being heavily based on the NES game of the same name, you would probably be expecting an old-fashioned platforming romp, and you’d be exactly right to think that. Where the game may surprise you, however, is how old school it is. The game harks us back to the days of insta-deaths, where one hit was enough to kill your boy while the blob watched on without a care in the world. This inevitably ramps up the challenge a few notches and heaven knows the game needed it. If the games’ rules wheren’t so punishing, this would be a very easy and carefree task. Checkpoints are extremely generous, (We’re talking about 30 seconds apart) which is very handy considering the death mechanic, but does nothing for making it a challenge, more a simple puzzle of selecting the right tool for the job. Oh, wait, they’re given to us on big billboard next to each puzzle! A Boy and His Blob is a good enough game, but it has no idea what its’ suppose to do with its’ talent. A bit like anyone on the X Factor.
Going back to the ‘Right tool for the job’ aspect, the hook of the game is that the itular boy can throw jellybeans for the titular blob to eat, transforming him into various devices he can use. Mastering them all is key here, especially as you get later into the game, when you’re also required to pull off some miracle switches between blob forms. You can only have one bean out at a time, although thankfully unlike the NES game you aren’t given a bean limit at the start of the level. While that may make the game less tactical, it makes far more playable. One of the blob’s many forms is that of the balloon, which instantly reunites him with the boy- Handy, yes. Well thought out, no, considering around a quarter of the games’ puzzles revolve around getting the blob back alongside his boy. You needn’t even use the jellybean: Tap C on the Nunchuck three times and he’s back at your side.
Transformations range from a jack which can be used to raise certain platforms up to a ladder and trampoline which both do the same job of helping the Boy to reach higher places. The parachute and the rocket have to be the most fun contraptions you get to use, even if some of the obstacle courses for the former are really quite tricky. It’s not all sweet on the jellybean front, though- The spacehopper controls horribly and the hamster ball doesn’t even go as far that. It’s almost literally uncontrollable, even if it is quite fun to use.
Sticking on the control theme, the basic Remote and Nunchuck set up works well enough, although most of the major controls are put onto the Nunchuck, leading to an awful lot of reaching for those triggers round the back. Thankfully, there’s no waggle control and it’s also compatible with the Classic Controller, meaning if you’d rather use a traditional joypad then you can knock yourself out. No GameCube support, nor the ability to hold the remote on its side, although we’re not really going to get emotional over either of them, unlike pressing down on the D-Pad, however, which cues a hug between the boy and his blob- Utterly adorable, if slightly ironic for a game with such a punishing nature.
Word must go out to praise the presentation of the game, too- The hand drawn style is beautiful, combining with the excellent music to create an unforgettable atmosphere that really deserves a better game. It oozes charm and is just crying for us to use every single cliché we can think of about lovely cartoon-style graphics. It’s on-par with the likes of Wario Land: The Shake Dimension and Muramasa when it comes to fantastic-looking Wii platformers. The game flows very well and –shock horror!- ignores its traditional approach when it comes to menus- ditching them completely in the favour of a treehouse that eventually upgrades to a huge industrial factory by the time we hit the last stage.
A Boy and His Blob has got a bit of a mixed reception here, because it’s a bit of a mixed game. For all of the love that comes through from the game, some levels have glaring flaws and while it may seem hard at the time, it’s actually a rather short game. (We clocked in at just over eight hours, not including any extra levels) Concept art and development documentaries may add some kind of replay value, but sometimes, just sometimes, less is more...