Developer: Blue Tongue
There's something joyously simple about the gameplay mechanic at the core of De Blob: little meanies the Inkies have bleached the whole city and turned everything and everyone grey, and your job is to colour it all back in again. It's gloriously whimsical and the fact that you undertake such a task by taking on the role of a platforming, shapeshifting Space Hopper and dipping your bottom into pools paint before slopping it all over the urban landscape only serves to add to the warm sense of childish delight that comes with playing the game.
It's election day in Prisma City, and there's a new candidate in town. The evil INKT corporation and Comrade Black are back, with the latter masquerading as cultist leader Papa Blanc. They've taken the city by storm, kidnapping and enslaving the colourful Raydian population, forcefully manipulating the polls and commandeering the cities key buildings. Militant Inkies roam the streets, the waterworks and paint pools have become contaminated and the air is teeming with hypnotic drones.
If that all sounds a little bit heavy, don't worry; much like the best work of Dreamworks and Pixar this is a cartoon tour-de-force - rich in colour, craziness and comedy.
The game plonks you down in a variety of locales as you work to stop the dastardly machinations of the villainous Comrade Black, but all of them follow the same rough formula of offering up a blank sandbox canvas upon which to leave your technicolour mark. If there was something of a frustration in the original with determining exactly where you needed to go next, it is completely removed here, with De Blob 2 providing a handy compass, that may be toggled on and off, to point you in the direction of nearby objectives and sources of paint.
As you move throughout the various areas, slopping various shades of paint everywhere, the city will come back to life again. Trees will burst forth with blossom, cars and hover vehicles will start to zip around and grateful Raydians will pour out of renovated buildings and cheer you on. Sometimes you'll be tasked with painting a block in a variety of different colours and you'll have to work out a route that'll allow you you to stat at the top and work down, sometimes you'll be scurrying around trying to snatch up collectibles, or defeating Inkies or busting Graydians (see what they did there) out of their colourless suits.
As the game goes on, it starts slowly feeding you more and more features such as powerups that can help you skip across ink pools or fire pads or turn you into a hefty metal wrecking ball, switches that'll activate magnetic surfaces or play with gravity, and jump pads that Blob can use to launch himself across sections of each mini sandbox and reach previously unscaleable areas. Best of all, though, are the moments when Blob squeezes himself inside a civic building that needs its colour back, these mini levels taking the form of 2D platforming sections that really make the most of all of the various elements and new features that Blue Tongue have brought to the table and make for a welcome change of style and pacing.
I won't lie, this is a game that's definitely skewed towards a younger crowd, and for that we have to forgive it a few little blemishes. It's not a difficult game at all, mainly because the game adamantly holds your hand every single step of the way. Whereas the best platform games will nudge and suggest, using the environment and game world to dispense clues, Blob's sidekick Pinky will pretty much just tell you exactly what to do and where to go. The slow pacing means that there's every chance older players might well get bored and wander off and, in spite of the various platforming elements that get introduced slowly throughout the main story, it can feel pretty repetitive at times.
But it's in the little touches that De Blob 2 really delivers, though, elevating it from just a solid and simple premise as a game, to a universal experience that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. The little comic book introductions to each level are a brilliant touch, the chuckleworthy slapstick comedy of the some of the cutscenes, the way Pinky says 'Blob', or the Raydians and assorted oddly colourful farm animals fall over momentarily as you whizz by on your rounds. Blob himself is perfectly animated, resembling a ridiculously cuddly Space Hopper whilst moving around, smoothly transitioning into a torso with arms and small ears when leaping about or trying to squeeze his big, painted behind into manholes.
It the music that really gets you though - sashaying between Latin exuberance, trumpet-heavy jazz noodlings, soulful hip-hop backbeats and more - it's toe-tapping and enthralling. Moreover, each colour has its own distinctive sound effect: paint over something in that colour and you'll get a specific instrumental flourish. Brown, for example, will yield DJ-style turntable scratching, green channels some serious 80s synth and yellow throws down a mean muted trumpet. I never realised until now that freestyle track mixing through colourful platforming was something that I needed in my life!
It's worth noting that there are some fairly well implemented multiplayer options too, with a second player able to jump into Pinky's shoes and help Blob renovate the city and combat Inkies with a rather handy paint gun, though the wayward camera makes this a trying task at times. There's still room for improvement, sure. The camera occasionally throws a tantrum and gets tired of staring at Blob's bum, instead stubbornly swinging around at the odd inopportune moment when platforming is actually required. Occasionally, the jumping feels a little unresponsive, with a fractional amount of lag, too.
I'm not too keen either on the arbitrary time limit that hangs over everything either, although it must be said that completing a flurry of story missions at the start of each level or painting a few blocks and freeing the Raydians from their grey suits quickly yields up time extensions. It might rather put a bit of a rush on things for some, though, which is a bit of a shame really because De Blob 2 is a game you just kind of want to soak in on your own time. Thankfully, the clock disappears once you've completed the story missions for a particular level and you're left to your own devices to run up a higher score on similar new challenges and go collectible hunting for Inspiration Points that can boost Blob's defence, paint carrying capacity and reduce special move costs.
At the end of the day, De Blob 2 is a game that does all of the basics right and delivers them wrapped up in a package that's hugely endearing, filled with whimsy and, particularly on the X360 and PS3, really quite lovely to behold. Sure, there are small frustrations and faults to be found and it certainly won't capture everybody, particularly not gamers looking for a challenge, but THQ and Blue Tongue have hit on a family-friendly winner here that improves on its impressive and quirky predecessor in every way.
- Simple painting premise, executed brilliantly
- Musical touches are great
- Some excellent platforming in the 2D sections
- 3D environment can get a little repetitive
- Relentless hand-holding
- Wayward camera at times
The Short Version: De Blob 2's pacing and easygoing difficulty level might put of some gamers, but a cracking central premise, inventive platforming features, a brilliant score and a large dollop of cartoonish whimsy save it from being just another average kids' title. Rib-ticklingly endearing.