Despite its overwhelming sales, the Wii is often maligned for the quality of its games. For every first party classic like Mario Galaxy there seemed to be dozens of terrible shovelware titles with bad motion controls shoehorned in. That being said, it’s not surprising that some genuinely great games got lost in the mix. Just taking the letter D gives us the wonderfully quirky Disaster: Day of Crisis and the truly original Dangerous Creatures, as well as de Blob. The latter was first released in 2008 and has now finally made the leap to multiformats. Predating Splatoon, it shares that series’ painting aesthetic its welcome splash of colour. But how does the game hold up nearly a decade after its original release?
The first thing to strike you when starting de Blob is the brilliant use of colour and contrast. The whole game is centred on the idea of a tyrannical government imposing its will through the draining of all colour from the land, leaving everything in black and white. It is telling, and depressing, that this narrative is perhaps even more topical now than at first launch.
Whether you take it as a critique of religious or social fundamentalism it is clear that the game is clearly breeding a much needed message of revolution against oppression and systematic abuse. All whilst being entirely appropriate for kids of all ages. This family friendly effect is achieved through the sparse use of dialogue, with talking being reserved for setting challenges within levels, and Blob himself remaining a mute freedom fighter.
Blob himself is literally a colourless character, but one that is able to absorb and use the paint that has been drained from the landscape. The basic aim of each level is to paint enough surfaces to unlock gates that block your progress. Simply finishing an area can be a relatively quick process, but ensuring that every possible surface has been coloured requires far more diligence and it is here that de Blob’s real depth is revealed. Every level has a number of awards for completing various painting requirements, from painting every surface or every tree to finding all of the billboards or the blimp that flies high above each zone. You need to really thoroughly explore each level to complete these awards and master controlling your squishy hero.
Having played the original Wii version, the most immediate change in this remaster is the new control system. Back in 2008, games were happily shoehorning waggle-based motion control in wherever possible and de Blob was one of the most egregious. Rather than pressing a button to jump, you had to shake the remote; an action that very quickly lost its novelty and appeal. Fortunately, normal service has been resumed for this update and jump is mapped to a button. The graphics also look far sharper and more vibrant, but this was inevitable given the move to an HD console. The bold and cartoony look works well in either case, but that extra clarity is welcome when seeking out the last remaining wall to paint.
Difficulty is pitched fairly low throughout, although there are a few spikes here and there. Extra lives are plentiful and it is mainly the time limit on levels that will prove an issue, providing you are playing to fully complete a level. Every level also has a time challenge award, requiring you to complete it as quickly as possible, though annoyingly there’s no prior information as to what that limit is, with you having to complete the level and write down (or presumably look up on the net) what you are trying to beat. Even with the time in hand, the challenge is rendered more annoying by there being no consistent clock on screen. A specific time attack mode would have been a huge improvement here, and I’m not sure that I will be trying to get that particular award (and trophy) because of this lack of clear feedback.
Aside from the main single player game, there are various fun unlocks as you progress. Finishing a level enables you to explore it in free paint mode, and my kids got a lot out of just leisurely colouring the levels without the pressure of time limits or enemies. Combined with the glorious and uplifting funk soundtrack, this mode is almost like a 3D colouring book and makes a nice change from the violent and frantic scenes of most video games. There are also local multiplayer colouring challenges that are not essential but can be fun.
All in all, de Blob is a welcome remaster and will hopefully lead to those who avoided the Wii version enjoying a fun and vibrant platformer. The sequel was released as a multiplatform title, so it’s possible that some may be looking backwards to the series’ origins. The game itself still holds up in comparison to its sequel, though it doesn’t have the enjoyable 2D sections. If you’re after a splash of colour to illuminate the dark winter nights, de Blob is a good place to go.
Version tested: PS4