I read Mean Machines. I played Super Mario Bros. 3. I even finished Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But I'd never even heard of A Boy and His Blob. There. Now you know. What a NES noob.
So, rather than pretend, I'll admit to a spot of research. The internet (which, as you all know, can't be trusted), tells me A Boy and His Blob was a 1991 side-scrolling platformer created by Activision co-founder David Crane. People seemed to like it. I checked it out on YouTube, and it looks good in an old-fashioned kind of way. It does not, however, look like the precursor to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Neither does the WayForward Technologies-developed Wii remake, the game I'm reviewing. That's not surprising. But what is, is how closely this side-scrolling puzzler follows the core mechanics Crane used in the original. Boy meets Blob, and they must work together to save Blob's home world, Blobolonia, from an evil emperor. To do it, Boy feeds Blob one of 15 different jellybeans, each one turning it into a different item. The young boy and alien blob work together so closely, that they're even more adorable and cuddly than your niece and her teddy. It's a relationship that warms the heart, makes you smile and wish for your very own, weird, white, ball of stuff.
If you're a proper Nintendo fanboy, one who played A Boy and His Blob back in the day, then all this will sound reassuringly familiar. Good. We like it when developers take what worked about games gone by and employ an "if it ain't broke then don't fix it" policy for a remake. We like it even more, though, when developers are brave enough to make changes for the better, even when it means messing about with a treasured memory.
The most obvious example of this is the brand new, hand animated art style. WayForward is obviously packed full of Hayao Miyazaki fans, because the game looks like a cross between Spirited Away and The Snowman. It's beautiful. The animations are gorgeous, Boy's interactions with Blob are lovingly realised, and the backgrounds are mesmerising. It's an altogether otherworldly feel, stretched across four distinct worlds: rural, urban, Blobolonia itself and, finally, the emperor's tower. It's all strengthened by a wistful score that rekindles memories of all those fantastical movies you used to watch in the front room as a wide-eyed kid.
Gameplay wise, changes are equally successful. The limited number of jellybeans you had to play with in the original has been dumped in favour of an unlimited supply, which means you're able to spam the world with as many jellybeans as your jellybean-spamming heart can desire. You can even control your jeallybean throw, which you couldn't do before, by holding down the B button to bring up the jellybean's trajectory, then releasing. With any luck, Blob will hop off in hot pursuit, gulp down the jellybean, and magically morph into the object you need.
As you'd expect though, it's WayForward's work on Blob's various forms that's most important. The Liquorice Ladder lets Boy climb from one platform to another up above. From there, the Banana Anvil can be dropped onto the head of one of the evil emperor's black, slimy minions to destroy them. Blob can turn into a Pear Parachute, which Boy can use to float to safety from great heights. Blob can turn into a Tangerine Trampoline, which Boy can use to jump to otherwise unreachable areas. Blob can turn into an Apple Jack, which Boy can use to squish nasties, raise entire platforms and stand on to pass spike-covered ground. And Blob can even turn into a Bubblegum Bouncer: Let's just say letting you bounce across water is only one of its many fun uses.
The water bouncing is key, though, because without it, poor old Boy will drown. I don't want to call him weak, because he's not. Not really, anyway. I mean, he can do everything a real boy can. He can run left and right; he can whistle to call Blob when it's off-screen, and he can jump. But he can only do these things a little bit. And by a little bit, I mean a realistic bit. He can't fall far without collapsing in a heap of broken bones. Neither can he take a single hit from one of the emperor's monsters without biting the dust. In short, he's not your stereotypical video game superhero. He doesn't have a health bar.