Thinking about it, I probably should have told somebody I was colour-blind before starting the vibrant de Blob 2. I can see individual colours just fine, but have trouble differentiating between certain shades; greens and yellows, my optician informs me. Fortunately, this didn’t impact my ability to play Blue Tongue Entertainment’s sequel in the slightest, but I found the irony of a colour-blind player being asked to review such a game too delicious not to mention.
It might be worth giving de Blob 2 a miss if you’re more colour-blind than me, however, as you’re going to struggle with this one. As de Blob, an amorphous paint globule, it’s your job to restore zesty saturation to a world that’s had all colour banished by the tyrannous INKT corporation and its leader Comrade Black. As well as draining the colour from every inch of Prisma City, Black and his Inky army patrol the streets looking for Raydians (the blobby residents of Prisma) to capture and turn into mindless drones. Not being the kind of guy to stand for such behaviour, our gloopy hero de Blob and his sidekick Pinky set off to do something about it.
By dunking his body in pools of different coloured paint, you can roll Blob about the architecture of Prisma City and restore the landscape to its former glory. While you’re free to go off and explore the city to an extent, a timer pushes you along a certain path defined by challenges dished out by the denizens of each area. This might include completing a race, seizing a landmark or liberating captured Raydians from their dreary prisons, amongst other things. Although the city is split into eleven areas, the experience draws largely from the open world genre in terms of structure. Sadly, you’re never able to enjoy the expansive levels and impressive range of activities because of the time restraint placed on each level.
With a clock constantly cracking the whip, it’s impossible to shake the sense of urgency. Given the spacious environments and immense amounts of satisfaction gained from colouring things in, it’s only natural to want to take your time and explore as you go. If you choose to digress from the main challenges, however, you’ll soon run out of time and fail the level. You can choose to replay any level without the timer once you’ve completed it, but it would have been preferable to have the option of doing so the first time round. Feeling rushed is never something that goes down well in platform games, especially when there’s so much to see and do.
At the start of each level, you’ll first have to fill the numerous fountains and water features in each area with paint, because without it Blob is little more than a podgy colourless ball. This is achieved more often than not by jumping down a manhole or drain and flipping the relevant switch to get the city’s juices flowing. These underground sections of the game shift the perspective to 2D, where the usual trend of painting and exploring is swapped for more traditional platforming peppered with paint-themed puzzles (try saying say three times in a row without tripping up on your words). These bite-sized 2D offerings appear in various forms throughout the campaign, and are a welcome change of pace from the often repetitive nature of the main game.
Back in the third dimension, gameplay mostly takes the form of renovation. This involves mixing the right colours to spruce up various buildings, which will quietly pulsate with the colour required to return it to normal. Anything you touch immediately changes to the colour currently swishing about in your body, so you have to be sure to plan your paint job carefully. This proves little trouble at first, but as soon as secondary colours get involved things get increasingly more difficult.
Paintbots, insect-like robots bearing capsules of paint on their backs, are on hand to make this job easier. By targeting and attacking one, you’ll absorb whatever colour it happens to be carrying. So, let’s say you need to paint a building purple, but are currently rocking the colour red – you’re going to want to hunt down a blue Paintbot. As junior school art lessons will have taught you, mixing blue and red makes purple. Forward thinking is essential in tackling the latter levels, where complex buildings will require each of their cuboid segments to be painted in a different colour. Knowing how to make best use of your Paintbots is key to doing well here.
Given the medium’s tendency to rely on browns, greys and other dark hues, de Blob 2 is refreshingly vibrant (once you’ve coloured everything in, of course). Unlike its Wii-exclusive predecessor, Blob equips himself with high definition paint this time around, and while the environments and character models are nothing to write home about, the game as a whole certainly benefits from the extra horsepower of the ‘next-gen’ consoles. There’s a certain slapstick charm to the cutscenes, which are of a high standard throughout the game. Dialogue is replaced with cute gurgles and other nonsensical gibberish, but it’s always obvious what’s going on. It’s clearly aimed at the whippersnappers of today’s youth, but I found myself merrily chuckling away at the silliness of it all regardless. I’m 23.
While I’m fully aware of de Blob 2’s intended demographic, I still found the game to be mildly patronising at times. The frequent tutorials and hand-holding quickly start to grate, especially when you’re being told exactly what to do six or seven hours into the game.
It’s also incredibly easy for the most part. More experienced gamers might find some depth in the form of Inspiration; a role playing mechanic that allows upgrades to Blob’s health and Paint Points. This feature is mostly redundant, however, as you’re refilling your paint long before it has run out, and the game is rarely difficult enough that you end up dying.
Taking cues from Mario Galaxy, de Blob 2 allows a second player to jump in and take aim of Pinky’s paint gun. As well as helping out with a spot of painting (player 2 can shout “you missed a bit!” every now and again for maximum enjoyment), the second player is also able to take out Inkies and collect items. More co-op action lives on the main menu in the form of ‘Blob Party’, which offers similar challenges to that on offer in the campaign but presented in mini-game form without all the story and cutscenes.
While the game insists on holding your hand a little too tightly and the time limits can cause a lot of unnecessary stress, de Blob 2 remains a solid platform game with an interesting mechanic at its core. Watching the grey sprawl of Prisma City slowly spring into life is hugely satisfying, a testament to the strength of the painting mechanic. It’s children that will inevitably get the most from the experience, but like a Pixar film or any good cartoon, Blue Tongue Entertainment has created a game that appeals on two levels. Sure, there are better platform games out there, but with its bold aesthetic and great sense of humour, it’s hard to go wrong with de Blob 2. Unless you’re colour-blind, of course.