STAFF REVIEW of De Blob 2 (Xbox 360)


Tuesday, February 22, 2011.
by Ken Laffrenier

De Blob 2 Box art One of the most valuable aspects of our society is that which makes us each different. If all that we were to experience were even remotely close to past experiences, then much of what we see...or hear...or smell...or taste...or even touch would lose all of its mystery and wonder. I believe it is one of the many reasons why the sense of deja vu is so unsettling; the entire core of our being shudders at the very thought of reliving past events.

This may seem like a very strange introduction to, what should be, a child like escape gaming title. I will say, my kids enjoyed the look and feel of this game but it is the more subtle nuances that touch a cord while I played. Throughout, I was able to sense undertones of inspiration from everything from 'V for Vendetta' to Star Wars (episodes I, II and III), complete with a dramatic reveal of 'the pseudo good guy is really the bad guy' sort of vibe. It's almost a classic case of the industrialized bad guys against the free loving colorful good guys, with the INKT Corporation reinvented as a tax free religion. While I was initially tempted to downplay these aspects I think its important for gamers to understand the value that the developer put in creating an outstanding story, while creating an incredible game.

DeBlob2 is the sequel to the Wii exclusive DeBlob. Because of the critical reception received for the original game, the games developers saw the opportunity to expand their reach across consoles. Now Blue Tongue Entertainment takes a second break from their many movie/TV titles to introduce the world to the paint filled hero. Once again, THQ Studios is at the helm of the DeBlob title and they have even gone so far as to include the title as one of its core games for spring of 2011.


Like myself, many did not take the opportunity to enjoy the original DeBlob, so when the game started out with a short synopsis of the original title, I couldn't help but worry that I would feel disconnected from the events about to take place. Lucky for me, the development team was prepared and they even went so far as to use this to help drive the new story. Rather than trying to concoct a back story for everything, we are simply treated to gentle reminders, throughout the game, of what has happened before our current adventure. And while I now have a minor understanding of what went on before DeBlob2 I'm intrigued about the original game, so much so that I am going to pick it up right away.

DeBlob2 revisits our hero, after a couple years of relative harmony, as he finds the city of Prisma embroiled in a political uprising of sorts. It seems the charismatic Papa Blanc is leading his followers to create a cult of brainwashed and bleached denizens. Not surprisingly, none can doubt this pseudo religious leader that has chosen to run his election campaign on a platform of Put Your Faith In Beige!. Along with these empty promises comes the draining of the color from the landscape and the residents while Blob and his faithful sidekick Pinky struggle against mindless minions to restore flair and individuality. Blob must use all his tricks to sabotage infrastructure and even go 'underground' to infiltrate enemy strongholds in order to expose Papa Blanc and return Prisma City to its former glory.

The gameplay is similar to a couple famous titles (thanks Nintendo) and the game will have you literally painting the town in no time. The developers took it upon themselves to make your pal Pinky so 'all-knowing' that its surprising that you are needed at all. I get that I may not be the target market but the hand holding really goes a little too far when progressing through the missions. The 'open world' portion of the gaming mostly involves soaking up vast amounts of paint and transporting it to portals. While all along you will be using said paint to smash minions or color specific areas. The 2D underground side-scrolling missions seem pretty straightforward but its the simplicity that creates many of the challenges by utilizing switches and tunnels that are fraught with dangers including minions, water, ink and lasers to name a few.


DeBlob is not alone in his quest and, while its not immediately clear, most are returning pals from the original game. Each of these pals, Pinky (Pinky is a playable character for a second player...that player can assist DeBlob by shooting at enemies), Arty, Bif, Zip and Prof, offer unique tactics so that there appearance adds something new to the game.

Of course, for every good is a bad and the Inkys come in all forms; Spikey, the Elite, the Heavy Inky and Shepherds that utilize remote control hypno-disks to pick you up to drag you to your doom. They truly are the Stormtroopers of this colorful world, intimidating but not too bright. And when it comes to the various missions this could almost be seen as a travel game; you will travel from Paradise Island to Blanc Town visiting everything from the Inktron collidor to the Prism Zoom and even a epic visit to the Rocket Range.

Various in game power ups that are level specific but really amp up the enjoyment level to avoid any kind of monotony. Keeping in line with this unique game you will find power ups like Magnetism, Rainbow power, wrecking ball and even a special bomb power up! There are several types of 'collectables' within the game like the '2D' light-bulb images that are used as a type of currency. This currency can be redeemed at the menu screen under upgrades or in game at special locations (usually at the end of a mission). This currency can be used to add extra lives, increase size (allowing you to carry more paint), add armor, lower charge costs or to expand the amount of ammo the second player can carry. You can also stick around at the end of a level to complete certain tasks. This clean up can be revitalizing of the vegetation, painting any remaining buildings or freeing cult members from their bleached exteriors.

The controls are easy enough for youngsters and intuitive enough so even the most seasoned gamer can get lost in the story. The left trigger is used to target different aspects while the A button is used to slam and the right trigger is used to charge your targets. The Y button is used to bring up in game info and the gps type guide. The left thumbstick is used to move around while the right thumbstick controls the camera (the left button will bring the camera behind blob). The camera is sometimes annoying but it is by far an improvement over many of the games I've played.


Loading screens between the major levels are good for grabbing a snack and include a 3-5 panel comic style graphic to help outline some story items. There are minimal load times within the major levels, in fact they only happen when transitioning underground so they are not at all noticeable when you are in game.

For all of the emphasis we put on graphics it's truly refreshing to recognize a game for outstanding sound. DeBlob2 injects the kind of rhythm and background music that allows the sounds to become characters themselves. To become energized by the music playing or to build anticipation through sound as you apply another layer of paint is truly inspired. I'm not much of a completest but I couldn't help but feel elated as the tempo increased in time to the color I was applying on screen.

Besides having a second player jump in as your sidekick there is a 'Blob Party' game mode allowing you to cooperatively paint an entire section of town. Personally, I wasn't able to immerse myself into this game mode. As fun and stylized the actual painting is, its the challenges and tasks that had me drawn back to the single player game mode.

My favorite part of playing this game has been that I know I am not the target demographic. The developers clearly understand that to reach a broader audience games must be relate-able for youngsters while maintaining pop culture references, that only us 'grown ups' are likely to identify. It helps to have such a well rounded story with likeable characters but this is just the kind of game I can put on even when my kids are in the room.


Suggestions:
DeBlob2 is sure to have a strong following and I'm certain DeBlob3 is on the horizon (there have been announcements of multimedia entries like a TV series: ala Sonic or Pac Man). A comprehensive multiplayer component and more challenging game modes (just lock Pinky in a trunk for a while) would be welcome additions to the franchise.


Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.7 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.7 / 10

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