|By Zach Patterson||Sunday, 7 Mar 2010|
It will be a likely be a great discussion in a few years as to what the Wii produced that wasn’t made by Nintendo that was truly worth your time. Because while the cliche with the last few Nintendo consoles has been “grab the Nintendo titles, don’t wade through the dreck around it”, there’s always some gems that were made with high hopes but for whatever reason drowned in a sea of anonymity sitting next to generic fitness titles and Petz games. There are obvious ones, such as your large third party publishers like Capcom, EA, and Konami that have produced some decent titles that never sold well, but then there’s companies like THQ with a significantly lower profile that released titles like the de Blob in 2008. de Blob seems like a game that was destined to be looked over and forgotten, but it luckily got a bit of attention and managed to sell a pretty good amount for a third party Wii title, and there is now a sequel expected in the next year or so. Of course, sales aren’t everything, but this is definitely one of the premier exclusive titles for the system and well worth your time and money.
de Blob works as a great Wii title because it plays off the systems strengths and doesn’t try to be anything it can’t be. It has a simple, bright, and colorful art design that uses iconic and easy to render character designs to make up for the Wii’s relative lack of graphical prowess compared to its competitors. As a result, you get one of the better looking Wii titles out there, even though it’s certainly not doing anything revolutionary. It also makes good use of motion controls without being annoying or completely out of place. You shake to hop and jump on things (which is an ease and joy, as you can happily target using the triggers on the nunchuk), and occasionally have to shake wildly to fulfill a paint requirement to liberate a building. Other than that, you use the buttons for logical things like moving around and the game doesn’t try to be more complex than it needs to be. That may be my #1 complaint of many Wii games, that they simply try to put motion controls and other gimmicks into the game that just don’t need to be there. de Blob avoids that downfall and is all the better for it. Another reason it works so well is that it adopted Nintendo’s strategy of playing to all audiences. It’s not just for kids, it’s not an oddly placed M rated titled or very Japanese RPG, it’s a title with a memorable cast that kids will likely enjoy, and it’s not particularly hard, but it has lots of extra challenges for more invested audience, and the level of polish is unmatched.
I also like the whole revolution plot idea the designers came up with to match the premise. The idea that you have to paint every surface of the game a bunch of different colors is neat, but what really sells it is the gestapo-type Inkies that rule the land of Chroma City and throw the land into an ugly black and white, and you are part of a growing resistance to restore color to the world, and an army of ink spraying goons are in your way to try to rub you out. The cinemas that accompany the levels are cute and fun, with the characters speaking in funny sounding gibberish while moving the plot along but never making it too serious. I think the general laid back tone to the game really works to its advantage, as you are usually given plenty of time to complete levels (there’s a timer that you can constantly add time to by completing tasks, but usually you will end with well over 15 mins to spare), and really, the game is as long as you want it to be. You can speedrush through the level doing the minimal amount of tasks to get from point A to point B, or you can paint around town and find all the sidetasks to do, while exploring the environment and finding hard-to-get in-game achievements. Levels can take 10-15 mins are well over an hour.
The music similarly is pretty laidback jazzy funk stuff that has a distinct retro feel to it at many times, and is perfectly suited to this game. It’s music that stands out in a time when I feel that many newer games simply bring nothing to the table thats particularly memorable. Appropriate, maybe, but rarely is any new game music all that catchy. de Blob really succeeds here and I wouldn’t mind having this soundtrack outside of the game itself.
There’s some minor issues here though. I don’t like the fact that the game never really clues you in as to whether you can turn off the game midlevel, which becomes a problem as you progress, since the levels get longer and longer and occasionally, you want to take you time and find everything, but you just don’t have all that time to sink into the game. I mean, it’s entirely possible that you can save midlevel, but it certainly never seemed that way to me, and I was always too scared to turn it off because I didn’t want to lose my progress. Additionally, while Blob is extremely easy to control and at times you can really bop around and do some nifty things, his move set certainly could have stood to have some extra stuff thrown at you as you progressed. But essentially, what you start with is what you end with. Some super moves and bigger enemies to dispatch would have been rather welcome, but it never comes. Also, oddly, the game simply doesn’t have a ton of enemies. You certainly do fight your share of bad guys, but it’s never overwhelming and often you are just left to your own devices to do whatever. While this does give the feel of laidback and relaxed gameplay, it also seems like they are taking it too easy on you sometimes, especially since the whole idea of the game is that a huge force of enemies has taken over your city. Additionally, while the gametime runs a good amount (you will definitely get in over 10 hours just on the story alone, and then there’s 2 extra missions if you get Gold medals on each story part), the tasks you are asked to do in the game never really change. You will be predictably asked to fight some goons, or paint buildings a certain color, or race to an endpoint, or liberate a building depending on the type of colored mission you accept. The missions are always short and enjoyable, so it’s not a terrible thing, but some other types of missions would have really spiced it up a bit.
de Blob really is one of the best titles on the Wii. It’s a well-crafted, smartly thought out exclusive title that makes great use of the system’s strengths and downplays all its weaknesses. It has great characters ripe for future sequels, a premise that’s clever and unique, great controls and graphics, and a perfect soundtrack to set the mood. While there are many core differences, the Katamari games seem to be an excellent comparison if you are looking for something it may be similar too. Bright graphics, memorable characters, big environments with large cities, great music and time based objectives. It’s also a game that anyone can enjoy on various levels. This should definitely be one of the must-have non-Nintendo made Wii games. It’s also very cheap nowadays, most stores offering it used for $10 or so.