Developer: Abstraction Games/ WayForward
Publisher: Midnight City/ Majesco
Release Date: January 20th, 2016
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Mac, Steam OS+Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Some people out there may or may not recall a little indie classic by the name of A Boy and His Blob, published by Midnight City/ Majesco and developed by Abstraction Games/ Way Forward. Seem recognizable? That’s because it’s what they’re calling a “re-imagining” of a 1989 video game, A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia. Obviously the inspiration from that NES work of art developed by Imagineering was huge. While this boy and his adorable blob seemed to have a pretty steady following, nothing was heard of this franchise again until a few years ago in 2009, on October 13th when it was re-released for the Wii console. That is what we have to thank for this shiny new, high-definition port of the game recently released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux on January 20, 2016! Clearly if a game can cross that many platforms, it’s got to be pretty dang sweet.
As a reviewer I sometimes have a problem removing personal bias from the connotation of the review’s overall tone. This will be heavily evident in this piece as I really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel looking for any negative aspects to highlight on what I consider a masterpiece of a game. The great things about games like these are that they captivate their audiences like none other. I have played my fair share of platformers, and suffered through some miserable puzzles in the past as well. Luckily this was nothing like those. I quickly became so emotionally enraptured in the characters and their quest, as well as the fun challenge of the game that any small glitches quickly went to the wayside.
Graphically this game produced something more than I ever thought possible based on my past experience with indie collaboration pieces. I want to call it a rustic charm, but there was nothing rustic about this! The instant sense of nostalgia over these adorably simplistic characters and enemies was overwhelming. The artistic style was simply beautiful to behold. It set up an atmospheric environment that paired perfectly with the audio accompaniment we’ll get to discussing in just a bit. It was so hard not to continuously stop and smell the freakin beautifully crafted roses in this world, because every small element was that spot on. It really earned the time to take out in sheer respect. The visuals were adventurous when they needed to be, and scary when they needed to be, along with every other emotional array along the way. Especially sadness. If playing a game that breaks the heart . . . repeatedly. . . sounds unappealing, stay away from this one; it can be a real tear-jerker. If I could really reach here and find 1 single small complaint, it was that on a couple occasions some elements in the layered foreground would temporarily block the camera’s view of the player.
As for audio, there was nothing wrong. This music was mystical, there’s just no other way to put it. The tone, the instrumentals and sound effects set for this game raised the bar so high for those blockbuster behemoths out there who so often suffer in this category. I’m talking some truly high caliber attention to detail here! The audio accompaniment added yet another layer of immersive depth to the gameplay experience digging down to every minute aspect like the croaking of a frog or chirping of a cricket. Each element was crisp and unique and made the whole feel of the game really evolve to a higher level than you’d expect from a little platformer like this.
Another aspect that set A Boy and His Blob apart from the rest of the competition was how personally attached it was able to get audiences to its protagonists. I felt such a strong and immediate sense of love and affection to these two little goons, that every time they died to my highly unfortunate stupidity it broke my poor old heart! The more the game continues, the more abilities the player unlocks, and the stronger this bond inevitably grows. Especially with characters whose interactions are so minimal, who don’t really say too much –I was shocked at how much empathy I felt towards them. Finding such an emotional attachment to characters is rare in my experience, especially when their whole relationship is displayed in pure graphics. Unfortunately in this category as well, I did manage to scrounge up one tiny complaint. As this was personally my first experience with the game franchise, I was vastly uneducated in its subject matter in the first place. Given that, it’s a bit understandable that a few specifics of the story elements just went clear over my head. Nevertheless it did happen. On more than a few occasions I was just looking around at what was happening in the game and asking myself “why?” Why certain things were happening, looked a certain way, or even what exactly I was accomplishing came into question more often than not. Though it was a bit of a frustration to not be in the know, it did somehow still manage to add to the rustic kind of charm of the game.
I chalk it all up to A Boy and His Blob taking nothing for granted, including their audience. Think about it, they’re catering to a crowd that’s been around since 1989, a little credit might be due there. They definitely did not spoon feed their instructions to their audience by any means. I was forced to just figure things out on the fly, which I was seriously happy about in the long run. It was a challenge in a subtle way and I appreciated as a player not being babied in my tutorials. Getting the knack of quick puzzles and rapid movements made the game a lot more fun than the possible alternative. I’m talking about the trap that most games fall into with their grossly simplified explicit textual on-screen instructionals. Those can really detract from the overall experience by bogging the game down, reminding everyone of how in-immersive of a game they’ve possibly created.
But that can be found in even the best of games. What set this title apart were the interesting interactions with enemies and friendly NPCs. These could either cause me to be giddy with excitement or red-hot with rage! I have to admit, being the naive gamer that I usually am, I more often than not fell to my miserable death in the very same traps I set out to eliminate my prey.
The Bottom Line
Even in its brutal-est simplicity, this game was tons of fun, bringing along some new, unexpected twists around every corner. Sadly I sometimes encountered the rare, occasional glitch such as holding w to release an endless torrent of inedible beans for my blobby companion. But the few awkward spots of the game were more than made up for by its emotional enrapturing elements. While most games make their audiences turn into toxic wrecks, A Boy and His Blob will do quite the opposite. I either spent the whole game in a child-like sense of giddy glee or clutching at my chest for the amazing heart-wrenching elements that truly made this game a home run. For a final price of $9.99, there isn’t a better bargain out there.