A Boy and His Blob
The first game ever with a Hug button. Awww...
Preview by James Cunningham (Email)
June 5th 2009
It was no secret going in that A Boy and His Blob is gorgeous and charming. The screens have been suffused with hand-drawn 2D goodness from the very first leaked image, but seeing it in motion hit the point home that this should be a wonderful chunk of all-ages gaming. And then the developer hit the hug button, multiplying the charm quotient by a factor of at least ten.
A wonderful chunk of all-ages gaming.
An evil emperor has taken over Blobolonia, as evil emperors tend to do. When the blob crash lands on Earth, he's befriended by a young boy who, armed with little more than a variety of jellybeans, will help the blob return to his home and save his planet. When the boy (as nameless as the blob) tosses out a jellybean, the blob bounds after it and changes shape once it's eaten. Each flavor of jellybean gives a different shape, such as a ladder, rocket, parachute, trampoline, etc, and unlike the NES original, once you've got a jellybean the supply is unlimited. While there are fifteen varieties total, the boy can only carry eight flavors at a time, and each level has a predetermined loadout.
The levels in the main game are designed to be as casual-friendly as possible, with plenty of checkpoints and a mild difficulty curve. Beating the first forty levels completes the core game but also opens up the Challenge levels, which take off the kid gloves and start treating the player like he's supposed to know what he's doing. The puzzles get harder and the checkpoints go away completely. Almost every developer at E3 this year had a method to appeal to the every-growing casual crowd while still keeping the hardcore happy, and throwing in an extra forty levels of real challenge is as good a way as any.
There are a handful of other features showing Wayforward is getting this right, such as widescreen 480p support for a fully 2D game, and adding classic controller and even working on getting Gamecube controller support working, but the standout feature in the demo was the sheer charm pumping out of every frame of animation. Seeing it in motion made my hands itch to hold the controller and start solving puzzles, giving the blob a congratulatory hug for each heroic transformation. A Boy and His Blob is shaping up to be this year's poster child for the return of 2D gaming, tying its wonderful visuals to classic side-scrolling puzzle/platform action. It's definitely something we could use more of.