It’s nice to play something that’s fun simply for the sake of being fun. de Blob 2 is a breath of fresh air among the typical PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (version reviewed) catalogues of visceral shooters, statistical RPGs and pedal-to-the-medal racers.
This is a game primarily aimed at kids but, that doesn’t stop it from being fun for us bigger kids too. It’s become a bit of a cliché to describe something in these terms but, de Blob 2 is a little like a videogame version of a Pixar movie in that it has elements that appeal equally to kids and adults. It’s a stretch to say that de Blob 2 is as smart, witty or engaging as the likes of Toy Story or Wall-E but it does a much better job at bridging the age gap than the vast majority of games.
The plot is simple: Comrade Black (the villain from the original de Blob) has drained the colour from Prisma City and it’s up to you to restore it to its original, garishly decorated state. However, as with all the best kid’s movies, the simplicity of the plot is underlined by altogether more serious, more adult themes. For example, as you progress through your quest to (literally) paint the town red, you’re privy to themes of political manipulation, propaganda and the dangers of radical cultish behaviour.
Much of this story is told through humorous cut-scenes that accompany each new stage. These scenes are devoid of any real dialogue (characters speaking in a bumbling quasi-speech of abstract tones) but still manage to deliver an immense amount of personality and charm. This is thanks to the sugary-cute characters models, the delightful musical score and the general level of competence in which each element has been assembled and fixed together to form a satisfyingly comical whole.
As in the original, your goal for each stage is to turn the bleak white buildings to vibrant shades of blue, red, yellow etc. de Blob’s colour can be altered by either jumping into pools of paint or smashing robotic, paint hording glass jars. Adding colour to the environment helps break Comrade Black’s control over the city’s inhabitants and, like the buildings, turns them from monochrome to polychrome.
Many buildings must be painted a certain colour, adding a dash of puzzle solving to proceedings as you work out how to paint a certain house/boat/crate a specific shade without altering the colour of those around it. There’s nothing here that’s especially difficult or time-consuming (at least for anyone old enough to boil themselves an egg) but, nevertheless, arriving at a solution still rewards you a degree of satisfaction.
In fact, the game’s premise is satisfying in and of itself. Entering a level that’s as white as high-tech hospital and leaving it awash with as much colour as a Brazilian carnival is immensely rewarding, seemingly tapping into some kind of primal desire that urges us humans to decorate our surroundings. Even after I’d satisfied a level’s completion conditions I found myself hanging around just to make sure that I’d brightened up absolutely everything I could. I don’t want my newly ‘polychromed’ friends to stumble across a colourless coffee house, tree or taxi, do I? That just wouldn’t do.
The full 3D sections are broken up nicely by some interesting (and often optional) side-scrolling portions that usually involve activating switches while sporting a specific colour. The trick here is that the necessary colour is not immediately available, meaning you need to combine two of the aforementioned ‘robotic glass jars’ to create the necessary shade i.e. mix blue and yellow to get green or, combine red and blue to make purple. For those not completely up to scratch with their ‘colour mixology’, targeting a new colour informs you which colour you’ll become if you do decide to attack.
While the gameplay is fun, there’s no hiding that’s it’s also rather shallow. There’s enough to keep you occupied for a weekend or so but after that it starts to become somewhat repetitive. This isn’t helped by the fact that it’s a rather lengthy game; especially if you plan on fully completing each stage as this almost always requires you to re-visit areas after you’ve sufficiently levelled-up de Blob. Of course, the lack of depth may not be a problem for a younger audience but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re a parent planning on playing with your kids; you’re likely going to get bored before they do.
There’s also a bit of an issue with the time restrictions placed on each stage. You’re forced to continuously hunt down floating alarm clocks which increase your time limit. If you’re enjoying simply wandering around and brightening up the world this clock hunt can become more than a little irritating. The time restriction does add a sense of danger/pressure to proceedings but it seems to go against the game’s ultimate goal of providing simple-but-engaging entertainment.
Despite those niggles, it’s still nice to play a kids game that doesn’t dumb itself down and treat the player as an idiot. All too often these kinds of games are simply rushed out of the door as quickly as possible in an attempt to create a quick buck, the resulting product (unsurprisingly) lacking almost any merit or value other than acting as an example of how not to do things. Blue Tongue Entertainment, the creators of de Blob 2, have shunned that tact and proved that it’s possible to give us a game that’s simplistic but not patronising, child-like but not idiotic.