de Blob [Video]

de Blob
de Blob Cover
Platforms Wii
Genre Paint the town red (or blue or green or whatever)
MtAMinutes to Action 2
Keep Playing? Doubtful
Buy from Amazon

Tim Schafer is funding a game through Kickstarter. That still blows my mind. It's been clear for some time that the existing publisher-developer model isn't ideal, and that the industry would move away from it in time, but I don't think anybody expected consumer-funding to hit the relative mainstream so soon. Of course, Schafer is one of the industry's few big names, and he specializes in an inexpensive, fan-favorite style that has been MIA for years. With that in mind, it's too early to say that the floodgates of fan-funding have been flung open. But maybe we can say that the publishers' dam has a nice new fracture in it.

THQ provides a great example of how a publisher's mismanagement can ruin a developer. Blue Tongue Entertainment was an Australian outfit that developed De Blob for Wii in 2008. The game had a modest budget and a modest advertising campaign; it was a modest success, selling just under a million copies on a console tailor-made for its target audience and lacking in competition at the time. Apparently the dollar signs blinded THQ to circumstances, and it funded a multiplatform sequel that, across four systems, didn't even meet half of the original's numbers. THQ is paying the price for such decisions, but Blue Tongue Entertainment felt the brunt of the blowback when the studio was dissolved and staff was cut.

So my De Blob first hour review and the blockbuster sales it will surely generate come far too late to save Blue Tongue Entertainment from THQ 's misguided decisions. Better late than never, I suppose.

- The primary goal of De Blob is to color as many gray objects as possible by smearing them with your painted body. The objective reminds me of Katamari Damacy, in that efficient route-planning is more encouraged than skillful movements. In the two stages I played, however, I merely sidled next to every gray building I could find without any higher thought and still ended up with absurdly high scores and hours of time left on the clock. Characters pop up and present short missions, but they usually just ask you to paint a certain city block a certain color. Without any pressure or variety within each stage, painting the town feels a bit like menial labor.

- It's a good thing Blob doesn't have to make any precise jumps to get around town, because a number of small issues would make the controls insufficient. Flicking the Wii remote to jump is practically a punchline anymore, and the practice is annoying, if adequate, here. Sluggish camera controls impede fine tuning, and sticking to walls can make movement difficult in close-quarters. These are the nags of a platforming snob, mostly irrelevant at the challenge level thus far, but they exist and I do not like them so I will complain.

- I watched Toy Story 3 shortly before playing De Blob. This is a recipe for disappointment, as Pixar's masterpiece of animation would obviously dwarf Blue Tongue Entertainment's video game models. But I have to say, De Blob's style admirably holds its own. The globular characters might be lazy in design, but they animate in a lively, expressive way that reminds me of Pixar shorts. I also like that the music is layered with more lively instruments as the landscape takes on color. Really, there's a level of audiovisual polish that's unexpected in a game below the nebulous AAA threshold.

- I also really like the game's radar thingy. Hold the A button and a circle forms around Blob, showing the direction of the nearest paint colors, objectives, and challenges. It's such a small thing to comment on, but I find it really cool for some reason.

Minutes to Action: 2

Would I keep playing? Doubtful. De Blob certainly has charm and a premise with potential, but nothing specific about that first hour sticks in my mind. The whole hour was spent touching buildings and...touching more buildings. Katamari succeeds with strict time limits and frequent scale shifts that maintain variety and pressure. My hour with De Blob was comparatively flat, and I'm not compelled to try more as a result.

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