Review: A Boy and His Blob

Childhood memories, improved
By MADDY MYERS  |  October 27, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

 

A Boy and his Blob got its start as a 1989 Nintendo game designed by David Crane, who also designed Pitfall!. This 2009 remake features Miyazaki-inspired art and cel-shaded animation, giving the maps a storybook quality. Unfortunately, the story itself still leaves much to be desired; no further complexity has been layered onto the 1989 game’s backstory.

The game begins with the titular Boy asleep in his bed in a mansion-like treehouse. An explosive crash awakens him, and he rises to investigate. He wanders the firefly-lit woods to find a friendly alien: a smallish white blob named Blobert. Blobert has fled his home planet Blobolonia to find someone who’ll help him stop the coup of an evil emporer.

After both parties get over their fear of one another, loving symbiosis grows between the pair. The boy discovers that the blob possesses nigh-magical shape-shifting abilities. These come into play when the boy gives the blob jellybeans: a licorice jellybean will turn the blob into a ladder, a tangerine yields a trampoline, and so on. The two navigate the forest levels around the treehouse and eventually move on to other worlds together.

This all sounds familiar to those who have played the 1989 title, but this new release has improved the gameplay as much as the graphics. The boy now has unlimited jellybeans, whereas the original game only provided the exact amount of jellybeans needed per level. Also, checkpoints are frequent, so you can experiment wildly and die trying a puzzle without wasting time re-doing the level up to that point.

In each level, you’ll only be given certain flavors of beans, so you don’t get to use any transformation whenever you want. Luckily, you’ll always have blue jellybeans to turn the blob into a balloon, so that the blob can always float to you even if he’s far away or trapped (if you call him three times, he’ll transform into a balloon automatically and find you). Only getting certain jellybeans per level doesn’t make much sense, though — once you gain an ability, shouldn’t you get to keep it? The game inspires other questions as well; for example, why do jellybeans give Blobert special powers? And more importantly, where are the boy’s parents?

You’ll need to turn off the logic center of your brain to enjoy the game, but that won’t be hard. A Boy and his Blob’s puzzles increase in difficulty at just the right rate, and although the levels are repetitive, they’re also addictive. The game’s real charm is its personality; the boy’s refreshingly real-sounding exclamations and the blob’s bouncy, voiceless curiosity will trigger warm fuzzies in gamers of any age. There’s a button expressly for hugging the blob, which you could go the whole game without using — if you were a soulless automaton.

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