Version tested: Wii
The best candidates for the remake treatment are generally not those blessed with classic status, but ones that came close without hitting the bull's-eye; games that had lots of great ideas but never quite delivered on their promise. In a modern gaming landscape where old titles are dusted off purely to cash in on their name, A Boy and His Blob is already off to a good start - it's been remade for all the right reasons.
The 1989 original, designed by Activision co-founder David Crane, may be recognisable to NES scholars but it's hardly the sort of marketable franchise that gets the accountants excited. A puzzley platform game, it was full of clever concepts but hamstrung from the start by brutally tough gameplay and some very fussy design. In bringing the game into the 21st century, WayForward Technologies has amplified all that was good in Crane's original while minimising the less appealing aspects. As an example of how to ride the remake pony, it's hard to beat.
As the title suggests, it's the tale of a young boy and the gelatinous alien blob he befriends. Together they set off to defeat the evil emperor of Blobolonia, for no better reason than he's evil and needs to be defeated. Their chosen weapon in this struggle is rather unusual, however: jelly beans.
By feeding Blob different flavoured beans, you can transform your undulating companion into a variety of useful forms. Tangerine turns him into a trampoline. Licorice turns him into a ladder. There are dozens of different abilities, and the game's story mode does a good job of introducing new forms while still coming up with ways to deepen your understanding of the ones you already have.
The Boy is a fragile thing though, and not exactly athletic, so he needs all the help he can get. Contact with the eerie black gloopy minions of the Emperor spells instant death for our hero, as do large falls or contact with water. He can't jump very high either, which is to say he can jump about as high as a real boy - fine for sports day, not so great for navigating perilous caverns.
The gameplay therefore becomes a series of "how do I get past this?" moments, as you work out which combination of jelly bean powers will eradicate or avoid the roaming bad guys, while keeping both Boy and Blob together through the levels. Half the fun is simply experimenting with what you have, and discovering that - yes - you can turn Blob into an anvil and push him over a ledge onto a monsters squishy head, or use him as a parachute to float down from otherwise fatal heights.
While the one-hit-kill toughness from 1989 has been retained, checkpoints are almost always on the same screen and there's no penalty for repeated failure. Thankfully, the finite supply of jelly beans from the original has been ditched - you can now lob beans around with cavalier abandon until inspiration strikes.