While the first few levels of de Blob give the impression of a somewhat soothing, lightweight distraction, the latter half of the game proves to be a different proposition entirely. Not only do you have increasingly determined security measures to circumvent (such as electrified floors, deadly liquid, flaming panels, police patrols, tanks and so on), but the increasingly complicated level design and more elaborate challenges makes the game a serious test of your mettle. You'll go from casually breezing your way through levels to struggling to reach the exit pool with enough time. And with a limited stock of lives to worry about, it's not a foregone conclusion that you'll complete the level at all.
Inevitably, minor niggles earlier in the game are amplified when you're under the cosh, and it's natural that you'll find yourself questioning one or two design fundamentals when things don't go to plan. Chief of these if why the flaky jump mechanic is mapped to an upward 'flick' on the Wiimote. At first, swishing around the game world gives it a pleasantly tactile feeling, but the inexact nature of gesture control means missed (or undercooked) jumps, and frustrating trudges around elaborate levels to get back up to a specific vantage point.
A simple remapping function in the game menu could have solved this little problem at a stroke, but there you go. It's a shame, because it's actually a very small problem in isolation, but in a game which relies so heavily on precision jumping, it gnaws away at your resolve.
Another slight niggle is the mischievous camera, which has a tendency to spin around unhelpfully, or misinterpret the best angle. Pressing the C button is supposed to spin the camera back so it's directly behind you, but it's not as reliable as it could be. Again, when the heat's on, you really need the game to be capable of giving you the best possible view, and the simple truth is that it does not.
While we've got de Blob on the dissection table, it could be clearer about your actual objectives. Too often your progress becomes blocked because of the game's inability to point you in the right direction. You might imagine that unlocking the next gate was simply a case of accumulating points, but it can rely on performing certain key challenges. On a few occasions, entire parts of the level are completely off-limits unless you complete certain challenges first - but, bafflingly, this is never explained to the player. Through bitter trial and error you'll discover that certain challenge missions are mandatory, but you won't know which ones.
After all that, you might anticipate a lower score, but we're inclined to stick up for the many things that de Blob gets right. It's such a breath of fresh air to play a game like this on the Wii - although it's fair to point out that it would work just as well on every platform. The game is technically absolutely fantastic, with what could be the most appealing art style yet seen on the Wii. The way de Blob physically interacts with the world around him is hugely satisfying, squishing up against things, splattering the environment with paint and leaving trails in his wake. As a subtle technical showcase, it's hard to think of any game as well-realised for the console. It's really that striking - and screenshots certainly don't do the spectacle any justice at all.
Just as impressive is the core gameplay, with a crafted simplicity which makes it incredibly easy to pick up and play, while layering on deceptive depth at just the right pace. By using simple principles of colour-mixing, and applying it to a relatively basic platform gaming mechanic, the Utrecht students who first came up with the concept have chanced upon an entirely unique style of game. That developer Blue Tongue has successfully built on the concept with such charm and style is worth celebrating. The level design is consistently engaging; in small doses, there's something incredibly relaxing about rolling around colouring stuff in. It feels like another one of those tidying-up games, so if you're blessed/cursed by OCD, you'll be right at home with de Blob.
It's also worth mentioning that Blue Tongue has stitched a few fun offline multiplayer modes onto de Blob. Suitable for up to four players, there's Paint Match, where the idea is to paint as much of the level as you can within a time limit, Blob on the Run, where only one Blob can paint while the others chase after and slam into him to become the painter, and Blob Race, which is a check-point chase to a finishing point. None are particularly deep or involving, but for a few sessions it's a pleasant diversion.
Probably the best and worst thing about de Blob is that it's got 'Destined For Cult Status' written all over it. It's certainly not the first game to mix platform and puzzle elements, but the fact it manages to do so in such a clever, endearing, stylish and instantly playable way makes this a game we'd heartily recommend to anyone who thirsts for a 'proper' Wii game, whatever that is. Admittedly, some of the control and camera niggles ultimately detract from the overall enjoyment, but not so much that they should put you off trying this excellent and thoroughly original game.
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