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A Boy and His Blob (PC) artwork

A Boy and His Blob (PC) review

"There's still a bit to like about A Boy and His Blob, but it's not worth it for double dippers."

Back in 1989, lone programmer David Crane spent 6 weeks crafting a little game by the name of A Boy and His Blob: Trouble in Blobonia, which he then released on the NES. The title earned itself some die-hard fans, but largely it was not well made (perhaps due to its short development cycle).

Fast forward to 2009, when publisher Majesco decided to resurrect that intellectual property. The publisher turned to the team at WayForward, and the result was the more simply titled A Boy and His Blob for the Nintendo Wii. Now, here in 2016, Majesco decided to port that remake to the HD console generation, including the PC, 3DS, and Vita. Strangely, the Wii U was left out of the process. That's not a huge loss, though; for better or worse, all potential fans are missing is a fairly basic port of a game they can already play on the hardware.

A Boy and His Blob on the NES was a puzzle/platformer about an unnamed boy and his blob, who together cleared a series of obstacles on their way to new locations. Eventually, they headed to the blob's home world of Blobonia, to save it from an evil dictator. The journey was made possible through the boy's use of jellybeans. When consumed by the blob, the candy allowed him to change form.

The NES version implemented some nice ideas, but its execution was lacking. The game map was large and labyrinthine, which meant it was easy to get lost, and the supply of jellybeans was limited. Mostly, the experience consisted of an extended series of fetch quests. You could spend hours trying to figure out what to do next. Combined with the fact that there was no way to know what a particular type of jellybean might do without first using it, the result was usually a lot of wasted time and virtual candy. Even those players who possessed a manual had to experiment, and scrolling through the selection of available beans didn't feel intuitive in the slightest. The graphics also were primitive, even by NES standards. The game looked and felt like Pitfall, which by that point was hardly a flattering thing to say.

Thankfully, 2009's remake fixes the above issues. The game lost its Metroidvania style in favor of a strict level-based system, but the revised approach allowed the team to trim the fat. Selection of jellybeans is now handled by way of a radial wheel, and icons let players see clearly what each jellybean does. Available candy is also determined on a level-by-level basis, removing some of the guesswork while still providing the player with multiple ways to tackle an area. It's also possible to aim where a jellybean goes when you toss it, which makes possible some interesting new puzzles.

Recalling the blob is now easier, as well, though issues remain. You'll have to hit the button a few times before your companion will respond. Arguably, the game's best feature this time around is the inclusion of a dedicated "hug" button, which prompts the boy to hug the blob. The blob's path finding AI is iffy and you won't be able to modify it even with a "scold" button, but at least the option is there.

As you reach the end of each of the game's worlds, you'll come across puzzle-based boss fights. Along the way to those showdowns, you can also seek out hidden treasure boxes, which unlock challenge levels. Completing those additional stages unlocks concept art and videos that detail the making of the game, which is a treat since the music and art style are both terrific.

Though the game is strong overall, though, it does have some issues. Chief among these is the lack of any real challenge. Throughout the stages, you'll find sign posts that practically give away the solutions to any puzzles you might encounter. In the first few levels, that assistance feels appropriate, but you'll continue to find clues in nearly every level, right through the end of the game. It makes a person wonder who the developers consider their target audience.

Where the PC port is concerned, the graphics look nice and benefit from the higher resolution. However, it's a fairly simple port. The sprites don't seem to have been redrawn, even though the resolution has been upped, and Abstraction Games didn't bother to make adjustments that might have addressed the game's existing issues. They could have added some extra difficulty, or perhaps removed the sign posts, but instead chose to leave those elements untouched. Unlockable artwork also has an issue, since you're not allowed to take your time admiring the pictures. Instead, you get to watch a slideshow that advances automatically.

Controls, though responsive, can't be reconfigured. Oddly, movement is mapped to the analog sticks, in the event that you choose to use a gamepad. You can see, then, why not being able to remap buttons could create issues. The game thankfully doesn't suffer overly much as a result, but it's still a bit awkward. On the plus side, load times have improved.

A Boy and His Blob is still a fun game on the PC, and now is a great time to play it if you haven't already cleared the Wii version. If you still have that older release, though, you can safely skip this halfhearted update. There's very little that might get you to come back for another round, unless you really want those achievements and trading cards...


EricRPG's avatar
Freelance review by Eric Kelly (March 07, 2016)

Eric Kelly likes writing about RPGs, reading non-fiction (usually academic in nature), watching anime, and listening to mostly video game music. So a total nerd.

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