Reviewed: April 2, 2011
Released: February 1, 2011
Imagine, if you will, a whimsical blend of Katamari Damacy’s item collection and Gish’s liqud platforming, with a little of Metroid’s power-based exploration and Yoshi’s Island egg-tossing thrown in for kicks. That’s roughly the kind of experience you’ll get out of Tales from Space: About a Blob, from DrinkBox Studios. In About a Blob, you control the titular blob. You and your kind have just found yourselves crashed on Earth and captured by a team of scientists, and you’ll need to rescue all your friends and explore this strange new planet you’ve found yourself on.|
The game starts you off inside a research laboratory. The game initially looks like a regular side-scrolling platformer, but you’ll quickly find your way blocked by pieces of popcorn, push pins, and other miniature obstacles that are just a little too big for the blob to hop over. However, if you absorb objects smaller than the blob, you can slowly increase the blob’s size until it’s big enough to digest the offending impediments.
This formula worked just fine for Katamari Damacy, but About a Blob throws in a bit more variety with a lot of platforming action. As you break out of the lab and make your way into the world at large, the indiginous life forms aren’t going to sit by and let you absorb everything. You can hurl out objects you’ve absorbed at enemies, and they come in handy more than once for a variety of puzzles where that switch you need to hit is a little out of reach. You’ll eventually unlock other tricks too, like the power to stick to metal surfaces or attract small metal objects towards you. You can turn it around too and use it to launch yourself off of a metal surface onto a higher platform, or levitate over a patch of ground that’s spiky and not exactly healthy for blobs.
The game keeps introducing these and other new mechanics at a steady pace so that the play always feels fresh. Just when you get used to one trick, they throw a new one at you, so you always feel like there’s something you’re trying to master. The gameplay in general is a test of your skill at platforming, but also your ability to explore an area and take full advantage of the abilities at your disposal. If you die, you get kicked back to a checkpoint, and they’re frequent, so you never feel like you’re stuck repeating the same task, but it isn’t completely without consequence for perfectionists, since your timer is penalized for it.
The graphics aren’t much to speak of, but they’re done in a charming style reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon trying to invoke 1950s sci-fi horror movies, and so is the sound. The animations during cutscenes are a bit stiff, but it somehow feels right.
The only complaint I really have about the game is the length of the story mode, which is rather short, but it does have considerable replay value since every stage has a rating for pickups, items to absorb, number of blobs rescued, and time. Perfectionists and completionists can try to get 100% of everything in each stage. Overall, it’s a charming title and good fun that challenges your reflexes and your puzzle skills. Tales from Space: About a Blob is a solid first effort from DrinkBox Studios, and I recommend not only buying this game, but keeping a close eye on their future titles.