Tales from Space: About a Blob


By: Dene Benham    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Monday 14 Feb 2011 10:00 AM
 
 
 
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The alien invasion is coming, and it is not going to be pretty. But it’s not city-sized battlecruisers or sentient insects. The aliens are little jellies. Jellies that fit into the palm of your hand and like eating bricks, medical waste and bits of popcorn. In Tales from Space: About A Blob, you take control of a poor earthbound alien lifeform as it rolls and bounces around sewers, farms, cities and labs in a ruthless mission to conquer the world.

Released exclusively on the PlayStation Network, Tales From Space: About A Blob is a two dimensional puzzle/platform game with a cute (but gloopy) central character and an old time sci-fi aesthetic. Published by independent Canadian developers Drinkbox Studios, it has a relatively sedate pace that makes it feel more like a thoughtful puzzler than a regulation platform game. And although its graphics are reminiscent of those old Daffy Duck cartoons that get a bit trippy and scary, it always retains a sense of charm.

You begin as part of a interplanetary blob invasion. Unfortunately, when you reach earth you’re met with a rather large arsenal of nuclear missiles. Captured, you must escape the humans who have put you in a lab for scientific experimentation, rescue your anamorphic friends and continue with your mission of world domination.

Each of the game’s four main areas are split into half a dozen different levels, where you have to use all of your abilities to find a way past fire, acid and electrical traps, and into the next area. As a Blob, your main ability is absorbing things; as you absorb things, you get bigger. Consequently, the bigger you get, the bigger the stuff that you can absorb. By the end of the first area you’re out of the lab and into the country. So instead of sucking plugs out of sinks to crawl down drains, you’re eating cabbages and footballs and pushing around doghouse-sized crates.

But growing is not your only talent. While you can jump, dash (a much as balls of goo can dash) and absorb things, you can also spit. Spitting, while kinda nasty, isn’t nearly as nasty as you might think. Essentially, it’s the Blob’s ranged weapon. Aiming with the right stick allows you to shoot out whatever it was you sucked in last. So, if some spiky metal flying Blob catcher is throwing timed bombs at you (as sometimes happens), you can suck them up and spit them back.

Also, and very helpfully, this multi-skilled Blob can control magnetic fields. That’s right, with the front triggers you can attract and repel metals. So if there happens to be a metal wall blocking your way you can press the left trigger and climb it. Also, if there is an unreachable ledge, and the floor is metal, you can boost your jump by pressing the right trigger. All this, together with the Blob’s rather unique physics, makes About A Blob’s gameplay different to any other platformer. Unfortunately, different is not always better.

Unfortunately, the controls feel sluggish. While it’s probably intentional, moving, dashing and jumping all feel laboured. In some games you tap buttons, flick the stick around, and generally feel like you are doing impossibly complex and fluid jumps and grabs. Not in About A Blob. With this game you press X to jump and if that doesn’t work, you press x even harder. But sometimes even that doesn’t work, because reaching those ledges is often not a matter of speed or timing, but of finding more to eat.

Eating and growing is the main focus of the gameplay. On every level you are shown your current size and your Blob’s target size. Get to this target size and you will be able to get through to the next level. So you start eating small stuff to get a bit bigger, so you can eat bigger stuff to get bigger still. All to jump higher, push bigger objects around, or trip heavier switches.

While it takes a good chunk of the game to get from cabbage size to cow size, the prospect of getting to building size makes all the spitting, eating, and sliding down drains worthwhile - even if the game does lack a sense of epic scale. From beginning to end, your Blob pretty much stays the same size on the screen, and it’s the environment that changes. So, what is a bolt or a carrot at the beginning of the game may be a train later on. Either way, they’re all getting eaten and those pathetic earthlings are going to get theirs.

Tales from Space: About A Blob is a playable and original (comparisons to Katamari Damacy not withstanding) puzzler. It’s frustrating at times (as puzzlers should be) but can be made a bit easier if you play two-player. But then you have the unsavoury prospect of having to spit things into your blob buddy’s body to increase his size to get some of those two player objectives (again - it sounds worse then it actually is!). But, even with the continued existence of the human race at stake, there‘s plenty of fun to be had just eating heaps, getting to be the size of a bus and just blobbing out.


The Score

Tales from Space: About a Blob
"Charming, but with a lot of spitting."
7.8
Good
Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min

 

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