When the Vita launched, it came with your usual slew of high-profile, big-budget, headline-grabbing, marquee games. Let's face it, when a system launches alongside a brand new Uncharted, it's fair to assume Sony's premier gaming brand is going to be where the bulk of the attention is.
Now that initial phase in the Vita's life is behind us though, we have time to look at some of the other titles that rode the system's coat-tails to retail. One such title, and one that completely broadsided us, was Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. Sure, we'd heard about it, but the previous game from the studio, which appeared to be basically the same, didn't thrill us when we reviewed it last year.
This time around, however, Drinkbox have gotten it right. Very, very right. Not only is Mutant Blobs Attack superior to About a Blob, it's also one of the best games available on Vita - period. And at just $13.50, it's purchase is a no-brainer for Vita owners looking for something awesome to lug around with them.
But what is it? It's a platform game, essentially, where - like Katamari Damacy - you must gobble up stuff in order to get large enough to progress. The environments are loaded with hazards, however, so gaining access to that next level isn't simply a matter of pigging out and moving on. Instead, there are tricky jumps, physics-based objects to manipulate, puzzles to ponder, and loads of things to collect.
Interaction with your blobby persona is achieved primarily by way of the left stick (movement) and face buttons (jumping, slamming). However, from time to time, the way you navigate the world will change. You might, for example, enter rocket mode, in which case you need to aim with the stick and fire your rockets with X. Another example might be controlling your blob by simply tilting the Vita, while frequently you'll need to rearrange the levels by sliding your finger around on the screen.
We recently suggested that Little Deviants was the best way to learn the various input options on offer with the Vita; while that game still has (a few) more than this game, Mutant Blobs Attack is an infinitely superior way to get used to them. They work - well - and they fit perfectly with the action, never feeling tacked on or superfluous.
It can get a bit tricky - both in terms of the mechanics and cerebrally - but the difficulty is nicely foiled by the smartly placed checkpoints and the game's free hand when it comes to handing out extra lives (there's no limit). It never became frustrating and, even if you slam your head against something a few times, you feel like you're figuring it out.
The level designs are extremely clever, teaching you complex world interactions with almost no tutorials or explanations necessary (or provided). Whether you're traversing a level methodically or at high speed, it always feels good, and - most importantly - fun.
It also looks superb, with a clever Nickelodeon meets pop 1950's Sci-Fi aesthetic that just oozes with flair and imagination. The rich colour palette looks amazing on the Vita's screen and the characters are packed full of personality, even though they're defined only by simple shapes and a handful of lines. Hopefully Drinkbox are paying the art guys enough to convince them to stick around; there's bound to be a dozen TV animation studios lining up to pay their salaries.
The sound is similarly bright, poppy, and closely tied in to the aesthetic. The effects in particular are clean and extremely representative of the on-screen exploits of the titular blob, which help to give the title - despite it's obvious non-existence - a sense of gravitas, as if it actually exists in some parallel dimension.
If you've got a Vita and are hankering for something to play on it, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is much more than worthy of your attention. Its refreshing take on platform-based gaming, humour, variety, challenge and polish are instantly - and enduringly - impressive. Not only is this one of the best games on the Vita, it's one of the best games of the year - period.