-- THQ's new video game de Blob for the Nintendo Wii introduces an exciting gelatinous hero who defeats bad guys by painting a city vibrant colors. And he does his thing with music that changes depending on how you play. Sound intriguing? It is. But is it right for your child? Maybe not.
Using Pixar-quality video cut scenes that are charming and humorous, de Blob involves the evil Comrade Black, leader of I.N.K.T. Corp., whose colorless drones took over Chroma City and sucked all the color out of it. Fighting through ink spills, electric shots, hot plates and ink cannons to restore color and hip music to the city are de Blob and the Color Revolutionaries.
De Blob can roll over a can of paint and absorb its color. He can then roll over objects and touch sides of buildings to paint them the color he has absorbed. As he paints, patterns can also appear in the color. Because you control de Blob, he becomes your paintbrush as you try to restore color to the city. He also generates music as he absorbs paint and touches things, with each color and building creating a different riff in the musical score. It is a mesmerizing experience to roll through a gray city painting it in vibrant colors and making it pulse with music.
As you play your way through the 10 levels representing different sectors of Chroma City, you control de Blob using the analog stick on the Wii's nunchuk controller to make him roll and flipping the Wii remote down to make him jump. He can even bounce up onto a side of a building and then roll down the whole block painting it as he goes.
Early on you are introduced to other members of the Color Revolutionaries who have challenges for you. These challenges vary and get progressively more difficult. In some, you are tasked with painting specific areas certain colors in a limited time. In others, you combat I.N.K.T. soldiers, the Inkies, by squishing them before they spray you with black ink. Some challenges have you racing through the city, figuring out how to get to out-of-the-way places in a limited time. The challenges earn you points, as does simply painting the city. You need to collect points to open gates within each level so that you can move through the neighborhoods of Chroma City. And you can't just dawdle, because these levels are timed.
Playing de Blob on the first few levels is exciting and fun. The levels slowly introduce new elements and challenges to the game play, so you stay intrigued. Because there are only the three primary colors of paint available, you learn to mix them to create new colors. You'll also discover that you can rinse off de Blob in clear water, and that the more paint de Blob absorbs, the bigger he becomes. All of this is tied into the painting challenges.
So what's not to like? At about the third level, the difficulty of the game play ratchets up. If you're inked too many times by the Inkies, you will lose and have to start the level over, frequently having to invest an additional hour of replay time because there are no save points in the middle of the level. The final levels of the game are geared to skilled gamers only.
What's also frustrating is that the game has an easier "Free Paint" mode where you can play through the story levels without enemies or time limits, which would be perfect for less-skilled players or players who just want to enjoy exploring this fascinating world with no pressure. But you can't get to this mode until you play through on the harder story mode.
"De Blob" is an uncomfortable fit for most of its audience. The first part of the game is too easy for hard-core gamers, and the last part is too hard for young children and casual players. With a few simple changes, de Blob could have been a top-rated game for a wide audience. Too bad the developers didn't offer an easy mode that you could access right away that had no time limits, but unlimited lives and frequent save points.
If your kids are sophisticated gamers over the age of 10 who like challenging platform puzzle play, this is an imaginative game. Its cute paint-splattering hero will help kids (and adults) to find their inner Picasso while they jive to a musical score that they help create. It also has a fun multiplayer mode for up to four people.