Review: de Blob (Steam)

If you’d have to choose just one thing to admire about de Blob, that would have to be its refreshing looks, despite the fact this game made its debut on the iOS and Wii platforms in 2008. That’s a nine-year gap between the original version and its solid PC port. You got that right since de Blob is a great remake, if you will. It runs and looks best on its PC version, but that’s hardly news for Steam gamers. I never played the console or mobile counterparts, so I really didn’t know what to expect and I was still pleasantly surprised. The concept and characters are the initial project of several students from the Utrecht University. THQ were impressed by what they saw and bought the rights to de Blob franchise.

The Wii version was apparently very popular and the sales figures alone, prompted developer Blue Tongue Entertainment and publisher THQ, to begin work on a sequel, which launched in 2011. If we ever wish to see de Blob 2 on the Steam Store, then we should hope that the current title fares as well with the buyers and players as it does with the critics. And in case you were wondering (since Blue Tongue closed its doors in 2011), this PC port has be skillfully adapted by Blitworks, industry veterans which have ported to PCs, countless quality games in the last decade. History lesson’s over.

Players assume control of “de Blob”, a cute little abstract creature formed from certain liquids such as water or paint. We’ll just call him Blob from now on and refer to him as male, despite no clearly defined gender. Our hero is part of the revolutionary Color Underground. A guerrilla on a mission to free their homeworld and its capital, Chroma City, from the evil clutches of the INKT Corporation. The antagonists are more likely resembling an oppressive regime and an occupying army, than a firm. Comrade Black is their supreme leader and his goals seem simplistic and confusing at the same time. INKT wishes to rid the world of color and impose a literal black & white vision in regards to all aspects of life.

I am fully aware that de Blob is geared towards a younger audience, but that’s no reason for adults not to enjoy it and look for a deeper meaning than “those are the bad guys and you fight for the good ones”. Some mature themes do surface, such as intolerance and how to perceive or deal with it, along with tyranny and complicity to it. The silent majority and the need for a providential savior. Do not get me wrong, the game is light-hearted in nature and that is perfectly fine. Yet it is far from superficial since it contains sufficient metaphors for most gamers to enjoy discovering them.

The graphics engine in de Blob is custom made in-house while getting some assistance from the Havok physics engine. This practice of using middleware is quite common for the video games that can afford it and Havok physics are among the best in their branch. It would have been easy to just say that the game has aged well, but de Blob has been adapted to PC. I hope you realize that console or mobile games have to sacrifice “minor details” such as antialiasing or shadow and lighting effects in order to ensure at least 30fps. The PC port I’m reviewing today? Runs buttery smooth on 4K@60fps. No crashes, no glitches or bugs. The camera controls are a bit finicky, but that’s not something practice won’t correct, by the time you spent an hour in-game. Soon enough you’ll be doing all sorts of stunts while wondering how you became so skilled at it, in such a short time span.

If you think de Blob is just another 3D platformer on Steam, well the soundtrack insists on proving you wrong. Most platformers I played so far on Steam, had a handful of annoying or repetitive sounds which couldn’t even qualify as a worthy OST. Blob gets to bring Chroma City back to life (and color) while being constantly accompanied by a selection of jazz and disco songs. These instrumentals playing in the background offer players the chance to choose between them, at the start of each new area. They are designated as “moods” and they really offer a replayability factor of their own. As a self-declared fan of instrumental music (from epic to jazz), I couldn’t be more happy with what I heard while playing de Blob!

Watching the game’s hero paint the city, one building at a time, you begin to understand why the gameplay is so captivating and even inspired the Splatoon series. Chroma City under INKT is a literal blank canvas just waiting for the skilled hands of a determined painter. Blob takes his freedom figher role very seriously and he’ll get plenty of help in his crusade to bring color back to every corner of the city. Speaking of which, Chroma is divided into separate areas which you may revisit anytime after you brought them back to their former glory. Based on how many challenges you completed already, new sections and unlockables become available.

It may seem like grinding but it pays off in the end, to paint a large percentage of each distinct area of the city. In a way, de Blob also reminded me of Lantern, an indie game which featured a similar mechanic of bringing color back to an otherwise black & white environment. For something as simple as this, it’s satisfying to see it in action but Blob ups the ante by performing all sorts of stunts which really portray him as Chroma City’s very own superhero.

As you can imagine, Comrade Black and his henchmen will put up an increasingly more concentrated fight against your efforts to restore peace. INKT shall not only summon tough foot soldiers carrying their titular ink guns, but also throw all kinds of mechanized units, which require both patience and dexterity from Blob, if players wish to succeed in defeating them. Ink will quickly deplete your hit points (more precisely, paint points) so you must find a water source as soon as you get hit by “inkies”. You can discover most of the painting mechanics by yourselves and the game features some very thorough tutorials along with low-difficulty initial challenges which manage to accommodate even genre beginners.

De Blob’s hands down one of the best 3D platformers I ever played and since I no longer own a console nor do I intend to own one in the foreseeable future, I’ll have to contend with the genre representatives on PC. Most console ports to PC are abysmal from a technical perspective but luckily, de Blob is a noteworthy exception. For the sheer amount of activities and replay value, I’m more than willing to agree that its current Steam price tag is justified, even without those extras which Steam collectors covet. Perhaps Trading Cards may be added within a future update? I’m hoping more for a de Blob 2 Steam edition, to be honest. It has to happen sooner rather than later.

All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.


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