The biggest problem with being a “hardcore” Wii owner (and the reason mine has been gathering dust since I finished Twilight Princess) is knowing which titles from the Wii’s extensive library are that worst kind of shovelware that seems to do well in the charts and which are the true gems of ingenuity and creativity. One game that certainly makes a strong case to fall into that second category is de Blob from Blue Tongue and THQ.
The premise of de Blob is simple: The vibrant city of Chroma is invaded by the evil INKT Corporation who, like all good authoritarian overlords, suck the colour out of the beautiful city and repress its population. It’s your job, as the eponymous Blob to bounce around the monochromatic wasteland, painting and liberating as you go. If this concept doesn’t appeal to you then you may as well stop reading now, the game establishes the premise within the first few minutes of play and remains true to it throughout.
As a game, the challenge that faces de Blob is how it takes this deceptively simple idea and develops it into a challenging, entertaining and often creative experience.
With any game that is inherently about colour and vibrancy, having strong visuals is a necessity. The whole point of de Blob is about bringing life to a bland and dull landscape so making sure it hits the mark graphically is a worthy challenge, especially for a Wii game. Luckily for de Blob it manages to do this beautifully and puts to rest any myth that the Wii cannot produce gorgeous yet also appropriate visuals. The characters and environments are simple yet bold and infinitely interesting. The beauty of this title is that because so much of the game play is about changing those environments, what you see before you is dynamic, constantly changing and totally under your control.
The second uncomfortable conversation that needs to be had about Wii games are the controls. So often developers find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place when deciding just how much to rely on the motion sensitivity (if at all). de Blob takes a very conservative approach and views the motion sensitivity with a justified amount of suspicion. Quite regularly during gameplay you’ll be required to paint certain areas certain colours whilst avoiding certain hazards, when this amount of precision is called upon relying on the often unresponsive and clumsy waggle functionality would be a poor choice. For this reason, the only time you’ll be waving your arms about is to jump and attack other enemies. Just enough to remind you that you are in fact playing this game on the Wii.
Speaking of attacking, de Blob features a targeting system for dealing enemies and a handful of quicktime events. This mechanic works fine when faced with a single target but in order to handily deal with a pack of them you have to press and release Z between each successive attack in order to work your way through the group. Combined with the swinging motion of your other arm this is the gaming equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy (fine if you can do it but bloody annoying if you can’t). Furthermore, it is completely out of tune with the rest of games ultra-accessible and controls which involve little more than moving around with the nun chuck’s joystick and jumping with the Wii remote. More than once I found myself getting chewed up by INKT’s minions whilst desperately waving my right arm and wondering why Blob wasn’t attacking only to realise I still had to release Z for the next target. There is something counter-intuitive about asking players to take the pressure off a targeting button in the heat of a fight; instinct can often compel them to just concentrate on using whatever they think is attack, slamming on everything else, until all enemies are lying dead.
Generally speaking though, the controls are top notch. Never obtrusive or over complicated whilst remaining subtle enough to involve a decent amount of skill.