Hands-on at E3 / A Boy and His Blob

A Boy and His Blob is hands down one of the best looking games I saw at E3, not just in its incredible animation style, but the entire product that WayFoward is delivering. They’ve gone all out to bring the game up to date, but kept the classic style of gameplay. More importantly though the boy and his blob are amazingly living and thriving. In the brief demo I saw I became more attached to the two characters than any others I saw at the show and most characters I’ve played as in any game.

In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about and how a game can have such a strange name as A Boy and His Blob, we’ll do a little background here. The original game is a classic NES side-scroller that follows the adventures of a boy who finds a blob and must then save the blob’s planet together. The blob takes different shapes depending on the jelly bean flavor he is fed. Toss out a blue jelly bean and you’ve got yourself a ladder, making for some incredibly unique platforming/puzzle action. Sadly the game died out after its first iteration.

Enter WayForward, the guys who revived Contra on the DS  with Contra 4 (yes, I yelled at them for how hard that game was). They’ve taken the game and brought it back and I’m very excited.

The level we saw was pretty early in the game, but perfectly demonstrated the gameplay. Some changes have been made since the original, including new jelly beans and powers (like an anvil for smashing blocks and a bouncing ball to ride on), a smaller difficulty curve and a whole crap ton of levels. In fact the game not only features a plethora of standard levels, but will also include over 40 bonus challenge levels once you complete the game. During my talk with the Sean Velasco, the game’s director, the subject of letting anyone into the game came up often, but not to worry as the extra challenge levels are going to get ridiculously, well, challenging.

But it wasn’t the puzzle solving levels that really caught my eye. It’s the character that WayForward has infused in every inch of the boy and his blob. The animation style allows for such emotive (word?) characters that two completely silent characters (except for the boy’s shouts to the blob) become instantly alive with the sort of polished character that most games would kill for. Think the emotiveness you saw in Windwaker, but more adorable. There are even commands to hug and scold the blob which result in the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in videogame history. Hopefully I don’t turn anyone off by saying cute because this is going to be one of the best games of the year beyond a doubt.

The level we saw demonstrated how the boy can place his jellybeans far easier and demoed how, much like in the original, you dodge enemies by creating a hole in the ground. For instance turn the blob into a hole and a charging beast will fall in it, then turn the blob into a ladder and you can climb up the wall that was impeding your way. Unlike in the original game, the boy will have infinite jellybeans, meaning the focus will be far more based around simply solving the puzzles of the level and not keeping track of how many jellybeans you have. While that will obviously decrease the difficulty of the game, I welcome it as the original’s jellybean limitations were more aggravating than challenging, and since these are the guys who brought us Contra 4 you know that the challenge levels and the secret treasures in each level are going to be a pain in the ass to get. Plus you just can’t stay upset at that damn adorable blob… even his transformations are adorable.

I hesitate to toss out game of the show to a game I didn’t even play, but now that we’re a few days out, A Boy and His Blob is one of the games that I still desperately want to play over almost every other. Now I’m aware not everyone has a 2D puzzle/platform itch like I do, but if you do this game is going to scratch you good. As a side note, I was not the only journalist to be dumbfounded by how adorable the game is. The devs informed me that at the time of my meeting they were on an 18/18 streak of making journalists say “Awwwwww.”