A Boy and His Blob
|A Boy and His Blob|
European cover art
|Series||A Boy and His Blob|
|Distribution||Wii optical disc|
A Boy and His Blob is a platform-puzzle video game developed by WayForward Technologies and published by Majesco Entertainment for the Wii. It was released in North America on October 13, 2009, and in Europe on November 6, 2009. It is a re-imagining of the Nintendo Entertainment System title, A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia.
WayForward's director Sean Velasco, a fan of the original NES title, expressed a desire to re-create and update the experience for current generation gamers, streamlining the NES title's gameplay mechanics to create a more "forgiving" experience.
A Boy and His Blob's art direction has received widespread critical acclaim and praise, and was utilized by the developers, in addition to a minimalistic story, in order to create a "heartwarming...and friendly game" accessible to a wide audience.
A Boy and His Blob is a 2D puzzle platformer. The main characters progress through a variety of levels with various obstacles to get to the end of the level and move on to the next. The protagonist feeds the blob jelly beans in order to transform it into one of fifteen different objects that can be used to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Unlike the NES game in which only the jellybean flavor was displayed, the Wii version uses a more intuitive menu that shows each transformation. By calling for Blob, it will revert out of its transformation and follow the boy, who can also scold it to make it stay put. The boy will die if he touches an enemy or other hazards, or falls from a great height.
"...to journey deeper into most stages, you must tap the Z button, which cues the jelly bean wheel. Here, you'll find a wide assortment of beans that, when fed to the [blob], induce his changes into convenient tools. A ladder for climbing; an anvil for dropping on enemies' heads; a cannon for shooting the boy to otherwise unattainable areas; a spaceship for flying around stages; a crank for lifting platforms and obstructions; a bouncy ball for floating across waters; a trampoline for springing into the air; and even a hole so that the boy can fall through platforms to walkways below."
The game has pre-set stages surrounding a central hub. In addition, every 10 stages concludes the current hub with a boss battle. The game consists of 80 stages; 40 standard levels and 40 hidden challenge levels unlocked by collecting three chests hidden within a standard level. The 40 standard levels provide an average of ten hours of gameplay. The protagonist has access to an unlimited amount of jelly beans, although the type availability is pre-set at the beginning of each level. Completing challenge levels unlocks bonus developer material such as concept art and story boards.
A Boy and His Blob does not utilize the Wii Remote's motion detection or IR controls, and is controlled either by the Wii Remote (with the Nunchuk accessory) or by the Wii Classic Controller. Many reviewers have noted the "hug" button, which serves no in-game purpose except to hug the blob companion.
The planet Blobolonia is threatened by an evil emperor, and the titular "blob" flees to Earth seeking help. It crash-lands on Earth and finds the eponymous "boy". They team up in order to dethrone the evil emperor, first by completing a quest on Earth and then by traveling to Blobolonia. Along the way, minions of the Emperor attempt to stop them.
WayForward's director Sean Velasco, a fan of the original NES title, felt the series "had a ton of potential" and was "a title whose time had come to be re-imagined." He felt the title would be a natural fit for WayForward's signature proprietary animation and 2D visuals. The rights to the series originally belonged to Absolute Entertainment, but Majesco Entertainment was able to acquire the rights after Absolute went bankrupt in 1995. WayForward, already having a positive working relationship with Majesco, pitched the "idea of [creating] a very heartwarming Boy and Blob, and having a very friendly game" that both improved upon the usability of the original title and featured 2D hand-drawn animation "reminiscent of animated movies from the '80s." The designer of the NES title and co-founder of Activision, David Crane, was not involved with the Wii title. However, the new developers expressed respect for both him and his work when creating the new title.
In terms of faithfulness to the original NES title, producer Robb Alvey explained "(it's about) the original spirit of the game and creating something for this generation of gamers. If you're familiar with the original game, you'll recognize immediately the homage we pay to its origin. And if you've never played the original, it's not going to feel like anything 'retro'." Sean Velasco similarly expressed that the game is a "re-imagining" of the original title instead of a direct sequel or remake. Some changes made to the gameplay include frequent save checkpoints and unlimited jellybeans.
Marc Gomez, as art director, was responsible for most of the game's signature look and feel. He wanted to do something very soft, inspired by the works of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. The decision to make the boy "much younger and rounder" than his NES counterpart was also Marc's, as was the idea of making the blob "a more faithful companion (similar to) a dog." With the new, younger design for the boy and the blob, Marc "wanted them to have (a) mutual need for each other... One can't progress without the other." Overall, the game has around 4,000 unique frames of animation.
In terms of the game's controls, Sean Velasco wanted something "very intuitive for the family crowd" and wanted to "avoid anything that doesn't directly serve the game itself" such as, "waggle controls simply for the sake of waggle". The "hug" button is a vestigial feature of a more fleshed out emotion system abandoned during development. Managing the blob's emotions and keeping him happy throughout the game proved too much of a hassle during testing, so the mechanics were largely thrown out. However, Sean Velasco felt the in-game hug was "too heart-melting to ignore," so it was kept.
Velasco remarked that its simplicity allowed them to create a "very heartwarming...and friendly game" and to really highlight a "major component of the game, which is the friendship between the boy and blob." Gomez explained that "everything is about subtlety. There will be hints here and there letting you in on what is taking place. The story will develop as much as the player wants to venture in the details."
The music score was composed by Daniel Sadowski.
Reception for A Boy and His Blob has been largely positive, with many reviewers commenting on the game's art design and faithfulness to the feel of the NES original. Nintendo Power called it "a super magical adventure full of mesmerizing sights and compelling gameplay" and praised that the game "can be enjoyed on multiple levels and by players of all ages," giving it a score of 8.5/10. IGN praised the game's art direction, yet criticized the control scheme and "die-and-retry nature of the level designs," awarding the game a 7.6/10. GameTrailers likewise questioned aspects of the control scheme but praised the game's puzzles and overall feel, giving the game a total score of 8.5/10.
Game Informer awarded the game an 8.0/10 (with a "second opinion" score of 8.75/10) calling the game "a stylish rebirth [of] the NES cult classic" and praising the game's learning curve, atmosphere, and nostalgia factor. However, similar to other reviews they faulted the game's "twitchy controls". Joystiq noted that A Boy and His Blob was a "really good example of how to update a classic; the game feels new, yet retains what fans love about the original experience," yet expressed frustration at the game's need to "hold [your] hand" at times by providing "hints" to a puzzle's solution in the form of overabundant signs. They noted, however, that this feature may be appreciated by younger children and casual gamers.
1UP.com gave A Boy and His Blob a B+, noting occasional problems with the blob's AI and some shortcomings in terms of the game's secondary animation, but praising the game's more "forgiving" gameplay when compared to the NES A Boy and His Blob and calling the art "gorgeous". G4TV called the game "the kind of game the Wii was designed for."
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