A blob of adventure

If you owned a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) back in the day, the quirky title A Boy and His Blob might be a game you remember enjoying, if only as a strange amusement.

If you owned a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) back in the day, the quirky title A Boy and His Blob might be a game you remember enjoying, if only as a strange amusement.

The plot focused around a titular boy and blob combo: the boy of the ordinary variety, and the blob a jiggly creature from outer space. Together, the two went on an adventure through a somewhat open-ended (for an 8-bit game) world.

The boy fed his extraterrestrial friend jelly beans which, when eaten by the blob, would transform him into objects to help navigate the world. Different colored beans turned the blob into things like holes, bridges and ladders.

Although, generally, those that do remember the NES original look back on it fondly, it still was little more than a whimsical curiosity for most because of the game’s extremely obscure directives. Everything about the game was ambiguous, and frequently when you stumbled into a new area, strange (and often deadly) things left you with little direction.

Things are still left mostly unexplained in 2009’s Boy and His Blob reimagining, but that’s a good thing. The game retains its platform and puzzle roots, but it’s been updated for the current generation with gorgeous hand-drawn visuals and animation, as well as a slightly more streamlined gameplay approach.

The plot of the game and your blob’s transformative mechanics remain the same, but the game is broken up into four worlds with 10 levels each, rather than the scrolling, open-ended affair of the original. What’s great about Blob is that, even with its modern trappings, its design is pretty old school.

Aside from having unlimited lives to beat a level, this one feels a lot like another old school series, Oddworld, before it made the transition to 3-D. Traversing through levels and avoiding traps, pitfalls and enemies will keep you cerebrally challenged. Blob hardly plays by modern games’ rules, and has no real handholding.

What makes the game fun is that the boy has no real abilities. He can jump, throw jellybeans and talk to his blob (there’s also an adorable hug button, as well as a scold one), but that’s about it. He is helpless but for the blob’s abilities.

And what a list that is: Your blobby friend can turn into a parachute, an anvil to break rocks (or the game’s squishy black enemies), a giant ball the boy can run around in, a spaceship, a hydraulic lift and lots of others.

As in the original, the key to success is the proper use of the blob’s various forms at the right time. So if you’re, say, stranded on a platform surrounded by water, you can use the blob’s bouncy ball to ride across the water and get to the other side.

Or, if you’re on a high platform with an enemy below, just have the blob turn into a hole, walk through it, quickly have your blob turn into a ladder to avoid the enemy and throw down another hole to catch the baddie in afterward.

Those are easy examples, but you get the idea. The puzzle-ish nature of the game’s levels get much harder than that.

Sadly, Blob‘s controls aren’t quite as intuitive as they could be and make the game’s pacing a little more sluggish than necessary. Basically, switching between jellybeans, throwing them and telling your blob to chase is kind of clunky. Throughout the game I found myself accidentally hitting the wrong button. It’s kind of a wonky setup.

But this is a minor issue, for the most part. Overall, Blob is charming, challenging and fun. The game is an aesthetic feast, with colorful and mostly detailed 2-D environs, while the sprites often resemble something you might see in a Hayao Miyazaki film.

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning, with low-key, ethereal tracks that really enhance the sense of wonder the game attempts to impart. And then there’s your blob itself—he’s ridiculously adorable (even if he does bear more than a passing resemblance to Bleep and Bloop from The Herculoids).

Despite its cartoony exterior though, Blob’s indie-style design sensibilities defy a lot of the game’s mainstream conventions. Chalk this one up as a win for old school adventure, which, in my book, is always a good thing.