Review – Tales From Space: About A Blob
Posted by on February 1st, 2011 | 6 Comments | Tags: Tales From Space: About A Blob
“You play as a sort of gelatinous blob. You can eat anything smaller than you, and when you do, you grow, so you can eat bigger things.” This is how I described Tales From Space: About A Blob to my Mother when she asked me what I was doing with my free time instead of finding a job. She quizzically raised an eyebrow at me, then turned back to our lunch preparations with a roll of her eyes that showed me just how impressed she was to have paid for my four years in university. Thinking back on it, I can’t begrudge her reaction: About A Blob is a hard game to effectively describe. If my Mom had a gamer’s context, she might have easily thought it was some form of jelly-like Katamari Damacy. Screenshots might make one believe just that, except in two dimensions. Truthfully, it is more than it seems: About A Blob is an action/puzzle platformer with equal parts eating and gelatinousisity. It’s peppered with referential humour and charming touches to add spice to an otherwise challenging and enjoyable side-scroller.
By the way, my university degree is in English. That means I get to make up words like “gelatinousisity.”
Visually, About A Blob looks like something of the animated variety I might view on a Saturday morning. Comparisons can be made to Dexter’s Lab or Samurai Jack, but the visual style distinguishes itself enough to create something unique. The levels are usually pretty busy, with plenty of activity going on in the background for those who stop to take notice. One thing I love is the ever-changing sense of scale. You begin the game as a tiny blob, freshly escaped from containment and only slightly larger than a push-pin. By eating everything in sight, you grow in size, allowing you to eat larger objects and access new areas. Sometimes you might experience a part of a level multiple times, but each time as a larger blob, able to go where only larger blobs can go. Tiny blobs can only gobble up items the size of coins, but their appetites turn swiftly to apples, tubs, crates, cars, and eventually people. Tanks and helicopters that pose a serious threat early on are merely devoured near the end of the game.
For a platformer, blobs have a lot of mechanics at their disposal. In addition to standards like a “run” and wall-jumping, blobs can spit out what they’ve eaten as projectile weapons. There are also magnetic and electric powers gained permanently throughout the story mode that make for some incredibly fun (and sometimes incredibly difficult) platforming and puzzle challenges. Sometimes I was engaging all four shoulder buttons almost at once, in a true test of my controller dexterity. The deformable nature of the blobs plays into the platforming, as you can often snag a ledge with a portion of your mass and use it to jump. Sometimes jumping off of uneven surfaces can lead to unexpected results. Co-operative two-player offers some interesting opportunities for jump-boosting, since blobs can leap off each other like any other surface. The puzzles are a little easier with two players, and overall, the game is rarely hard. There are certainly some very challenging platforming sections, but death carries little repercussion. Co-op can be an exercise in frustration, however, since two blobs cannot occupy the same space; without good co-ordination, players can end up hindering each other more than helping.
The lack of online co-op is a glaring omission, though an argument can certainly be made for the value of having a person beside you to praise or berate. The game supports online leaderboards for level speed-runs, as each level has a par time to beat for a checkered flag. There are also several collectibles to find in each of the 17 stages. These two elements (speed runs and collect-a-thons) are the totality of the game’s replay value. Thankfully, the game keeps both time and collection status at the forefront when playing a level, and items already collected are considered when re-entering it for a second attempt. Overall I found the collection aspect very satisfying, while speed runs are beyond me. Chris, on the other hand… well, just check the leaderboards and you’ll see what I mean. Replaying levels is worthwhile just to catch all the various pop culture and internet meme references scattered throughout; Drinkbox Studios seems to understand my sense of humour in this regard. I really wish they had more to offer in the audio department: their music is great for evoking a 1940’s monster movie feel, but there are a limited number of music tracks, a sparse amount of sound effects, and no spoken dialogue whatsoever. I look forward to what Drinkbox can do in the audio department with a bigger budget.
Part of me wishes there were more game here for $15, but after consideration, that’s not because I think it sparse: I definitely think you are getting $15 worth of game with About A Blob, and the Playstation Store icon in the menu tells me that we’ll be seeing additional content in due time. My wife and I have been eating, spitting, zapping, hovering, squishing, and consuming everything in our path for the past week, and aside from the times when I jumped on her head to send her falling to her doom, we’ve enjoyed it all. You owe it to yourself to try the demo in the very least, and see if you can resist feeding this blob.
For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Blob-esque platforming
- Increasing sense of scale
- Clever use of mechanics
- Great sense of humour & style
What I Dislike:
- A little on the short side
- Local co-op only
- Co-op players can easily interfere with each other