Backloggery Beatdown: A Boy and His Blob

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Though A Boy and His Blob lacks the kind of complexity that would justify an extended written treatise and would be better suited for the traditional video game review format, I decided that it deserved a “Backloggery Beatdown” post simply because it is one of the most delinquent games in my catalog. After having exhausted all the heavy-hitting games in my Wii collection, I began researching niche games such as Deadly Creatures, Zack and Wiki, and de Blobgames whose purpose was not to sell millions, but simply provide entertainment that does not require the wife and kids to be put to bed. A Boy and His Blob (ABaHB) was part of this collection, and while I completed the aforementioned games, ABaHB evolved into an insurmountable task that has taken me years to conquer.

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It’s one thing to defend the hand-holding because ABaHB targets children as its primary audience, but I believe that that is a gross assumption. The difficulty of ABaHB scales beyond what I would expect the average kid to tolerate before they become frustrated. Death is common, and the expectation its frequency is confirmed by the invisible multiple invisible (respawn) checkpoints throughout the stages. So if this game is really intended for advanced players, why so many teleprompted clues to obstacles and puzzles?

How did ABaHB linger for so long? Well, it was fun at first. The novelty of bold colors and hand-drawn animation in an era of gaming dominated by high polygon counts and grayscale palettes was refreshing. Ignoring the hand-holding of the massive wooden signs with painted icons representing the appropriate jelly bean for the following puzzle, the surges of pleasure felt after discovering that the hulking black enemy blobs cannot be smashed with an anvil Blob but can be used to cross otherwise impossible terrain, or riding Blob across water in his form that resembles a punching balloon attached to a rubber band satisfied. I even prided myself in finding the three treasure chests that would unleash one ball of energy each at the conclusion of each stage in order to unlock additional bonus levels that unlock Easter eggs like artwork for the game when they, too, are completed. I was uninterested in the knickknacks; I was playing for 100% completion. Unfortunately, my quest for 100% is perhaps responsible for my burnout of the game.

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There are plenty of chances in this game to pull off the ol’ anvil crush gag. Again, why is this sign necessary if the game has already taught players how to use the anvil? If anything, this enemy NOT dying should come as a surprising discovery for players.

All the things that I enjoyed in ABaHB began to irritate me the longer the game lasted. Every meticulously crafted frame of animation taunted me as the game atrophied from a reasonable pace to sheer lethargy. Why couldn’t I animation cancel this kid landing from high elevation? Why can’t this kid run like every other character in a platform game ever? Then again, ABaHB resembles more of a puzzle/platform get-hit-once-and-die hybrid like Braid or Limbo (actually, Limbo is a dark mimetic of ABaHB) than a Mario or Rayman game. The wooden clues that I could previously forgive deteriorated into tediously static insults as I pressed on, and I began to wonder what idiot needed to be reminded to use the bowling ball jelly bean through narrow crevices nine hours deep into the game. AND WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO MAKE THIS GAME DRAG ON FOR OVER TEN HOURS? I mean, I get it: WayForward developed a game that sold for near-MSRP at launch and wanted to include enough content to justify the price, but it’s not a good look when I begin to wonder how much longer I have to go to finish a game because it has overstayed its welcome. As far as my treasure chest hunt is concerned,  I could not assuage my OCD completionist mentality into dormancy, so I kept collecting them just in case I would ever want to go back and do the bonus stages. That interval is a lot closer to “never” than “ever,” as I quit doing those bonus stages in year two of owning this game. The fact that I have to walk across the stage selection screen and scale a ladder every time I wanted to play them is certainly an unintended deterrent.

Watching the above video for about three minutes will reveal everything that I simultaneously adore and loathe about this game. The loading screens tend to be cute, but they’re still loading screens as if this is the PS1 era. How many assets does this game require to run? The sequence involving Blob’s death and resurrection wholly captures the relationship between the boy and Blob, and its ultimate transformation into the robot armor is a wonderful climax. Yet for all the cool fx (How is something organic like Blob generating those sounds anyway?) and pseudo invulnerability that this transformation offers, it is as clunky as one would expect from such an apparatus, and my goodness, the number of times that it will be necessary to transform Blob back and forth between the robot and the few other transformations up until the final boss almost made me quit the game AGAIN! That transformation is neat the first 20 times. After that? Ugh.

I have to reiterate that ABaHB is not a bad game. My feelings toward this game may be more symptomatic of the “too much of a good thing” effect. If this were Mario, I probably would applaud it for lasting longer than I expected, which was honestly just the first map. At the same time, I don’t think it’s worth tracking down for more than $15. I should also mention that this game is a sort of remake or spiritual successor of A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia for the NES, but I am sorry to say that that is about as far as my knowledge goes in that regard.

**Feel free to make requests for me to play through games on my Backloggery for future articles in the comments. You can also hit me up on Twitter @AbsoluteZero0K.**

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Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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