Looking out my window right now, I pretty much just see gray. The sky’s clouded, the house across the street is beige, the leaves are all but gone from the trees, and even most of the cars that pass by are white, with the occasional splash of diluted red. The world we live in is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I’m in a dense town surrounded by cities, so in the time after the leaves fall off and before the holiday lights go up, everything’s just kind of… drab.
De Blob has been my escape from that for the past two weeks, and it’s been a welcome escape indeed. Originally released for the Wii over ten years ago in 2008, but was ported over to Steam, PS4, and XBOX One last year, and finally made it to Switch back in June. The version I played was the Switch version, but as it’s a direct port and not receiving of any kind of upgrade, I’m comfortable categorizing it as a Throwback Review.
The story goes like this: the INKT corporation, who are outright authoritarian bio-terrorists, have taken over Chroma City, draining all the color out of it. The buildings and landscape are pure white, and much of the water has been polluted with ink, turning it black. The formerly-colorful Raydian citizens have all been encased in white bodysuits, draining their color as well. You play as Blob, some kind of life-form capable of absorbing color and transferring it to any surface he touches.
Blob also has an extremely enviable method of conflict resolution: any problem he comes across can be solved by him slamming his body into it full force. Need some more ink? Find an inkbot (the machines who drained all the ink from Chroma City) and slam into it. Need to paint a building? Throw those paint rollers away, just get some ink and slam into it. INKT soldier in your way? Throw yourself into them at full force. Need to break the Raydians out of the INKT suits? Rolling over them will do fine, but you can also SLAM THEM.
Each level is divided into sectors, and each sector after the first takes a certain amount of color points to unlock. You get color points by completing challenges, finding them throughout the levels, or slamming your body into things. The challenges come in 4 types: color challenges, which involve painting a collection of buildings a certain color; races, where you follow a series of markers, usually to teach you how to navigate parts of a level; battles, where you’ll have to fight off a wave or two of INKT soldiers; and landmarks, where you’ll have to hit a special, otherwise unpaintable building with a number of points in a specific colors.
The level design is fantastic, with each sector being big enough for you to play around in while not being unnecessarily large. Whenever you start a level, you’re overwhelmed with the clinical mass of whites and grays facing you. There’s no one but soldiers and inkbots around, every building is white, even the sky and water are completely unsaturated. You pick a song at the beginning of each level, but it doesn’t play at the start. Music makes you happy, and there’s no happiness allowed under the oppressive INKT rule.
As you progress, though, everything gets bright and happy. On top of buildings becoming colorful, even the sky and the sea will start to get their progress back. Fully painting a street or block of buildings will release all the Raydians inside, and rolling over them will break them out of their containment, revealing the colorful civilians inside. Unlocking a certain point threshold will also unlock a “transform engine”, usually placed in a beach or park, which will restore the area around it back to its natural glory. Between the slow change in the natural surroundings, the buildings being changed by your hand, the music slowly starting to swell, and the Raydians you’ve freed running around and cheering for you, finishing each section is immensely satisfying, and I love how profound your impact on the world is.
The basic mechanics are simple: every inkbot you smash gives you ten paint points. Touching a building will paint it that color at the cost of one paint point. Some of the color missions will require you to have a certain color, which is easy enough to get. The color mixing is simple as it comes: inkbots are red, yellow, blue, which you can combine to get orange, green, and purple. Combining all three primary colors makes you brown. The basic INKT soldiers can be bashed at the cost of one paint point, but later enemies will cost increasingly more paint, with turrets eventually costing 50, half your maximum capacity. Elite soldiers come into the fray later as well, requiring a certain color to crush them. Fortunately, the levels are laid out in such a way where you’ll be able to get the right color before or during a fight with them.
Unfortunately, there are a few small flaws. There are some light platforming elements, but Blob isn’t the best at platforming. He gets bigger the more paint he absorbs, which changes his physics slightly, and he also has a tendency to stick to walls, which can sometimes be useful but sometimes just make you miss your jump entirely. On top of that, because so many of your problems get solved by smashing Blob into things, the auto-target sometimes hits something you don’t want, which can mean you smash a paintbot of the wrong color while fighting elites, or jump down to lower ground and have to try to get back up.
Those are minor gripes, however, and are really only temporary annoyances in an otherwise fantastic game. The soundtrack really helps carry it, all the songs are pleasantly funky accompaniments to your color quest, and while there is a track corresponding to each level, you can pick any song you’ve unlocked so far, so if you want to replay a level you can just put on your favorite. When combined with the songs leaking more and more in the further you’ve progressed in a sector, alongside the little jazz hits that play every time you color in a building, the music really takes De Blob above and beyond.
There’s not too much challenge here, which certainly isn’t a complaint, I very much enjoyed how relaxing most of the game is. There’s a time limit, but you get so many time bonuses, you won’t have any problem meeting it. I’ve yet to 100% a level, maybe I’ll try that soon, but simply combing through each level, doing all the challenges and looking around for hidden secrets goes a long way, and I finished most levels with around 90%. Each sector requires a certain amount of points to unlock, and I had enough to unlock the exit around 60% through most levels, so completion certainly isn’t mandatory.
If you’re looking for a relaxing but satisfying game, especially to pick you up on a bad day, pick up De Blob. Its ceaseless vibrance and cheery music are sure to put you in a good mood, and you’ll rarely find more than a brief moment of frustration unless you’re looking for 100% completion. I’m looking forward to the sequel, and considering the recent ports… who knows? Maybe there’s a De Blob 3 on the way. That’d make my holiday season.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.