Tales From Space: About A Blob Review
02-24-2011, 11:57 PM
Tales From Space: About A Blob Review
Tales From Space: About A Blob
Platform: PlayStation Network (PS3)
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
These blobs have the munchies.
Familiar concept but unique execution.
Imagine being an extraterrestrial blob stuck on lame planet inhabited by hostile humans, sounds exciting, right? Not really but who cares, as although it sounds boring it's actually quite amazing how fun it is being a blob - with alien powers, that is. Now before you get all excited, this game has an ESRB rating of "E" so don't expect any gruesome abilities but fear not as the family-friendly powers you're limited to are still rather entertaining. Munching on almost everything in sight may not sound very original but sure is fun. About A Blob uses a similar concept to that of the Katamari Damacy series where the more you consume, the larger your character (in this case a blob) becomes except it uses a 2D platforming approach.
Bigger is better, at least in this game. In order to advance through all 17 levels you'll have to overcome some of the size-based obstacles found in each that prevent you from advancing without reaching a certain size. This means you'll have to munch on whatever your blob can digest which luckily is pretty much everything (including humans, except there's no benefit in doing so). There are some restrictions with your diet though as while your blob is still small you cannot consume larger objects until you've gained a few pounds so at times you'll find yourself scavenging for small treats like hamburgers, pencils, and dice until you can eventually munch on bigger meals such as tanks and helicopters. Chowing down edible objects will also restore health as although there is no damage from falling, your blob is still vulnerable to enemy attacks, dangerous environments, and traps, particularly lasers. As for combat, there are no formal weapons but anything you consume can be used as a projectile which comes in handy for taking down enemies or overcoming certain obstacles. Any object that is shot, can be retrieved by the press of a button as well so there's no need to stress over throwing it out of reach. It's just one of the many perks of being an alien blob.
Level variety at its best:
Lately I've been disappointed in the amount of games that attempt to stretch the level count by poorly recycling concepts used previously instead of making each a memorable experience. Fortunately, About A Blob not only offers quantity but upholds quality in its 17 levels. While the primary objective is generally the same, both the puzzles and the atmospheric presentation of each usually vary significantly. Every boss has its own pattern as well so you'll have to memorize a different strategy for each one. Another redeeming aspect is the fact that new things are introduced at a moderate pace keeping the player engaged. For the first couple of levels, it seems as though your blob is nothing more than a cheap science fair experiment with an endless appetite but you'll soon discover that it also possess the power of magnetism and electricity which provide some rather interesting environment interaction. Both of these powers have two polarities, the magnetism can either attract or repel magnetic objects while the electric power drains or releases energy. Each choice is used in different scenarios as sometimes you want to stick to a pipe so it comes in handy to use magnetism whereas other times you'll want to avoid getting too close to magnetic objects which is where the repel comes in handy as you will instead avoid them and use that force to your advantage. The same goes with the electricity as sometimes you'll be draining some electric generators while other times you'll want to juice up something (such as a motorboat for instance).
Magnetism at its finest.
Although frustrating difficulty spikes don't exist but there are a few unexpected challenges that catch the player off-guard a bit. Boss fights are usually on the challenging side but are quite reasonable as they rely on figuring out a pattern as mentioned before. It pretty much comes down to having quick reflexes and knowing when to strike. As for checkpoints, every boss fight has its own checkpoint while each level has several in reasonable spots so in the rare event that you do die or become stuck, you can re-spawn in a convenient location. There is no penalty for doing so either but it'll obviously increase the amount of time spent on a level which isn't good if you're going for a speed run to claim your fame on the online leaderboards.
Avoid the jaws of death.
While About A Blob is great alone, it's much more enjoyable with someone else. Unfortunately, you'll be limited to local support though as online co-op isn't currently supported. However, you probably wouldn't want to play with a complete stranger over PSN anyway as things can get a bit ugly if your partner isn't too friendly as in the words of a team-killed FPS player, "Friendly-fire is on, dude!" Due to this, you'll want to make sure your partner doesn't get aggressive and under the same token you don't want to rough them up by accident either. Working together to overcome puzzles is an absolute blast though and can result in some hilarious moments as well due to the occasional accidental foul play.
Just hanging out.
To balance out some of the possible foul play, both blobs can "feed" each other too by sharing their food (if you want to call it that). Apparently hygiene is not an issue for these blobs. Food sharing occurs when a blob fires out an object for the other one to consume it. This comes in handy when the size quota hasn't been fulfilled and there are no nearby objects to munch on as players can exchange food to meet this. As for differences, every level is basically the same except you're able to work with another blob. However, there is a wandering off the screen penalty for the player that stays out of focus, a timer appears warning them to get close to the other player otherwise death will ensue. Luckily, while playing co-op, death is not an issue as long as one player is still alive as after a few seconds the dead blob will be able to re-spawn.
Dr. Blob approved.
A blobtastic masterpiece:
Normally such co-op oriented titles rarely shine while played alone but About A Blob definitely begs to differ. Ideally you'll want to play it with someone else, however, it's not necessary as the game is still enjoyable even if you're a lone wolf so I recommend it regardless of whether or not you have someone else to play with. Each level technically only takes about 6-10 minutes or so to complete on average but will easily take much longer due to the amount of collectibles present. There are awards associated to completion as well, in order to get the gold one for example, you'll have to complete a level 100% by gathering all the special orbs in the level and finding all the hidden blob friends lurking in not-so-obvious locations. Attempting to do so will easily increase the playtime. I spent approximately 5 hours or so completing the game solo (without striving for 100% on any level) which isn't a bad deal at $15 if you plan on coming back to achieve completion awards, speed run, or replay them with a friend. DrinkBox Studios deserves kudos for their great work and proper execution of a unique approach of an existing concept.
+Fun co-op & playing alone doesn't suck
+Online leaderboards to brag about speed runs
-No online co-op
-Unless you're a speed run addict or obsessed with collectibles, not really worth replaying under single player which might put off some players at its $15 price tag
-Boss fights can become tedious
Tales From Space: About A Blob consumes the galaxy with an appetite level of 8.5/10 starving aliens. Platformer fans should grab the trial at the very least.
A review copy was used to evaluate the game.
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