Ever heard of A Boy and His Blob? I won’t be surprised if you had; it is an old-school exploration game for the NES. You controlled a boy (well, he looked like a teenager to me when I was 7), and you needed to use his blob to pass (and survive) obstacles. So how do you do that? Simple: You feed him jelly beans to transform the blob into different objects, such as an umbrella, a bubble, a ladder and a bowling ball. And you had a limited number of jelly beans to use. Oh, and did I mention the boy cannot jump? Almost 20 years later, Nintendo and Majestico have recreated and re-imagined the game for the Nintendo Wii. And the new version of A Boy and His Blob stands pretty darn well on its own.
A Boy and His Blob follows a young boy of about 6 years of age and his explorations. The game starts with the boy sleeping in his tree house when a loud crash wakes him. When he finds the source of the noise, a timid blob jumps out of the crater. Due to the boy’s encouragement, the blob goes home with the boy. From there, they begin to explore the environments around them. That’s the plot in a nutshell. There are no fancy cutscenes or bits of dialogue to drive it along. This is something a little boy would dream up. It is cute. However, if you never went on imaginary adventures of some sort growing up, this game’s narrative could be painful to experience.
Continuing the theme of “cuteness” in A Boy and His Blob is the graphics. It looks like a high-resolution cartoon. But do not dismiss it based on looks. In fact, it moves quite well. The blob bounces and transforms into different shapes. Monsters are all varying degrees of black and move smoothly through the environment (not that there are many), and platforms are clearly defined. The boy twirls around when he bounces high enough. He crouches when he falls from high enough. And, best of all, he’ll hug the blob with all the kindness of a human being. That’s the most important aspect of the graphics: They’ll charm you into the game’s world.
Connected to this is the gameplay. A Boy and His Blob is separated into different “worlds” or sections of the boy’s life. He begins his adventure during the summer, living in his tree house with frogs jumping all over the place. Then he’ll move back into the city. Each world has 10 levels with three treasure chests to collect. Anyway, the point of each world is to traverse the environments and reach the jelly beans at the end. In order to get there, you have to cleverly use the jelly beans to transform the blob into various objects. For example, if there is a ledge above the boy, you can transform the blob into a ladder. Or, if you have the proper bean, you can transform him into a trampoline. This is where things get tricky. Each level gives you access to different beans. What was a valid option in one level is invalid in another. Monsters that could be destroyed in one level need to be avoided in the next.
Then there are the platforming segments of each level. These can get tricky very quickly as the boy can only take one hit from a monster (just the slightest brush is all it takes). Or you accidentally miss that jump and end up in the water or in a bottomless pit or land on a bunch of spikes. Then BAM! It’s back to a checkpoint. Most of the time, you are not sent far. It also gets easier each time you attempt it due to the unlimited lives. And, of course, none of this would mean anything if A Boy and His Blob didn’t control well. It is highly responsive. Most of the time, it will be your fault because you didn’t understand the situation properly, or the solution is not quickly apparent.
And that might draw a lot of people in. A Boy and His Blob is essentially a platforming puzzler. While there is a certain method to the madness, it can tricky to know what to do. And here’s the other side of the coin: There’s not much true “action” to the game. I showed it to my mother knowing she would probably enjoy watching it. Instead, she found it boring. She wanted more action.
Furthermore, the game can get downright tough at times. Certain segments require virtual perfection. Time an action too early or too late, and it’s back to the start (or checkpoint). This is especially true when collecting the treasure chests. Some of them are hidden in “odd” places, requiring a little exploration on your part. And then there are the “bonus” levels, which are acquired by collecting all three treasure chests. By finishing these challenging mini-levels you can unlock concept art. Not everyone will have the patience for this as one hit will restart everything.
Sound wise, everything is in its proper place. The music is downright ambient! It never takes your attention away from the action, and it supplements whatever you’re doing. Whether the drums are intense or it is just a twinkly soft sound, it fits. There is one song that reminds a bit of a Metroid song. And it works because you explore a cave. There is voice acting, but it is very limited. Mostly the boy exclaims to get the blob moving. Or you hear him hugging or chiding the blob. Granted, the boy sounds like a bossy kindergartner. However, you can hear the compassion in his voice.
Ultimately, A Boy and His Blob is a cute platformer. It runs exceedingly well and is downright clever. At its best, it’s a sublime puzzle experience. At its worst, the puzzles can be downright frustrating for a few minutes. However, the charming graphics will probably win you over. It makes me think of Skippyjon Jones. You know the kitty-boy is just imagining the events in his closet, but for him, it is very real. The same could be said for the boy. Is this an elaborate adventure in his mind, or is this really happening? Regardless of the answer, A Boy and His Blob is a fun romp. For me, that’s worth the price of admission. So go get it and play it around the small children in your life.