Monday, October 06, 2008

De Blob

I mentioned a Penny Arcade strip last week called A Trick of Retrospective. It's one of my favorite PA strips ever, because it totally captures all the feelings I have about gaming.

Curiously, I stumbled on a game last weekend that does the same thing. It's called De Blob, and if you have a Wii, just go out and buy it. Don't even bother with the impressions I'm posting, because it will be more fun if you discover it all for yourself.

For the rest of you guys, here's a short summary.

It's a very simple premise: bring color to a colorless world. Chroma City has been drained of color by little villains, and the evil INKT corporation is trying to bring the peaceful citizens of the city under their control.

Hey, it's America! I kid.

Your character? A blob of paint whose job it is to brighten the world.

It's not particularly complex, although there are some interesting control mechanics. It's not particularly hard. But I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful and fun it is to play. It's funny and silly and clever, and it's (as you might expect) bursting with color once you're done painting a level. If it reminds me of anything, it's the whimsical world of Yellow Submarine.

It's not just whimsy, though, because the design is remarkably sophisticated. On any given level, you have a timer running, and you must reach the exit before the timer runs out. Inside that, though, there are challenges that can grant you extra time when successfully completed, and if you're just coloring the level in a freestyle way, you'll "liberate" groups of citizens that will also grant you extra time. What this means is that you can really explore a level without feeling a ton of time pressure, so you get to see (and paint) everything you want.

Here's another example. , after you pick your choice of music for a level (you unlock new music styles as you progress in the game), you'll hear it playing in the background during a level. However, whenever you paint something, you hear an extra burst of music that's distinct. The cool part is that while it's distinct, it perfectly complements the background music that's already playing. In essence, you're not only affecting the visuals of the word, but the sounds as well, and when you go on an extended streak of painting, you both see and hear your reward.

That may sound simple, but it's not simple to do well, and it's done incredibly well in this game.

Another seemingly simple bit of design involves the painting itself. First, the easiest thing to do, in a design sense, would be to station paint cans throughout the world (when you run over one, your color changes). Instead, though, the paint cans in this world have legs. No, they're not running around, but they do move, and it's all part of creating the impression of a world that is constantly dynamic.

One last bit of design. When you paint, more than color appears on the buildings and walls-- patterns are transferred as well, so instead of a flat space of color, there are also designs. Again, it's simple, but it gives the world more substance, and it's very appealing visually.

It's possible to play through the main game at a certain altitude, gameplay-wise, but there are also a wide assortment of badges and awards for the completionists among you. I have to admit that in this game, I feel a competionist desire as well. I'd like to paint everything, on every single level, because it's so much fun.

What this game does best is create a sense of immersion. I can't think of a single moment in the 5+ hours I've played that have broken my sense of being in the game world.

Not a single moment. How many games can do that?

And, as odd as this might sound at first, it's remarkably relaxing to play. Filling the world with color and hearing cool music is surprisingly rewarding, and it's entirely hypnotic to paint an entire level.

I've said for the last two years that the stunning success of the Wii was going to drive some of the most creative people around to develop for the platform, and I think they just did. The web page for the developers, Blue Tongue Entertainment, doesn't have many details (almost none, really, other than that they're based in Melbourne), but they've made a terrific, fun game.

Site Meter