Review: Tales from Space: About a Blob

February 3, 2011 / 04:51 PM EDT / (@salromano)

If alien blobs that suck up everything in sight were ever to have crash landed on Earth, the general public would probably go nuts. They’d eat our people, our cars, our buildings and all the nice things we’ve come to know over time. It’s understandable that the citizens of Tales from Space: About a Blob‘s world react accordingly. If only they’d let the little guys blast back off into space.

About a Blob doesn’t have too many shortcomings. It offers the taste of a retro-style puzzle-solving platformer in a current-generation package. You play as an orange blob, captured by a scientist after crash-landing on Earth, desperately trying to escape the planet. You start off small enough to fit inside a test tube and eventually grow big enough to swallow entire buildings. Every level gives you specific weights to reach in order to progress. They’re rarely hard to achieve; usually the objects needed for the blob to grow are laid out right in front of you.

Throughout the blob’s adventures — which range from areas including laboratories, farms, towns, school yards, and cities — he’ll learn two key abilities. These are aside from the two abilities he starts with, which include a body slam and a sort-of cannon that shoots out what you’ve already sucked in (to take down enemies!). The first, a magnetic skill, allows him to attach and retract from metal objects at will. The second, an electric skill, allows him to suck up electricity from one machine and transfer it to another. The majority of the game revolves around these abilities, but they’re always presented in fresh new methods. A favorite of mine was a zig-zaggy area towards the end of the game, where the ground was a metal pipe decorated in spikes; in order to progress, I had to retract from the metal and basically ‘float’ my way through the domain.

About a Blob‘s story mode is broken down into four parts. The first part has four stages, the second has six, the third has five, and the fourth has two, comparatively longer, stages. There are a few boss fights, as well. That being said, you’ll come across plenty of enemies in the story mode. They’re not other blobs or humans, or anything like that, but rather cannons and machinery dedicated solely to firing missiles and other explosives at the blob. Depending on the type of cannon and/or your size, you can take them out with a set number of shots (meaning, shooting out the objects you’ve already sucked in).

Levels are rather well designed. You’ll find yourself swimming through pipes, climbing onto floating landscapes, and avoiding spikes and stomping pieces of machinery. It’s fair to say its unrealistic — but then again, what about Tales from Space‘s setting sounds realistic to begin with? They’re fun and easy to get used to, though, and offer some amusing puzzles for players to solve — though, none are particularly mind-boggling.

Each stage offers a couple of optional challenges. Finding your blob companions is is one of them; each level has three blobs scattered about for players to seek. Beating the stage within a certain amount of time is the other. Personally, I don’t care too much about these challenges, as I just want to play and enjoy the game, but now that the game’s ended, I might go back and try to earn a Gold trophy for each level. It’s pretty much where its replay value kicks in.

A big aspect of About a Blob, and something we don’t see too much anymore, is local co-op. You and your friend can work through the platformer’s puzzles together, side-by-side. One of it’s greater advantages is using each other to perform a jump boost, allowing you access to locations (and possibly hidden blob companions) not accessible otherwise. Though, without proper coordination, local co-op can turn out to be more of a frustration than it is fun (players must both be on screen at the same time) — so be sure to coordinate! There’s a small competitive element in there, as well. You and a friend can compete to see who absorbs the most objects during your run together. The lack of online co-op is saddening, but it’s not so big a problem that it takes away from the game. Online co-op or not, About a Blob is a joy to play.

The overall feel of the game is heartwarming. It kind of reminded me of The Jetsons at certain points — maybe it was the flying cars in the city stages, who knows? I also noticed a a good amount of humorous propaganda and other types of fake advertisements in the game. One poster found on a wall in the elementary school level read something along the lines of: ‘WORD! To your mother!’ The phrase alone makes me giggle. Ah, the school days.

About a Blob is a solid game, contrary to its star player. The game’s not too long, unfortunately, but if you’re looking for a game that’ll make you feel like you’re watching Saturday morning cartoons again, then Tales from Space is definitely for you. It’s charming art style, witty remarks, and simple gameplay makes it well worth the purchase.

Additional Coverage: Updates, Screenshots.

8/10

Tales from Space: About a Blob was reviewed on PlayStation 3. The entire game was played to completion. Tales from Space: About a Blob launches exclusively for PlayStation Network on February 1, 2010 for PlayStation Plus subscribers, and on February 8 for everyone else, for an MSRP of $14.99.

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