Nine years after its appearance on the Wii, de Blob has rolled onto the PlayStation 4. While certainly an unexpected port, it isn’t an unwelcome one. This colourful platformer was a delightfully whimsical adventure nearly a decade ago, with a simple concept that exuded fun and creativity. Pleasingly, this holds true today.
For those who may have missed this game the first time around, de Blob is all about splashing colour around a world that has been turned grey and white under the tyranny of the INKT Corporation. With colour outlawed and Chroma City’s residents enslaved, it falls to the titular Blob, alongside a small cast of allied rebels, to revitalise the various districts and rid the city of INKT forces. Blob is essentially a living ball of paint who can restore colour to the world with just a touch, and it’s his interaction with the environment that makes this title unique.
Scattered throughout each of the ten sizeable levels are Paintbots, each carrying either red, blue or yellow paint. Rolling over one of these will turn Blob into the corresponding colour, and you can begin transforming the level. Buildings, trees, and many other objects can be touched or slammed into to turn them whatever colour takes your fancy, and doing so contributes to an overall score that steadily unlocks new sections in need of liberation. It’s also just plain fun. Colouring in blocks of buildings is satisfying and it’s easy to become obsessed with ensuring no wall, lamppost, or rock is left desaturated.
Levels steadily increase in complexity, too, and you’ll soon have to jump and wall ride your way to more tricky locations. The platforming can be imprecise due to floaty physics and a mischievous camera, but it works well enough, and there are often collectibles in hard to reach places for your trouble. What’s more, there are various challenges to partake in, some of which are necessary for progression while others are there for completion’s sake. A lot of them concern tinting certain areas specific colours, but there are also landmarks such as police stations or communication towers that require a lot of paint to restore. These particular challenges are often required but task you with hammering the X button, which soon grows tiresome. In fact, the challenges generally are repetitive, and it can occasionally be unclear which ones are needed to move into the next area and which ones aren’t.
Still, it’s rewarding to take on as many as you can, because they give you more time in each level. That there is a time restriction for each location may seem like an odd design choice, but it keeps you moving at a fair lick, although we never had to worry about running out. Defeating groups of inkies also affords you more time. These enemies range from basic baddies to ink turrets and tanks, each requiring different amounts of paint to take out with your all-purpose slam attack. Combat isn’t particularly engaging, but dispatching enemies will at least make your life easier.
Once you’re done with the surprisingly lengthy story, you can leap into any level in Free Paint mode, which removes enemies and the timer, giving you free rein to explore and paint to your heart’s content. There are also a few offline multiplayer modes for up to four players, one of which is very reminiscent of Splatoon’s Turf War. While these won’t trouble the best local multiplayer offerings on PS4, they’re still a fun distraction from the main game.
Something we simply must mention is the excellent dynamic soundtrack. The beginning of each level starts with just a basic rhythm, but painting the environment layers in instruments, and after a while, the full piece will be blaring from your TV, as colourful and vibrant as the graphics. Each colour adds a different sound to the mix, red typically representing saxophone, for example. It’s a small thing but it adds so much to the experience, and the jazzy score goes hand in hand with the free-spirited nature of the game. Visuals are less impressive, with noticeable aliasing in places as well as poor shadows, and like the Patapon and LocoRoco remasters, the pre-rendered cutscenes don’t appear to have been touched at all. It all runs like a dream, though, so it’s not a huge problem in the long run.
de Blob holds up surprisingly well to modern standards. It’s not without its problems: a dodgy camera, floaty jumping, and repetitive tasks rear their heads throughout the game. However, the simple concept of bounding through large environments splashing colour onto every surface remains original, fun, and satisfying – especially when accompanied by a great soundtrack that’s impacted by your play as much as the levels. Somehow, de Blob still feels contemporary, and it’ll cheer you up if this year’s other 3D platformer efforts have left you feeling blue.