I love searching the web for “best of” lists. It’s just fun to see all the games I might have missed growing up, pick out my favorites, and build a “to play” list of my own. Most people seem to agree on a lot of the best games, though the exact order is different person to person. The Mario games, Metroid, and Zelda always seem to top off the lists. But somewhere in the middle of nearly every one of those lists, one title in particular always seemed to catch my eye, A Boy and his Blob.
I’m not entirely sure what it is that made me put A Boy and His Blob so high on my “to play” list. Maybe it was just the weird concept of a boy with a giant blob alien friend going on an adventure. I never even really knew what the game was about before I chose to play it. More importantly, who is David Crane, and why does his name come even before the title? Turns out, David Crane is kind of a big deal in video game history. He’s the creator of Pitfall, one of the best selling games of its generation, and was a very influential game for the whole platforming genre. So with that kind of resume behind this game let’s dive in, and see if this is another masterpiece.
The story, as explained in the manual is as follows. Blobert, the alien blob, came from the planet Blobolonia where an evil emperor has taken control. He is forcing everyone to eat only marshmallows and chocolate, which sounds great to me. Grab some graham crackers, start a nice camp fire, and you can make s’mores out of that. Blobert escaped to earth to get the only thing that can save his planet, vitamins. For the evil emperor, vitamins are a lethal poison. Blobert arrives on Earth, and quickly enlists the help of a young boy. Unfortunately, the boy has no money to buy vitamins with. To raise the money, they come up with the plan to go searching underground for treasure. Thankfully, Blobert is well equipped for this task, since he can change shape whenever he eats a jelly bean. So off they go on their adventure to save Blobolonia.
First things first, what do each of the jelly beans turn Blobert into? According to the manual, all the transformations are puns or wordplay to help you remember what they all do.
Licorice = Ladder – Very useful to climb up to ledges above you.
Strawberry = Bridge – Obviously, use this to cross any gaps you come across
Coconut = Coconut – So, he’s a coconut now.
Cola = Bubble – Helps you safely fall down large drops, and breath underwater
Cinnamon = Blow Torch – Considering most of my problems in life are caused by and then again solved with fire, I thought this would be more useful
Apple = Jack – Helps lift up heavy objects
Vanilla = Umbrella – There might not be rain underground, but there are plenty of falling rocks.
Tangerine = Trampoline – For those hard to reach areas
Root Beer = Rocket – To travel back and forth between Earth and Blobolonia. It’s small, but lucky for us, our boy hero seems to be able to survive not only the cold vacuum of space, but also faster than light travel and he goes between planets in seconds.
Honey = Hummingbird – This allows Blobert to fly up to you if you lose him on a floor below you.
Punch = Hole – You need to get down to the depths of the cave somehow, and this is how you do it.
Ketchup – It doesn’t turn him into anything. Instead it teleports Blobert next to you if you lose him
A few of those I guess are wordplay, but how is strawberry related to bridge in any way? It doesn’t really matter. Now that all our jelly beans are identified, it’s time to go hunting for treasure in the subway.
Our first treasure is right there for the taking. Just punch a hole in the floor to get to the lower level. Then use the ladder to get the treasure. Unfortunately, now we’re stuck here on the lower floor, and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere else to go. I guess we’re supposed to be exploring caves anyway, so maybe there are caves under the subway. We just punch a hole in the floor, and let’s see what’s below us.
Death Count: 1
Well, that didn’t work out quite how I had planned. It did however provide some useful information. I can see it already that this is going to be a nice game of trial and error.
Death Count: 3
Landing safely on the ledge this time, we can finally properly explore the cave. It won’t be easy though. Not only are there long drops to death, but the cave is full of subway serpents guarding treasure…
Death Count: 7
Lots of falling rocks…
Fire is the only solution for a spider problem this big
Death Count: 9
And giant spider webs.
There’s something seriously wrong with this kid. I’m not sure how old he is, the manual doesn’t seem to specify, but there have to be other ways to get money that don’t involve exploring a deadly cave. When I was 14 I already had a part time job. Before that, I would shovel driveways in winter, or mow lawns in the summer. Even before that I would sell candy to my friends at school. My point is there should be plenty of ways to raise money for some vitamins that don’t involve risking your life.
Death Count: 13
As we reach the bottom of the cave, I have a sudden realization. All of the puzzles have been really easy. Use a ladder to go up, use the bubble to float down, use the bridge to go across, etc. At the same time, I have no idea where I am relative to where I started, and I have no idea how to get back to the surface.
Death Count: 18
THAT is where the puzzle comes from. You don’t have to find ALL the treasures, you only have to find your way to the surface again.
When you do manage to get close to the surface, you will find a bag of jelly beans with two very important new flavors.
Orange = Vitablaster – A gun used to shoot vitamins, we’ll need this to save Blobolonia
Lime = Key – To unlock the throne room
Back on the surface, with most of the treasure, we can finally buy all the vitamins we want. Well, we could, if the store clerk wasn’t taking advantage of our boy hero. Did you see the size of those diamonds? Just one of them should have been enough to buy an island, and we found several of them. Instead, we trade all the treasure for $50 worth of vitamin A, B and C. What a rip off.
Real men don’t need space suits
No time to plot revenge against this store clerk now, we have a planet to save. Hop on rocket Blobert, take a deep breath, and fly over to Blobolonia to fight the evil emperor. It’s unfortunate that the Blobolonia section of the game isn’t nearly as fun as the caves. In my opinion anyway.
Death Count: 23
Fighting our way to the emperor has us avoiding Magic Marshmallows as they bounce up and down on the screen…
Death Count: 27
Cherry bombs which will explode if they hit the ground…
Death Count: 29
Popcorn that continuously pours across the screen…
Death Count: 32
Cave teeth, just waiting to eat our boy hero…
And reverse falling chocolate kisses.
Maybe it was the fact that I equipped the vitablaster the whole time, and just treated this as a run ‘n gun section, but the variety of obstacles just felt stale. Avoid the falling object again and again until you finally make it to the emperor.
And this is where the whole game just hits rock bottom. The final boss is supposed to be the ultimate challenge. You’re supposed to take everything you learned throughout the game, and put it all together in this ultimate showdown of skill. That’s not what you get at the end of A Boy and His Blob. Instead, you feed Blobert an apple jelly bean, he’ll knock over the jar of vitamins, and that’s it. You win.
Everyone cheers, the nice king is returned to the throne, and I can’t help but notice no one offers to bring the boy back home to earth.
While I enjoyed this game, it’s not without its flaws. The second half of the game felt repetitive and possibly rushed. It’s actually quite possible it was rushed. David Crane and his team managed to create the whole game in a mere 6 weeks compared to the usual production time of 6 – 8 months. It’s also entirely possible I under appreciated the 2nd half of the game with my run ‘n gun attitude. I shot the puzzles rather than solved them. I never did use the coconut transformation for anything. Maybe it would have been a better solution somehow.
The final boss however has no excuse. I felt cheated when I made it to him. One second I’m opening the door, the next second Blobert is in a cage and I have no idea why. There’s no explanation for how he got trapped. The evil emperor doesn’t give me any kind of one liner last boss taunt. He’s not even animated. At least a fighting game idle stance would have been nice. Something, anything to show he’s actually in the room and not just part of the background.
The puzzle to beat the emperor also left a sour taste in my mouth. It negated the entire rest of the game. We risked our life to get treasure to buy vitamins to kill the emperor. That was the whole point of the game. But the emperor was kind enough to keep a bottle of vitamins on a shelf and stand patiently under it until we came to kill him. It wasn’t even an obvious puzzle like all the rest. I cycled through all the jelly beans before I found out what to do. When I did get it right, it didn’t even have the outcome I was expecting. I used the apple jack trying to BREAK the cage. Instead, Blobert extended out of the cage and knocked the vitamins onto the emperor, killing him, and winning the game.
The whole game is also rather short, and the puzzles fairly obvious. The first time playing, you’ll have some trial and error learning curve, but after that you should be able to beat the game rather easily. Most of the challenge comes from mastering the timing of the enemies and obstacles.
Somehow, the game as a whole manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. It’s short, it’s easy, and the ending feels rushed. But I can still say I greatly enjoyed this game. I can see why it made so many people’s “best of” lists. It has that buddy movie charm to it, and while you can’t directly control Blobert, he generally positioned himself nicely for your needs. He was slower, and would fall behind, but I was never aggravated with the AI’s choice of actions. That’s something I generally can’t say about most modern games.
In the end, this was a very enjoyable game that I recommend everyone play at least once.
Score: 7.5 / 10
Death Count: 35
I couldn’t think of a way to work this fact into the rest of the review, but I found it too interesting to leave out entirely. David Crane has stated in interviews that Blobert’s design was heavily influenced by Gloop and Gleep from the Hanna-Barbera Cartoon The Herculoids. It’s weird, I don’t remember having ever actually WATCHED The Herculoids, but I still somehow know and love Gloop and Gleep.
I hope you enjoyed David Crane’s A Boy and his Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia. If you did, like and follow me on facebook. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.