PSN Review: Tales From Space: About A Blob



From World of Goo to A Boy and His Blob, judging by the amount of goo-related games bouncing around, evidently blobs are the new black. Like its absorbent protagonist, Tales From Space: About A Blob has soaked up inspiration from all manner of fun-with-physics platform games, playing primarily like a mash-up of PSP puzzler LocoRoco and Katamari Damacy: You’re a tiny, squishy alien blob who has landed on Earth with the ability to spongily ingest objects, growing in size and volume with each soaked-up piece of clutter, allowing you to eat up progressively larger stuff. Familiar it might be, but developer Drinkbox have still crafted an incredibly fun game replete with intelligently-designed puzzles, a wealth of charm and well-implemented gameplay ideas.

The core aim of the game is primarily to eat up household debris (pool balls, apples, screws) growing sufficiently in size to allow you to progress further into the level, whether by swallowing obstructions that were previously too big to absorb, or triggering size barriers. There’s plenty of the standard fundamental platform game physics to toy around with, from gooey wall-jumping to ground slams to squeezing your blobby density into hard to reach places, then there’s the ability to take aim and spit out each object you’ve swallowed, using them as projectile weapons. The controls are an intuitive breeze, too, even if the heavy reliance on the shoulder buttons sometimes demand the finger dexterity of a safe-cracker. To diversify the fun even more, your blob pal also gains magnetic and electric abilities, absorbing electricity to channel somewhere useful later and both attracting to and repelling from metal surfaces at will.
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Each new ability is bestowed at an opportune pace, with great new gameplay ideas being steadily unveiled through the entire game and each skill given ample, balanced and varied use throughout the game’s clever and diverse array of puzzles. You’ll spit projectiles at attacking turrets, tanks and the like, while sometimes you’ll need to fire ingested objects through narrow openings to trigger otherwise unreachable switches. Hovering to and repelling away from steel platforms gives you more range of exploration, sometimes proves essential to avoid perilous spikes or radioactive pools and is often handy in pushing metallic objects around. Electrifying power grids usually activates doors or moving platforms, but energy-depleting barriers dotted around can deprive you of juice before you reach the powerable objective, so you’ll have to store it in metal balls which can bank electricity, manoeuvre the ball beyond the barrier, then re-absorb your sparky power on the other side.

The in-game art style is simple, yet cute and appealing, while the background art – with giant human characters often wandering around during early levels – has a John Kricfalusi/Ren & Stimpy/quirky kids TV vibe that adds a fun dash of character and fits well with the ’50s sci-fi-riffing tone of the story. The game’s sharp sense of humour makes a big impression, too; background billboards and signs are littered with fun gags, from a restaurant named ‘Duck in a Box’ and the numerous nods to fellow platformers Super Meat Boy, Mario and Pac-Man to the cute science jokes adorning the lab walls (‘If it doesn’t matter, does it anti-matter?’).
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About a Blob is reasonable lengthy, with a wide selection of levels covering lab areas, farms, suburban houses, factories and the big city, and plenty of welcome challenge in the massive array of puzzles and the sometimes punishing boss fights (the last boss is especially tough). Though it won’t take you forever to finish, there’s a trio of collectible blobs hidden in each level and added time trials, along with the requisite online leaderboards. There’s also a local co-op mode, though in practice it proves merely a fun, but fleeting distraction – friendly fire can pose an awkward hindrance while trying to play the game to completion, and after a minute or two of bouncing into each other and stealing each other’s ammo, it’s much more worthwhile to just opt for the single player mode.

The physics and platforming is varied and perfected to a T, but Drinkbox sometimes lose sight of the innate joy of just swallowing up massive things and becoming an all-powerful, people-consuming monster laying waste to the city. By each level’s end, you’ll have grown to mammoth proportions to the point where you’ll be eating up cows, cars and helicopters, much to your delight, but at the beginning of the next stage you’ll have shrunk down to miniscule size again (sometimes with a ‘here’s what happened to make you small again’ cut-scene). Though About A Blob does eventually have you swallowing buildings and dwarfing the planet itself in short final levels, the stop-and-start progression in growth with each level does feel strange, and the lack of more prolonged monster movie city-swallowing action is an unfortunate missed opportunity.
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Minor nitpicks aside, though, Tales From Space: About A Blob is a cute, quirky and incredibly fun platformer that offers a massive amount of entertaining and clever puzzles wrapped up in a funny, charming art style. The components might be familiar, but the game Drinkbox have assembled from those borrowed ideas is fantastic all the same, and those craving another bout of cleverly-designed platforming fun need look no further than About a Blob: It’s the most fun you’ll have with a potentially toxic goo this year.

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Tales From Space: About A Blob is available to buy on the PlayStation Network Store now priced £9.99/$14.99.