The lights are on
One of this year's indie breakout games in DrinkBox Studios' Guacamelee, which is one of the best reviewed games of the year. However, don't sleep on the studio's first game, Tales From Space: About a Blob, an inventive platformer.
DrinkBox was formed as an indie studio by some veterans of the now-closed Pseudo Interactive in Toronto, and other members of the staff come from companies like Rockstar and Silicon Knights. This experience meant that - although About a Blob was the studio's first release - it had a level of polish that you'd associate with a more experienced company.
About a Blob, like many great indie titles of recent years, took inspiration from the classic era of 2D platformers -- but it wasn't content to just be another carbon copy. From the visuals to the gameplay, the game has a unique personality.
The thing that really grabs me about About a Blob is its ability to put new spins on familiar gameplay formulas. The titular blob has the ability to absorb items in the environment -- starting with small household objects like paper clips, etc. but soon - in an explicit nod to Katamacy Damacy - engulfing large tanks and towers. Our blob can also spit out these items as projectile attacks -- recalling past Kirby titles.
It's often hard for me to articulate what makes a great platformer great. Perhaps more than in any other genre, save fighting games, it's about the feel. About a Blob doesn't have the most traditional controls; his gelatinous nature means he tends to feel a bit floaty and inexact in comparison to a classic Mario game, but it works somehow. This feel, coupled with the fact the game is constantly layering on new gameplay mechanics like repelling and attracting to magnetic objects in the world or asborbing electricity to use to operate mechanical switches in the environment, makes it game that will hold your interest and constantly surprise you throughout the few hours it takes to beat it.
I also love how the game lightly tweaks classic pulp '50s sci-fi tropes - in this case, you're encouraged to identify with the alien "invader" (really a victim of circumstance) and fight humankind to survive. While this is all delivered in a very light, funny manner, it's still a great concept, and enhanced by changes in scale that occur when the blob becomes large and capable of engulfing building and vehicles. Sure, this is pretty much stolen wholesale from Katamary Damacy, but, as they say, "Talent borrows, genius steals."
Tales from Space didn't get a lot of attention when it first released - and also had the unfortunate luck of having the legendary PSN hacking outage happen in its first few months on the market. However, it did do well enough to spawn a sequel, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, which is also of high quality. It's easy to see the talent in DrinkBox Studios, a talent which will likely land Guacamelee high on many people's best-of list at the end of the year. If you've finished that game, take a few hours and go back to this gem of a game.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
I almost bought this a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for a new game for myself on PSN. I bought Chrono Cross instead.
Guacamelee is my favorite game so far this year. I picked up Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack for my Vita when it came on PS+ and I'll actually say it has been in my top 3 favorite Vita games I've played. With that being said I really should go back and check out Tales From Space: About a Blob because I never played it. DrinkBox Studios is a very talented and underlooked developer.
I liked this game but I got bored with it.
The Blob games are all pretty awesome.
Heard much about this game and do mean to pick it up when prices drop and my backlog thins a bit.
Good job Matt, you summed up perfectly what I liked about this game.
I loved this game, i still play it on occasion just to unwind...its pretty satisfying when you get to a size big enough to "eat" cows. Lol
I completely missed this game when it came out. Later on I heard some great things about it. I really want to pick this one up sooner or later. Nice choice Matt!
Love this game.
Doesn't look like my sort of game :/
I must have played the sequel. Got it either for free or on a discount with PS+.