Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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THQ's vivid, inventive de Blob 2 impressive



It doesn't take much to create a video-game icon. In some cases -- like Pac-Man and Nintendo's Kirby -- all you need is a circle and a few rudimentary facial features.

To that noble tradition we can now add Blob, the mischievous hero of de Blob 2 (THQ, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $49.99; Nintendo Wii, $39.99). While he was charming enough in his 2008 debut, the sequel is a more satisfying, well-rounded adventure. He's becoming a real contender.

Blob is, well, a blob, a gelatinous mass who rolls and bounces his way through the streets of Prisma City. The metropolis has been taken over by the villainous Comrade Black and his INKT Corp., and all the buildings have been covered in shades of gray. But Blob can absorb paint, which he uses to liven up the bland architecture and inspire the downtrodden populace to revolt.

Blob also can slam into Comrade Black's troops, although tougher enemies might require more paint or a certain color. And power-ups transform Blob into, say, an unstoppable wrecking ball or an all-consuming "graviton."

de Blob 2

Grade: * * * 1/2

System: Xbox 360, PS3, and Nintendo Wii, DS and 3DS

Published by: THQ

Genre: Platformer

ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+

Grades: * * * * * Outstanding; * * * * Very Good; * * * Good; * * Fair; * Poor

There's an awful lot to do in de Blob 2. The main plot alternates between exploration of Prisma City's sprawling, three-dimensional neighborhoods and more puzzle-oriented 2-D sequences inside buildings. Each of its 12 levels takes about an hour to get through, but obsessive-compulsive gamers will want to spend more time cleaning the streets, rescuing citizens, and polishing off other side missions.

The story line is more engaging than usual for this sort of game, and kids will be amused by its delightful (and mostly wordless) animated sequences. Adults, on the other hand, will pick up on the Orwellian satire of Soviet and Chinese communism. There are even a few digs at both occupants of the 21st-century White House -- one news crawl reads "Comrade Black asserts that inkboarding is not torture," while a poster says "I voted for change and all I got was this lousy suit."

Like many other 3-D action games, de Blob 2 is occasionally marred by inconsistent camera angles that sometimes block your view at the worst possible time (like when trying to make a tricky jump between two platforms). It's also very stingy with checkpoints; if Blob gets punctured, you might find yourself having to replay 15 minutes or so before you get back to the tough part.

There's also a clock ticking, and if you aren't careful, it's easy to get trapped in a puzzle without enough time to solve it. More experienced players will learn quickly how to earn bonus time, but if you set the skill level to "easy," you can take things at your leisure.

THQ is marketing de Blob 2 toward kids, but it's the sort of game that grown-ups can find rewarding. After a winter of grim, bloody shooters like Dead Space 2 and Killzone 3, it's a colorful change of pace.

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