Saturday, 2 March 2013

REVIEW - Tales from Space : Mutant Blobs Attack (PC)

They Came From Outta Space

So, Mutant Blobs Attack, a bit of a give-away in the title there, but then anything featuring slimy lumps of alien jello is hardly going to be called Mutant Blobs Take You out for Coffee and a Chat now is it? An updated version / semi-sequel to the previous Tales from Space game, About A Blob, that appeared on the PS3 in  2011, Mutant Blobs Attack is an extremely quirky and amusing 2D platform devour-em-up. A giddy mix of Pac Man, Katamari Damacy and the excellent, Globdule on the Amiga (look it up) that takes its inspiration from the 1950's Sci-Fi B-movies that featured gelatinous monsters from other planets (usually Mars).

The flimsy story that mirrors those found in the aforementioned B-movies has our titular blob escaping from captivity in a science lab on Earth. Rather than chill out and catch the next bus home, he decides to wreak a terrible vengeance on humanity. He does this by eating everything, and I mean everything, in sight. Blob has clearly no concern for cholesterol or looking good on the beach this summer, but then he's a blob so what's he got to worry about?

The graphics closely resemble some familiar looking 
Saturday morning cartoons

The presentation is extremely slick and really pulls off the old Sci-Fi movie look, complete with spooky, yet zany, soundtrack and old style sound effects. Levels are introduced with amusing cut-scenes, with human news readers talking in gobbledegook (much like the adults in the Snoopy – or Peanuts cartoons). It closely resembles some of the crazy cartoons from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network – though being over 30, this means I recall Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack and Dexter's Lab (just about), rather than whatever the hell is on those channels now. It looks and sounds great and will appeal to all of us who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, or enjoy a good B-movie.

Blob can use his special powers to magnetically stick or 
repel from these purple platforms

Blob is extremely nimble, using tank-like tracks around his body to zip around the levels. He can wall jump to reach higher spots and slide through incredibly narrow gaps due to his malleable nature. The main gimmick in his repertoire is the ability to absorb pretty much anything smaller than himself to gain weight and size. Nothing is safe from his greedy guts; Footballs, peanuts, cups, stationary and any number of other random items. As he increases in size he can absorb larger items, with the goal being to reach a large enough size to gobble down the cork that blocks your path as well as the level exit. It is extremely satisfying to navigate the colourful and charming stages, absorbing junk (complete with gluttonous gobbling sound effects) and growing in size. Dotted throughout the stages are small blue orbs that can be collected to raise your score, and also blobby comrades – usually hidden in secret areas. Obtaining the orbs and hidden chums leads to a decent score, awarding you with different coloured medals depending on your performance, adding replayability once you have finish the main story mode.

The humour throughout the game is excellentwith some 
very amusing nods to classic or other indie titles

Also standing in Blob's way are minor puzzles – nothing to worry Portal or Professor Layton obviously, but they are a welcome inclusion. Most involve moving platforms that omit a green light, meaning you can control them. I played through the PC version using the mouse to control these platforms, finding it slightly inconvenient, but OK, as I sit very near to the desk while playing with a joypad. The second time I played through the game I noticed the game had been patched to use the right thumbstick on the controller (you are using one, aren't you?). I actually found this far more irritating to use than the mouse as it would not do what I wanted it to a lot of the time. Moving these platforms are vital for avoiding traps such as instant-death laser beams and reaching otherwise inaccessible (read 'higher') places, as well as moving rolling balls along a necessary path to hit a switch (for example). These green light platforms provide the only criticism I can level at Mutant Blobs Attack. Sometimes it is difficult to move them properly, leading to some frustrating deaths or falls.

Flying around in a manner similar to Thrust / Gravity Crash 
is a definite highlight

Also cranking up the fun dial further is the fact that, at certain checkpoints, Blob changes from being a ground based glutton to a fully functional flying Jello beast. The Thrust style controls (or Gravity Crash if you are a young gamer) are a joy to use and zipping around, controlling your momentum, is great fun. During his homicidal quest for revenge he also gains the ability to inhale or expel magnetic pull, resulting in being able to stick to or repel himself from metal surfaces.

The game gets pretty challenging in later stages - not so much due to the simple puzzles (which are still satisfying to complete) but because of the many tricky jumping sections. Sure, these never reach Super Meat Boy levels of difficulty, but they will require some polished platforming skills. Wall jumping while avoiding death lasers, and launching yourself off metallic platforms while avoiding tanks and helicopters will put all your Blob skills to the test.

Blob will eat absolutely anything. Even these glowing shrooms and
 astronauts aren't safe from his feeding frenzy

The occasional bonus stages mix things up by turning the view to a top down perspective. Here you roll Blob around the stages doing what he does best, until you are large enough to exit. These bonus stages also change each time, with some having a similar appearance to the main levels, but others going retro – looking like a Game Boy game, or even the recent Retro City Rampage. They are a nice touch and add variety.

The bonus stages are awesome. This one clearly inspired by GTA 
and a certain hand held games console

Mutant Blobs Attack is a fantastic title that everyone should play. The zany humour contained throughout, as well as the cut-scenes and background shenanigans during stages, cannot fail to bring a smile to your face and, bar a few minor frustrations regarding the controls, it is wholly enjoyable from beginning to end.

The Good

  • Wonderful cartoon style visuals
  • Camp Sci-Fi B-Movie music
  • Good sense of humour throughout
  • Extremely playable
  • Decent amount of variety
  • Online scoreboards add replayability

The Bad

  • Some control issues slightly spoil the experience

Developer : Drinkbox Studios
System Reviewed : PC
Also Available On : PlayStation Vita
Price : £5.49