Few games have captured the imagination quite like de Blob - the Wii-exclusive colour-'em-up from Aussie developer Blue Tongue. Based on a top-notch indie blueprint, the game's reckless charm, lovable protagonist and universally-appealing premise made it an instant hit back in 2007. Clearly, you lot loved it as well - de Blob went on to sell an impressive 700,000 copies worldwide, proving itself worthy of a high-profile follow-up on HD consoles. But if you were worried that big bucks and shiny graphics have diminished the game's indie sensibilities, fear not: de Blob 2 is every bit as delightful as its platforming predecessor.
The second game picks up shortly after the events of the original de Blob, with Comrade Black and his army of one-eyed Inkies draining the world of colour and transforming its denizens into mindless, apathetic drones. Predictably peeved at the state of his homeland, Blob and Co' set a plan in motion to restore the land to its former vibrant glory. And what ensues is a delightful painting romp throughout eleven imaginative, open environments.
Once again, players assume the role of Blob – a sentient splodge with a penchant for paint. Controlling Blob is an absolute doddle, and by the time you've remembered how to mix red, blue and yellow in order to create brown, you'll be painting like a pro'. As with the fab' original, there's an incredibly serene about painting. Indeed, watching an environment transform from a monochromatic metropolis to vibrant paradise is both a satisfying and addictive experience. This is, of course, complemented by the game's wonderful, multi-layered score, which intensifies as you add more colour to the world – evolving from esoteric pitter-patter to upbeat jazz in a seamless manner.
Before you can get creative you'll need to locate some paint. Fortunately, it's as easy as rolling into a pool of the wet-stuff and hitting R1 to absorb it quickly. This, of course, is something you'll need to do frequently, as Blob requires paint for just about everything he does – whether that's decorating buildings, defeating enemies or liberating occupied landmarks. Paint Points also double up as Blob's HP, and so you'll want to keep Blob's paint meter topped up to avoid imminent death.
The game does a great job to ensure that paint is always within reach, but occasionally – if you've taken a hefty pummelling, scaled a tall structure or accidentally hit water – you'll be forced to locate even more. Whilst this approach certainly encourages players to go about their business in as careful a manner as possible, it's not without frustration. It can be a royal pain, for example, having to locate more paint for the final quadrant of a structure – and even more so during time-critical challenges.
The game's meat, however, comes in the form of level-based challenges – highlighted in the game-world by red markers. These seldom present anything more complicated than painting a structure a certain colour or liberating denizens from their monochromatic ailment, but remain great fun nonetheless. Occasionally, de Blob 2 requires you to tame your artistic flair, demanding that you paint buildings to a strict colour scheme - and it's here that the game presents some rather nifty puzzle elements. Since painting tall structures often requires you to paint from top to bottom, working out which colours to use, and in which order, is an incredibly satisfying experience – adding a welcome spot of texture to the proceedings.
Blob also has a new dash attack in de Blob 2, which allows him to lock onto items and enemies with L1, and smash them by hitting R1. The move recalls Wolf Link's charge attack from Twilight Princess, only it's far easier to master. It's utterly indispensable too, allowing Blob to mow down enemies, smash crates and destroy propagandist statues in style. However, as with everything Blob does, the move nibbles into your Paint Points, which can become frustrating at times – forcing you to absorb even paint in order to complete missions.
The move does, nevertheless, come in handy during the game's myriad side-scrolling sections – which prove to be the greatest addition to the franchise so far. Triggered whenever Blob squeezes himself into a cave, sewer or occupied landmark, these all-new sections provide a welcome change of pace. Most puzzles tend to take the form of colour combinations, with players absorbing the correct type of paint in order to activate colour-based switches, but occasionally they become even more complicated – adding such elements as gravity, ink-jets and rising water-levels into the mix.
As you progress throughout the game, you'll collect 'Inspiration Points' which can be used to improve Blob's attributes. Pretty much everything about Blob can be improved, from the number of lives he carries, to the quantity of pain he can absorb, and the amount of Paint Points required to perform a charge attack. It's a brilliant mechanic, and one that allows players to shape Blob around their personal strengths and weaknesses on the fly.
As with the original de Blob, however, the main draw isn't the mechanics, but the upbeat tone of the game. And that's something that hasn't changed for de Blob 2. The game's sumptuous art style, hilarious cutscenes and innovative sound design never fail to raise a smile, and the ability to play alongside a friend in co-op adds even more longevity to the proceedings.
This is definitely more of a refinement than a reinvention, but everything we loved about the original game is here in spades. If you're willing to look past its occasionally-repetitious gameplay and excessive hand-holding, you'll find de Blob 2 to be one of the wittiest, most intelligent and innovative platformers around. What's more, if you've yet to experience the joys of the timeless original, then you absolutely owe it to yourself to pick up de Blob 2. This comes highly recommended.