Release Date: February 11, 2011
Platform: Playstation 3, PSN
When I first played Katamari Damacy, there was a chemical release that I believe fully altered the neurological structure of my brain. The first step was seeing someone else play, and thinking “cooooool”. Then, there was the playing it myself, and thinking “whoooooooooaaaahhh”. And then, the satisfaction of achieving something ridiculous, like picking up an island, and then thinking nothing, as chocolate pudding leaked out my ears from an overwhelming braingasm of pleasure.
Eventually, you get to the point where you run out of chocolate pudding to leak out your ears, and the feeling of picking up an island gets old. Maybe it’s after playing your ninth hour in a row of Katamari, but the simple dirty pleasure of rolling things up turns from “me gusta” to “meh”.
I’ve been searching ever since for a game that can recreate that feeling, without jumping right to the end of my captivation with the concept. This is where Tales From Space: About A Blob comes in. The game at its heart, from developer DrinkBox Studios, is a platformer. But it inherited the Katamari gene, perhaps from the mailman, and expresses it tactfully in a way that renews my love for the genre.
You are a blob. Get over it. You were sent somehow from space and have ended up on a dystopian 20th century Earth, quaint and charming, but ravaged by the destructive and irresponsible prospecting of atomic science. Clocking in at just mere millimeters in girth, you must find your way around a variety of stages with a plethora of puzzles, eating up bite-size morsels of pretty much anything as you go, building your size from stage to stage.
The osmosis of things is essential to your progress, but it also recharges your health, and items that you absorb can be aimed and spit back out to combat enemies and obstacles. This becomes a cheeky and hilarious element to the game, especially when your battery begins to consist of humans and cattle. The cattle launcher from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is now yours to play with, in the comfort of your own home.
There are other blob-like powers the game introduces as you progress, which add more dimensions to the action, keeping it exciting and well paced. The only drawback as you go is that there are a lot of buttons to remember, especially when certain actions require you to use four or five different techniques in sequence in order to not die. But as a child of the NES generation, methinks the author doth protest too much.
The objective of the game is to get a low time on levels. Your time can be reduced with picking up powerups, and rescuing other hostage blobs. However, you’ll have so much fun just playing in general, that the time attack element doesn’t seem like a primary objective, but rather a good case for replay value. There’s also multiplayer, which gives you some extra gameplay dynamics, but the game is just fine as single-player.
So why is this game excellent? And is it excellent? The answer to the second is yes. As far as why, the balance of elements in the game is very satisfying. When the platforming and puzzle-solving start to wear on you, it gives you a biscuit by giving you items to absorb and grow. The challenges are often steep, but they’re well balanced, and suitable for the casual player. The only drawback would be the occasional difficulty in controlling. This is easy to write off as “you’re a blob, of course you’re hard to control,” but it does present the potential to detract from the enjoyment.
The visuals and music are great too. The entire game looks like a 1950′s animated educational video (think Duck and Cover), and the soundtrack is like Nick-at-Nite’s Greatest Hits Volume 1. In short, it’s often cheesy, but always charming. It’s $14.99 on PSN, which is a good deal, as it’s as deep as any off-the-shelf 2-D game, is well polished, and has definitely replay value.