Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
So this is a kinda weird one. I first heard of Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack via Totalbiscuit’s WTF is… video, and felt sufficiently intrigued to go out and get it. It is developed by a small team of crazy Canadians who have dubbed themselves Drinkbox Studios. It was a launch title for the Playstation Vita and was later ported to PC and Mac. The game is billed as a sequel to the PSN exclusive Tales From Space: About A Blob, but it doesn’t seem like a narrative sequel, more like exploring the same premise in a slightly different way.
It is quite simply a 2D platformer with a few puzzle elements, where you absorb stuff to get bigger. You start off really small, and end up really big. Not exactly the most difficult or complex concept, but somehow rather fascinating.
Believe it or not there is actually a story. We start off in a laboratory where people are performing all sorts of experiments on blobs. Our hero is this fella here:
A rather sour-looking spiky blob. You bust out, free your friends, and then hitch a ride in the backpack of a college kid here on a tour. Then you start eating stuff at the college and things grow from there.
The gameplay starts out pretty simple. You can roll around and you can jump. You can even perform wall-jumps, and do a ground-slam. If you touch something smaller than yourself you will absorb it. If you’re in a growth area absorbing will make you larger up till you reach your size goal. Eating stuff outside of that is purely for personal reasons, be they amusement, OCD, score or spite. There are also blue dots that give extra points, and little blobby friends to rescue/collect. The keys are not re-bindable, but inside the game you can bring up a help sheet to check the controls (though not from the main menu, for whatever reason).
It is however not long before the game starts introducing more concepts. There are lasers you must avoid. Fire. Acid. Spikes. Even enemies show up later on. As you see in the image above, you have a health bar. If you take damage, you can recover your health by eating things or finding a friend. And the top-right symbol marks that this is a growth zone. I often felt unsure whether the measurements were correct, but I like how you can still see what you’ve eaten inside the blob.
Physics objects appear, and you have to start manipulating them to progress. You learn that the blob has telekinetic powers that only work on a very select few objects. They helpfully have a big, green light on them. And then you absorb a magnet and gain the power to create magnetic fields to attract or repel yourself from certain surfaces and objects that you can discern by how there’s a purple glow around them.
And then come the zero-gravity sections. Now you have to hold down the jump button and press the movement keys to move around. Holding left shift will turn my fart propulsion into jet propulsion. I’d rather not speculate on how. These sections are a nice break from the platforming every now and again, but the controls already feel a bit floaty in the regular mode, and they don’t get any better as you fly around. Veering off course and hitting a hazard and getting killed is not uncommon. Thankfully the game checkpoints often.
In spite of the floaty controls, I would say the game is quite fun. There’s a certain catharsis to consuming stuff and growing bigger and bigger, so you can consume ever-larger things. You have 24 levels and a number of bonus levels that offer a top-down perspective on your feasting.
I became rather obsessed with finding all my blobby friends, which is where some of the trickier puzzles and platforming come in. And there are some really cool moments where you return to an area you were previously, only now you’re a lot bigger and you eat bits of the scenery that were platforms and obstacles previously.
The artstyle of the game is very well done, and there is a crazy amount of detail, both in the fore- and back-ground. This is especially obvious when you’re still pretty small, but even when you’re big there’s plenty to look at. I am no art expert, but I’d say the style kinda looks hand-drawn. There’s a lot of charm to it, which definitely helps offset the more frustrating platforming sections when you have to retry again and again. It also makes the later carnage all the more amusing.
That won’t always stop the frustration though. I like exploring in this game, so the sections that annoy me the most are the ones where you’re being chased by something threatening to kill you, and you have to rush through an area, often performing tricky wall-jumps on a very strict time limit. It never got so bad that I ragequit, but I definitely had to sit back and breathe now and again.
It also annoys me that there is no ‘reset level’ option. If you feel you’ve screwed something up or missed something, you have to quit to the menu and select the level again. And while there is a key to commit ‘suicide’ to return to last checkpoint, I noticed that it often checkpointed right after I missed a secret, so the only option was to start the level over again. And it’s a little disappointing how you usually shrink a little bit between levels, and need to grow back up to sizes you already were at the end of last level.
And really; why make it so difficult to stay on top of a helicopter when that is also the only way to get to my friend? The jumps are hard to be precise with, and you’re a blob! You squish around when you hit a surface at speed. So even if you land right on it, you could still roll off afterwards.
I am sorta impressed by the actual physics of the blob and everything else though. It stretches and expands much like you’d expect, and can fit through very narrow openings. And working with magnetism and telekinesis to solve puzzles is usually quite fun, even though they’re rarely tricky to figure out.
All in all, I had a lot of fun with Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. It’s an amusing and fairly casual little platformer about how size is really all that matters. It has some issues that are clearly PC port related, and some that I can’t even ascribe to that, but they don’t detract that much from the experience.
And if you can’t see the appeal of growing so big you eventually swallow the world, then I am not sure we can be friends. Plus I learned that pushing a cow into a laser creates instant burgers and chips. So check it out over on the Steams!
Posted on October 10, 2012, in Games, Sorta reviews and tagged 2D, Drinkbox Studios, indie, Mac, Mutant Blobs Attack, PC, platformer, PS Vita, puzzler, Tales From Space, videogames. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.