Review: A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia (NES)

An innovative gameplay idea that's beginning to feel a bit dated.

There's no denying that the original NES release of A Boy and His Blob brought some fairly unique gameplay ideas to the table when it was released in 1989. David Crane, who'd already seen success with his Atari 2600 hit Pitfall, brought a few ideas from his classic and combined it with a completely new gameplay system that was unlike anything gamers had seen before. The result was a very innovative title, but also one that garnered mixed reactions from gamers. While some applauded its innovative gameplay elements, others found the open-ended exploration a bit tedious and lacking in direction. So how exactly does this NES classic hold up as a Virtual Console release all these years later?

Unlike a traditional platformer, your character in A Boy and His Blob can't jump or attack enemies on his own. Instead he'll have to rely on his little Blob companion in order to traverse the many areas in the game. To do this he'll have to feed the Blob a variety of jellybeans, each offering up a different transformation for the Blob. You can transform the Blob into everything from a ladder that can be climbed to a trampoline your character can springboard off of in. It's up to you to figure out which transformation is needed in any given situation. And with 14 different jellybean flavors to choose from, you'll find a whole wealth of useful transformations at your disposal to choose from.

There are basically two worlds to explore in the game, the Night World and the Day World. Your goal in each world is to locate and collect as many of the hidden treasures as possible. The more treasures you pick up, the more points you'll score. The Night World will take you into the depths of the city where you'll explore the subways, caverns, and sewers. The Day World is where you'll have to tackle forests and green pastures in your search for more treasures and a way to get your Blob friend back to his home planet.

A Boy and His Blob is one of those games that basically allows you to progress at your own pace. Since there's a lot of exploration to the game, you'll quickly find that the majority of your time will be spent trying to not only locate the treasures, but find ways to reach them as well. The play control is fairly smooth, although you'll have to become accustomed to how the game feels if you're going to navigate some of the trickier sections. Even making use of some of the Blob transformations can take some practice in order to master. The play control system isn't perfect, but it's ultimately manageable if you're willing to put in the time to familiarize yourself with it. Of course if you're someone who prefers a little more action in your platformers, you might find this game a bit too tedious in its execution.

Visually there's not a lot to A Boy and His Blob. It's standard 8-bit fare for the most part, although there are some areas of the game that shine above others. The Day World seems to feature a lot more color and detail, so it at least offers you something to look forward to. The characters and enemies are all very basic sprites, but they all animate quite well considering this is an NES title, after all. Suffice it to say, it's definitely not one of the more impressive NES release visually, but the game still makes due quite well with what it has to work with.

From a musical standpoint, A Boy and His Blob is a mixed bag. While the few musical tracks the game makes use of are adequate, they're repeated so often that they tend to quickly become a bit grating if you find yourself on any type of gameplay session of any extended length of time. Even making the move to the Day World doesn't seem to mix things up enough to change this issue. Of course it also doesn't help matters that the sound effects are few and far between and do little to add to the overall audio presentation.

Conclusion

A Boy and His Blob might have been a very innovative title when it was first released, but games have come a long way since 1989 and with the release of a brilliant remake of the game on the Wii console, you can't help but notice how dated the gameplay of this NES original feels by comparison. Sure there's still some fun to be had, but much like the reaction the game received when it was first released, the game is probably even more likely to get mixed reactions from Wii owners who end up taking a chance on this Virtual Console release. If you're a long-time fan of this game or you just couldn't get enough of the Wii remake, you'll most likely get a kick out of this classic NES release. But for everyone else, you'd be better suited to approach this one with caution as it can be a bit tedious for those who aren't prepared for exactly what the game has to offer.

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