Katamari’s balls may be about to get busted. The Prince may be rolling out the next-generation of stickiness later this year in Beatiful Katamari, but this time there will be another spheroid challenger to the throne of king of all quirkiness. And he’s packing a gun. A paint-gun.
[image1]De Blob features a rolling ball of paint, sent to a black-and-white world with a mission to paint the town red. And blue. And purple and brown. Fascist monochrome creatures called “inkies” have sucked all the color from the once vibrant world. By careening your rolling ball of paint against buildings, billboards, and bridges, you bring color back into the world. All without singing a song or holding hands. Hell, you barely even have hands.
The gameplay is simple enough, you guide your blob into paintcans, mixing the color with whatever paint you’ve already acquired, and then simply spread the wet goodness. Each building that you paint turns the color of your blob. By picking up more paintcans, you can grow in size and mix colors to create new hues. de Blob uses only a couple of controls—you guide the blob with the joystick, and wave the controller to jump, smash inkies and careen up walls. It’s even easier to see than to explain; check this video.
[image2]The real star is the blob itself - making a pleasantly squishy sound as it rolls and jumps, leaving a trail of paint splatters as it goes. It is just slightly sticky, and will tack to walls for a few moments before peeling off. Your ball of paint, apparently, has all the physical properties of snot.
The main objective of the game is to paint the entire town. You build up combo points by painting buildings quickly, though you also have to watch the amount of ink you have - as you paint, he (she? he/she?) gets smaller.
In your way are inkies - starfish-like enemies who will turn your paint black, and challenges - puzzles where must coordinate jumps to reach new areas or accomplish specific sub-missions. In one challenge, I had to paint one section of the town a certain non-primary color, meaning that I had to remember my grade-school color wheel, meaning I failed the challenge.
[image3]Comparisons to Katamari are inevitable, so why fight them? de Blob looks accessible and fun in the way Katamari was two years ago. The level designs are clean and engaging, and the world feels like a giant coloring book. It’s a game that will span age-groups; the controls and the premise are simple and not in the least morally questionable (unless you're some dumb hippy who takes issue with the fact that the inkies are black). And a four-player splitscreen competitive mode gives everyone a chance to squish each other’s Van Gogh dreams.
Australian developer Blue Tongue’s de Blob also just happens to be a remarkable clean-up of an indie game of the same name created by some European graduate students. The spunky originality of this little game makes even more sense in that context - the love-child of delirious and starving students who might have paid for their last month's rent by painting the landlord’s kitchen. Cute, catchy and messy, de Blob rolls in early 2008. Just don’t get any on the carpet.