A Boy and His Blob
System: NES Publisher: Absolute Developer: Absolute
Genre: Action Type: Sidescrolling Platform Circa: 1990
Boy meets Blob... This is the scariest subway I have ever seen, no wonder it's abandoned!

A Boy and His Blob may very well have been one of the first "treasure hunt" games. In it, you play as an anonymous boy who has the most unusual of sidekicks - a shape-changing blob that loves jellybeans. Your mission is to feed this blob jellybeans, so that he will morph into different shapes to help you overcome the game's various obstacles. A Boy and His Blob is partially a unique and interesting game experience, and partially an experiment in an idea.

GRAPHICS: 7.5/10
To be honest, I think the graphics of A Boy and His Blob are much better than what I've heard. I once heard someone compare the look of this game to what his vision of "Hell" would be like, and I think I could agree. Never before have I seen such an unintentionally frightening game environment! The backgrounds are all done very well, and it seems like the artist(s) were really trying to pack in a lot of detail. The cityscape looks amazing, especially for NES-style graphics. The only problem with the backgrounds is that you spend most of the game exploring underground caverns, most of which look alike. The Blob's world has the most interesting graphics in the game, ranging from lush green landscapes, to a candy factory, to scary-looking cornfields, and more caves. The animation of the blob character, as he bounces around and transforms into various objects, is surprisingly fluid. I especially love the different expressions on his face! It's reminiscent of the kind of animation that would be used in later games like Prince of Persia and the Genesis version of Disney's Aladdin. The most basic sprites are used to portray the scarce number of enemies in the game, such as bouncing caterpillars, cherry bombs, and marshmallows. The boy's design and animation is a stark contrast to the Blob. His running animation is rather stiff, and his composition and color scheme are reminiscent of something out of an Atari 2600 game.
Licorice = Ladder...You have just descended into hell
SOUND: 4/10
The music of this game seems to make an attempt at sounding "heroic", like something out of a cheesy 1970's superhero cartoon. There's only a few tunes in the game, including the opening theme, the main theme, and then one more theme for the Blob's World. The music isn't bad, but it can become really annoying after awhile. There are very, very few sound effects in this game. Sometimes, when the blob transforms back into his normal shape, he makes some kind of silly "circus" sound effect. The only other sound effects are the boy's whistle, the shots from the Vitablaster, the cherry bomb explosions, and the signal for collecting a treasure. The boy's whistle sounds pretty realistic. But more sound effects could've been used in other situations. When you fall in the water, there's no splash. When the boy screeches to a halt, there's no screech. When you bounce on the trampoline, there's no boing. Overall, the sound isn't really bad, it's just average.
CONTROL: 6.5/10
The play control in this game is not really bad, but not really great, either. The single biggest problem is the way the boy slides around when you stop running. He doesn't just stop on a dime, but slides forward a few steps when you let go of the control pad. What this leads to is a lot of unnecessary falling off of ledges and bumping into enemies! Of course, you can learn to compensate for it, and then it isn't too much of a problem. The blob bounces along after the boy and will come when you whistle to him. Sometimes, it can be difficult to position the blob exactly where you want him to be, but it's not really that much of an issue. My only other complaint is that sometimes the blob accidentally falls off of ledges, or into pits, no matter what precautions you take, and the only way to get him back is to use one of your very limited supply of Ketchup jellybeans. Throwing jellybeans is very easy, although it's often easy to throw the bean too far or not far enough. Cycling through them can be tedious, too. Overall, the play control is a little slippery, but it's not so bad that it makes the game unplayable.
It's amazing the type of stuff you'll find under the subway...Even the walls have teeth
Well, if this game were scoring points based only on originality, it would probably score a lot higher than this. I think it's safe to say that no one's done a game about a boy who meets a shape-changing blob, before. But, unfortunately, little of what actually goes on in this game makes any sense, whatsoever. As the story goes, a boy meets a blob from another planet. The blob's planet has been overtaken by a junk food emperor, and he needs the boy's help to save his world. Somehow, they decide that the best way to go about doing this is to explore a bunch of caverns beneath an abandoned subway, looking for treasure. They need the treasure to purchase vitamins, which they will take to the blob's home planet, and use to defeat the emperor's minions. That's a strange enough idea, but it evokes a few unanswered questions: How do they know there is treasure below the subway? WHY are there treasures and bags of jellybeans hidden below the subway? And why are vitamins and jellybeans so expensive, that you need to find buried treasure to buy them? Well, maybe it's not really meant to make sense, but it just seems like the idea of searching caverns for treasure, and saving the blob's homeworld, are not really related. Also, with the exception of the ending, there is no dialogue in the game, at all. The lack of verbal interaction between the boy and the blob, or any other forms of life (which are non-existant in this game), gives it an overall lonely and empty atmosphere.
A Boy and His Blob can be a rather tough game, but to be honest, I don't think it's all that engaging. It is mostly a game of "trial and error". Most of the "puzzles" simply require you to cycle through your jellybeans, and experiment with using them on the blob, until something works to get you past the obstacle at hand. Unfortunately, a lot of the real challenge comes from simply trying to keep the boy under control! This game also has no save feature and no continues, so it has to be beaten in one sitting. But once you learn how to overcome obstacles, the game becomes very easy. There is some more standard platform action on the Blob's planet, like avoiding and shooting at enemies, but it's nothing really spectacular. Also, the underground caverns are a very huge area that may require mapping. The method of progression through them is somewhat unconventional, in that a large portion of it requires you to turn the blob into a hole in the floor, so that you can drop down to the next level. The problem is trying to figure out where to place the holes so that you don't plummet to your doom. A Boy and His Blob focuses almost entirely on finding treasures, rather than platform jumping or fighting enemies, so you certainly cannot expect the same kind of challenge from it that you would get from an action game like Super Mario Bros. It is more comparable to games like Prince of Persia, Out of This World, and Oddworld.
FUN: 6.5/10
One thing that makes A Boy and His Blob fun is how you can experiment with it. The idea of a shape-changing blob that can be used to solve puzzles is unique and original. When you reach an obstacle that you can't overcome, it can be fun to experiment with different forms of the blob to find out what works. However, while I was exploring those huge, drab caverns in search of buried treasure, I couldn't help but to think that there were so many greater possibilities that could've been done with this concept. But with A Boy and His Blob, what you see is what you get...When there's a ledge too high to reach, yes, a ladder will most likely do. When there's an item too high to reach, yes, a trampoline is probably the solution. Sometimes, the game can be tedious, too. It's annoying to have to wait for the Blob to change forms and catch up to you all the time. It can also be frustrating to get so far in the game, and then run out of a vital flavor of jellybean, forcing you to start all over again. These may seem like minor nitpicks, but this game has lots of little annoyances that can add up to make it less than impressive. However, it does have some very strong good points, the first being the variety of things the blob can turn into. Some of his many forms are a ladder, trampoline, bridge, umbrella, bubble, coconut, blowtorch, hole, hummingbird, and jack, among others. Each flavor of jellybean changes the blob into a different shape. There's usually some kind of play on words, such as apple = jack, or vanilla = umbrella. You will need to use all of the blob's forms to get through the game. Since your number of jellybeans is limited, you'll have to be conservative and look for bags of extra beans. The overall level and puzzle design is rather haphazard. I will say that the better part of the game comes when you finally reach the Blob's Planet. The puzzles and action are somewhat more innovative here than in the subway caverns, being more straight-forward and having more enemies and obstacles to dodge.
Gold! I wonder who hid this stuff down here?...The blob's planet is being attacked by marshmallows and various other forms of junkfood

To sum it up, I wouldn't say A Boy and His Blob is a terrible game. But I can certainly understand many gamers' dislike of it. It is a much more passive game than what most people are probably used to. It is not the fast-action, shoot-em-up style of play that many grew fond of with games like Mega Man and Contra, and it's not non-stop platform hopping like the Mario games, either. It is almost a pure trial and error game, and possibly one that inspired games in the mold of Out of This World, Flashback, and the Oddworld series. If you're into NES games and you want something unusual, then you may want to give this game a try. Despite its flaws, it's one game that NES collectors should have in their collections, if only for its unique and unusual properties.
OVERALL SCORE (not an average): 6/10



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