It was a sad day when THQ folded back in 2013. Taking with it a bevvy of great games, from the WWE wrestling brawlers, to Disney film tie-ins, and the over-the-top gangsta craziness of Saints Row, they'd been a staple of the games industry scene for just shy of 25 years. With their assets fragmented and sold off to the highest bidder, while the biggest titles (like WWE and Saint's Row) were quickly snapped up, some of the smaller (and more interesting titles) ended up languishing in obscurity - until Nordic Games, the former publisher of the We Sing series, picked them up, rebranding itself as THQ Nordic in the process. Determined to bring many a classic series back from the dead for a new audience, the company has set about remastering, and re-releasing as much of the back catalogue as it can manage in recent months, with its the latest game to get the back-from-the-dead treatment being De Blob, and its sequel De Blob 2, a couple of brightly-coloured platforming adventures that star the space-hopper alike Blob, who seems to spend his days painting buildings and solving crimes in equal measure. We loved De Blob 2 when it hit the Xbox 360 way back when - so how does the remake shape up?
In De Blob 2, the world is once again in turmoil. The nefarious Comrade Black and his inkies are back, this time with a new plot to rid the world of colour once more. By disguising himself as Papa Blanc, the leader of the Blanc Party, the dastardly Black is trying to rig the elections and trick the fun-loving Raydian folks into letting him rule Prisma City with a dull, grey fist. Sucking all the colour from the surrounding areas, changing seas into inky swamps and turning the citizens into mindless grey drones, the INKT corporation are once again trying to take over the world, and it falls to the titular Blob to mop things up once more. Together with his friend Pinky, and the rest of the Colour Underground rebels, it's time to get his blobby backside in gear, before it's too late!
Part platformer, part colouring in simulator, De Blob is a bright little adventure where you'll jump, bounce and paint your way across island resorts, towns and more, hot on the inky trail of the evil Comrade Black and his boring grey minions. Restoring colour to the bleached towns is as easy as rolling your way through pools of brightly-coloured paint, then bumping into the buildings, trees and scenery to slap a good coat of paint on. Bit by bit, you'll start to restore the world to its former glory by covering everything in a veritable rainbow - it even works on Black/Blanc's brainwashed corporate drones too. By painting their buildings, you'll lure the poor little guys outside, at which point a quick roll over with the Blob colours them in again, and brings them back to their senses. Every so often, you'll need to head inside key landmarks and liberate them from the inside out - colouring them in, smashing switches and bringing Comrade Black's guards to their senses, all whilst avoiding deadly lasers, colour-draining traps and more.
De Blob is a unique being really, more akin to a giant sponge than anything else, making him perfect for sucking up paint and splashing it onto his surroundings. However, he does only have a finite capacity for paint-storage - some 100 units to be precise - with each object he paints slowly depleting his paint level. Some objects, specifically those belonging to the evil INKT Corporation (crates, statues and the like) cost more to destroy, with a Comrade Black statue costing you some 80 paint points to colour in, for example. For these, you may need to roll backwards and forwards between a paint pool and your chosen object, in order to recharge your paint stores and let you clean everything up. As you play, lightbulb pickups, known as 'inspiration', can be exchanged for upgrades for the Blob - including increasing his maximum paint capacity, which is especially useful. Later levels introduce an almost puzzle-solving element to the proceedings too, as you'll need to start mixing and matching paint colours to get the right shade - something which'll see you trying to remember what you learnt in primary school about how the colours mix together.
However, Comrade Black isn't about to take your redecorating lying down, and before too long, he'll start throwing various INKT Corporation enemies your way. Attacking the basic drones is a simple matter of holding down the trigger and pressing the jump button to stomp on top of them, turning them into a normal, colourful citizen in the process. But as the game goes on, different enemies start turning up that require different strategies, with some wearing spiky hats, which need to be charged at instead. Holding the trigger simply targets the nearest enemy, so you may find yourself happy as larry, butt-stomping the bog-standard bad guys, only for a wally with a spiky head to wander into the fray, and BAM! spikes up your bottom and one hurt Blob.
For those who like their collectables, De Blob 2 delivers pick-ups and optional objectives a-plenty, with each level having three major colouring in targets to hit - liberating all the poor brainwashed people, colouring in all the trees, buildings and such, and destroying all of Comrade Black's posters, crates and statues. In terms of collectables, there's collectable inspiration pick-ups, which can be used to upgrade your blob; new 'styles' (which add funky patterns to the buildings you paint); as well as various side missions, usually of the 'paint this building a particular colour' variety, to complete too. There's also 100 gallery cards to find, scattered throughout the game, which unlock concept art and character pictures in the extras menu.
With all the colouring in, bad guy bashing and puzzle-solving to be done, De Blob 2's levels can be quite lengthy affairs, easily running from 30 minutes to an hour or more - but fortunately, for the remake, they've added in some much-needed checkpoints that let you quit mid-level without having to start over when you return. Kicking in every time you hit a 'transform engine' to colour-ify an area, you don't have to set aside hours in which to play De Blob 2, nor do you have to worry about life getting in the way either - although even these checkpoints can still be a fair way apart at times. Frustratingly, though, there's no way to go back into a level at a certain location if you find you've missed out on a specific collectible - instead, you'll just have to start over from the beginning, and play through the whole level from start to finish, re-collecting each and every collectable - even the ones you've already got - all over again, which is a little bit annoying.
Another thing we really wish they'd fixed for the remake is De Blob 2's totally superfluous time limit. When playing through a level, you've always got to keep one eye on the clock, which is constantly ticking down as you play. It doesn't really add anything to the game, and if anything, it only really gets in the way, as it means you don't want to waste precious seconds going off the beaten track to look for collectables, or colour in all the buildings. Perhaps it would be less of an issue if the timer tended to be generous, but it tends to vary wildly between giving you ample time to complete the level three times over, and oh-my-gosh-I-only-have-ten-seconds-left, depending on the level. On the whole, your best bet is to rush through a level as speedily as you can, with minimal detours, as once you've finished the main missions, the timer will be disabled, giving you free run of the place to tidy up collectables, find all the trees, and take a look around, before moving on to the next level.
De Blob 2 also offers a couple of cursory multiplayer modes (which were also in the PS3/360/Wii versions). Throughout the main story mode, a second player can jump in and play as Blob's pal Pinky - although it is very much a tacked on, Mario Galaxy-inspired mode, in that the second player can't do much besides fire at things. What's more entertaining is the Blob Party mode, a separate series of mini levels that see two players competing to complete various objectives to earn the most points, mostly by colouring in the most buildings, trees and the like. Sometimes, you'll need to work together to proceed, perhaps having one player stand on a pressure pad while the other gets flung to a higher level, but it's still essentially a competitive affair.
Despite its flaws, and despite the fact little has really changed since its last-gen outing, we like De Blob 2 - it's a happy-go-lucky little game, with a daft enough premise, you can't help but smile at all the little touches along the way, whether it's the way the music fills in as you paint buildings, or the funky little comic-strip style loading screens. However, the time limit still feels unnecessary, adding a pressure that often sucks the fun out of things, and having to collect everything in a single playthrough seems a bit silly. Still, if you missed De Blob the first time round, and enjoy a light-hearted little platformer, then we still urge you to give it a whirl.