Tales from Space
is not a franchise with which Xbox gamers will be familiar. The first title in the franchise, Tales from Space: About a Blob
was Playstation exclusive. However, due to Drinkbox Games' new partnership with Midnight City, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
has arrived on Xbox LIVE Arcade to show us exactly what we have been missing. Have the mutant blobs mounted a worthwhile invasion or will we be able to contain them within the doldrums of mediocrity?
Regardless of your feelings towards blobs, there is no denying that their treatment at the hands of scientists was cruel. Constant prodding and numerous injections with toxic substances take their toll. If the experiment went wrong, the blobs were euthanized with a giant mallet, only for the process to begin again. One day, a careless scientist gets more than he bargained for and he accidentally sets free our titular Mutant Blob and 53 of his friends. If Mutant Blob is to survive, he must escape his captors and the confinement imposed by the evil human race.
In gameplay that resembles a 2D side-scrolling version of the Katamari
series, Mutant Blob must platform his way through six different environments and a total of 24 different levels. Along the way, he must eat anything and everything to grow bigger and escape. As a small tennis ball-sized blob, you start out with the ability to eat objects as large as peanuts; by the end of the game your food is much bigger. This is not a calorie-controlled diet. Each level has sections where Mutant Blob's progress is blocked by a cork. To be able to get past this cork, you must consume as much as possible in the surrounding area. The game always provides slightly more to eat than is needed to progress but you still need to be fairly thorough to reach the target size. Take as much time as you like to reach the end of the level -- you will not be penalised.
The game's platforming also starts off at a basic level, with simple gaps and easy-to-reach 'hidden' areas that contain Mutant Blob's missing friends, or areas filled with lots of things to consume for points. As things progress, gameplay gets more challenging and more precision is needed. You acquire extra powers to help you avoid the traps. Rocket power allows you to fly through the air and fly away from insta-death laser beams that are following your progress with a worrying speed. Magnetism can be used to stick to objects that are surrounded in a glowing purple hue so that you can climb vertical surfaces. Alternatively, it can be used to repel Mutant Blob away from spikes and saw blades, or reach distant ledges.
These are the powers that are needed to get you through the challenging sections of the game. When I say "challenging", I actually mean "a bit more difficult". There are few frustrating moments, but these moments are alleviated by Mutant Blob's generous health bar, infinite lives, the game's lack of timer and an extremely forgiving checkpoint system. If Mutant Blob dies, he will never respawn further than a few metres away from the point of death. As the game's controls are also incredibly responsive, any death feels like your mistake rather than a cheap trick from the game. The only issue at times is working out what to do. At the start of the game, tips appear to introduce you to Mutant Blob's powers and abilities. Unfortunately, as the game progresses, these tips seem to become invisible. In one particular section, Mutant Blob is tasked with plummeting down a spike-lined tunnel that changes directions several times. Only after five attempts that resulted in death after hitting the spikes did the in-game tip appear to tell me that I could change direction in mid-air at the press of a button.
Occasionally, the platforming is brought to a standstill by a seemingly impassable barrier. At these points, another power is usually needed to solve the puzzle in front of you. Telekinesis allows you to move platforms and manipulate ledges to block lasers, push buttons or move food into a position where Mutant Blob can reach it. Although they will make you pause, the puzzles aren't too challenging either. However, the puzzles did bring out one of the only faults that I found with the game. The right joystick is used to control your telekinesis power, but this is incredibly sensitive. The slightest of knocks to the joystick can change the direction of the platform unexpectedly and result in death.
Throughout the main campaign, the action takes place in a world inspired by 50's artwork. Billboards contain references to Drinkbox's previous titles or sly digs at pop culture. The humour carries through to the game's brief cut scenes, which explain Mutant Blob's journey by using a unique brand of gibberish, and the five bonus levels. In the bonus levels, the art style changes dramatically as players have to navigate fairly simple mazes from a top-down perspective. I challenge you to spot all of the retro game references.
Drinkbox has resisted the urge to shoehorn a multiplayer mode into the title. You have the campaign that will take between six to eight hours to complete and that is it. The closest that you get to multiplayer is the game's leaderboards. Although players will get a time bonus if they complete a level quickly, the majority of the points arise from the items that you eat. A player that takes their time and consumes everything is more likely to get a higher score than a player who rushes through a level while eating the bare minimum to progress. The amount that Mutant Blob eats is also vital to the colour of the medal that he receives at the end of the level. Players who take the time to explore and eat everything are pretty much guaranteed a gold medal.
The game's achievements are not terribly challenging, especially for platforming veterans. Achievements for story-related events within the game's campaign total 160G, although bear in mind that a couple of these can be missed. As a level can be replayed at any time, it is fairly easy to go back to earn these. An easy 20G comes from visiting the leaderboards, while another 20G comes from the consumption of 1500 objects, something that is easily achieved just by completing the campaign. The game's easy bonus levels spawn another 20G, while the game's collectables (Mutant Blob's 53 friends) yield 60G. While the earlier blobs are easy to find, players will definitely need to explore to find those in the later levels (or use a guide). Finally, the last 120G is earned in the quest for those Gold medals. Overall, the game seems to be an easy completion.
Drinkbox has chosen a fairly competent platformer with which to make their debut on Xbox platforms. Precise controls make the game a breeze to control as you pilot your innocent-looking but deadly blob in his bid for escape. Those who are patient enough to explore the game's nooks and crannies will be rewarded with a fairly simple XBLA completion.The reviewer approximately seven hours completing the campaign and all bonus levels in full. This earned her all 14 achievements and another game completion. She also wants a rocket-propelled mutant blob. The review copy was provided by the publisher.