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

2361184-nes_boyandhisblob

The Short

Pros

  • An imaginative, creative puzzle platformer on the NES
  • Has an insane box cover
  • David Crane made it! The same dude who made Pitfall! I can dig it.
  • Transforming the blob to solve puzzles was a fun mechanic

Cons

  • Short. You can beat this game in something like 10 minutes if you know the right route.
  • Getting the blob to go where you want gets frustrating
  • Some puzzles are exceptionally obtuse
  • Background graphics are nice, sprites…not so much.
  • Under ten minutes of music…total.
  • Is the blob part bowling pin?
Find a blob, take him home to meet the parents

Find a blob, take him home to meet the parents

 

The Long

A Boy and his Blob is the brainchild of David Crane, famed Atari game designer who invented the classic Pitfall. They obviously liked him as they slapped him on the cover (making the official title of this game David Crane’s A Boy and His Blob Trouble on Blobolonia), and it’s pretty clear the guy has some designing chops, even with this being his first game on the NES. His design company, Imagineering, would later go on to make…Bart vs The Space Mutants. And Absolute, the publisher, also did nothing else of note that I can remember (except the Home Improvement games on the SNES, I guess). You could say they did Absolute-ly nothing! Ha!

Ahem. Back on track.

This game has a bit of a cult status, enough so that Wayforward remade it on the Wii a few years back. The remake is charming and some decent, kid-friendly fun. It even has a hug button, which is just adorb-able. But what about the original? In an era of dry, bad platformers (cough 8 Eyes cough) and just general NES trash, does a unique title like this stand the test of time?

Uh…kind of. Read on.

Licorice = Ladder. Good life lessons, all around.

Licorice = Ladder. Good life lessons, all around.

The basic premise of A Boy and His Blob is that you play the titular “boy,” destined to save the plant Blobolonia from an evil emperor. Your stalwart companion is the also-titular Blob, who looks like a white, fatter bowling pin. Blob follows you around (and can be called should he lag behind), but the real trick is he can TRANSFORM! That’s right, by feeding him jelly beans (hey, the Dr. Pepper ones are pretty damn delicious), Blob can transform into multiple objects that can solve a variety of platforming puzzles.

And that’s the whole game. Explore, feed Blob beans, hope Blob was in the right spot (or else feed Blob more beans), continue. Do some basic platforming, win game. What else do you want from me?

If your umbrella has red eyes, time to call the exorcist.

If your umbrella has red eyes, time to call the exorcist.

There are a few general hangups I have with the game in general. First, a lot of the puzzles are very obtuse, and you don’t know what to use with the Blob until it’s either too late or you’ve been stuck for hours trying everything. Second, you don’t have infinite jelly beans, so you could be trying to solve a puzzle with what logically makes sense and instead waste beans. If you run out of a necessary kind? Too bad! Start the game over.

Which…actually isn’t an awful thing, because the game is painfully short. A first run will probably take an hour or two at most (depending on how easily frustrated you are by difficult/obtuse adventure game puzzle logic), whereas if you have the game memorized you can burn through it in under fifteen minutes. The only thing really extending the length is the initial frustration, which isn’t a good thing.

If there's anything the Blob hates, it's organic.

If there’s anything the Blob hates, it’s organic food.

The controls are also frustrating. To pick beans you have to hop into a menu, as other controls are used for jumping and summoning the Blob. Speaking of the latter, getting the dingus to stand where you want was a big pet peeve of mine, with Blob kind of doing his own thing most of the time. I just…just line up to be a ladder, Blob! It isn’t hard!

Graphically, this game is a mixed bag. I liked most of the backgrounds and platforms; it has kind of an “MS-DOS” style going for it which I really dig. The main character and the blob look a bit weak, however, and the solid color HUD/Border is really uninspired.

Speaking of “uninspired,” the music is…well, there isn’t a lot of it, and what is there is forgettable and honestly kind of strange. I won’t go so far to say it is “bad” (I actually like the intro track), but on a system known for some great chiptune tracks, A Boy and His Blob bores.

Also I’m 90% sure that intro riff is stolen from Indiana Jones.

 

I can get why people look back fondly on this game. It’s unique, and in an industry not known for branching out into weird experimentation (at least not mainstream titles), A Boy and His Blob is one of those rare exceptions. It isn’t fundamentally broken or anything, and the Blob is kind of cute. For a deformed bowling pin. And a ladder. And trampoline. And all the other things he can be.

That being said, the artificially difficult puzzles, limited amount of beans (which discourages experimentation, which doesn’t fit well with confusing puzzles), and lackluster platforming (and Blob positioning) make the game almost more frustrating than fun to actually play. I imagine once you get the hang of it (or have a lot of nostalgia), these complaints don’t seem like such a big deal. But going into the game for the first time since I was eight, I found the rose-tinted glasses cracking under the strain.

Regardless, I still think A Boy and His Blob is worth checking it, if only to see a unique concept on the NES (and all the Blob transformations), but as a game you actually would sit down and play it sort of falls flat. Like the Blob will, should you feed him the right jelly bean.

Three out of five stars. 

You blob those vitamins, Blob! Blob 'em good!

You blob those vitamins, Blob! Blob ’em good!

Author: Nathan Major

Spirit Shark: Hammerhead. Retro game collector, true ginger, and SNES fanatic. Goal in life is to become Karnov from the NES game Karnov.

Share This Post On

2 Comments

  1. (the boy arrives at a bowling alley — a puzzle! — one bowling pin is missing)

    I guess you better not feed the blob any jelly beans…

    (blob starves)

    It’s a surprisingly dark game?

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *