Like a great classic horror monster, the colourful space blobs are back once again in Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. Developed by the folks at Toronto-based DrinkBox Studios, this downloadable PlayStation Vita launch title turns a cartoon version of our beautiful planet into a unique buffet. If you have an appetite for quirky content, well-designed gameplay and some mild human absorption, then this is a game you should definitely check out. In fact, it’s arguably darling of the handheld’s launch line-up. Lofty words, yes. However, the game lives up to its expectations and delivers a great experience for a very cheap price.
A sequel to last year’s independent PlayStation Network gem, Tales From Space: About a Blob, Mutant Blobs Attack ups the series’ B-movie ante. This time around, the hungry little guys have escaped from captivity, thanks to a terrible error in judgement by a scientist at an experimental facility. His decision to try to pick-up one of the strange entities during a college class visit, ends up leading to an engulfed hand and missing blobs. Needless to say, this once again creates panic in the outside world, as citizens run for cover from a monster which has the innate ability to eat everything it comes across. So much for that expensive renovation that was just completed.
When you imagine this experience, combine the side-scrolling and platforming essence of Super Mario Bros. with the eat everything in sight mentality found in a Katamari game. The last part of the recipe calls for some well-thought out puzzles. Once all of those things are mentally combined, you’ll have a great idea of what to expect from this otherworldly experience. It’s an amalgamation of parts from different genres, wrapped up into an outstanding experience which deserves to be spotlighted. Gamers are always complaining about how there’s a lack of neat and interesting titles out there. For this reason and many others, I’m hopeful the community will give this title a chance. It certainly falls into that category with gusto.
In total, there are six different environments to explore, taking our newly assumed blob pal to both new and familiar areas of our green and blue planet. The first stop is the aforementioned college kids’ dormitory, where the decor is far from chic. Escaping from its backpack transportation, the green creature sets out on his journey with the end goal being to get as large as possible. Essentially, we’re tasked with taking over the world in a rather neat way. Unfortunately, that mentioned landscape is also rife with traps and lasers amidst its retro decor.
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack once again forces players to start off small. You’ll be picking up odds and ends in the college dorm (with its hilarious posters and knickknacks), while trying to find a way out of that stinky place. Then, as the journey expands to new areas, the size of its available objects increases. This makes a lot of sense and feels like natural progression for the most part. It normally takes a three or four level stage to grow in size, so it may seem like you’re staying the same size for a while. In reality, it’s the next area that ups the ante. Those environments include an army base, a metropolis (also known as cartoon Toronto,) a wasteland and even a trip to the moon. There’s a solid amount of variety to be found, which is a nice bonus. It’s also neat to be able to take over a fictional city that was created as an homage to my hometown. In digital form, that is.
For some reason, the entire world is filled with corks. The wooden blockage materials act as size barriers for our gooey evildoer. As a result, the game requires players to ooze their way over a specific amount of items in order to progress. This means exploring each section of a level thoroughly, making sure that you’ve absorbed just about every visible piece of material. Sometimes, smaller pieces will be up on a ledge, acting as required digestion to allow for the larger items down below to be taken in. When damaged by angry humans and their missiles, those same objects will provide health. Then again, so will blob friends who are scattered throughout each level as collectibles.
Although escaping from the evil humans is your main objective, Mutant Blobs Attack employes a familiar secondary goal. That would be score point earning, with full leaderboard support. Achieving a certain score plateau gifts players with a silver medal, while absorbing just about everything in sight will earn a gold. Time and a couple of other factors (ie. collectables) are also graded. This system makes replaying stages more interesting and entertaining, although it’s not like those levels aren’t unique and hilarious in their own right.
Unlike its predecessor, this side-scrolling romp does not have an attack mechanic. There isn’t a need to throw eaten items at enemies or switches, which makes the experience a tighter one. That previously used aiming system was never perfect, and it’s not missed in this outing. Taking over are touchscreen puzzles that happen to be controlled by a new telekinetic ability. Pressing the green button on platforms, fans, speed boost arrows or vents will allow for them to be moved with the swipe of a finger. Sometimes, quick swipes will be required to fling the blob from one platform to another. This general design is used quite a few times, providing thought-inducing challenge with incredibly responsive controls. However, it’s always fair and sensible, meaning that you’re not going to be stuck somewhere for hours while cursing the development team. There was only one time where I got stuck, and that was because the green switch went off the screen, forcing a stage retry.
The familiar and incredibly helpful magnetic ability did survive the cut, however. For the uninitiated, this mechanic allows the blob to cling to or propel itself away from magnetic surfaces, using the Vita’s two shoulder buttons. It helps during climbing segments, factors in during puzzles and also provides a hefty challenge during fast-paced propulsion segments, where learning a pattern of spikes means the difference between life and disintegration. There were a couple of moments where it felt like the pull of the metal should have been more powerful, but those slights weren’t too frustrating.
Somehow, the mutant beings learned how to boost with rocket-like propulsion while they were held captive by humankind. There are quite a few segments where the X button must be used in order to fly around or in-between obstacles, such as lasers. When speed is of the essence, holding the right shoulder button will allow for a flame-based speed boost. The controls for this portion of the experience are relatively tight and the design fits into the series’ formula quite well, feeling like it was always a part of it.
In addition to traditional numerical stage markers, the world map also plays host to star icons. They represent brand new, Tilt-a-Blob mini-stages. These have nothing to do with the core campaign, allowing the DrinkBox team to come up with unique ways to make use of the Vita’s tilt sensors. The results of those experiments are several different challenges, ranging from a wood-based obstacle course to a classic black and white Game Boy game design. Two of them even feature blurry visuals that are heavy on the colour pink, in order to pay homage to classic 3D technology. While most of the Tilt-a-Blob scenarios were enjoyable and unique, the first one was far too frustrating to be enjoyable. You really need to master the incredibly precise tilting mechanics used, in order to avoid all of its black holes. Thankfully, there are several checkpoints spread within the level, although they could have been a bit more generous. One slight tilt can result in a forced segment restart.
From start to finish, this experience can be bested in four to five hours. At that length, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack feels fleshed out. In fact, it doesn’t feel like a downloadable PSN game, due to a high amount of polish and a sizeable content suite. There were a couple of crashing issues experienced, but they were easy to overlook due to the game’s brilliance. Taking those factors into account, you can surely understand how easy it was to forget that this is only $7.99. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
With this release, it’s even more clear that the development team wanted to pay homage to cheesy monster movies from the 1950s. Not only that; they also made a great attempt at poking fun at popular culture through very whimsical advertisements, store names and the like. Despite a complete lack of dialogue, there’s still a ton to grasp through those, along with the gibberish-speaking newscasters who televise the blob’s recent moves. That caricatured cast includes a neat cameo by one of Toronto’s native game journalists, Shaun Hatton, who also composed music for the game. His neat and campy song can be heard during the end game credit sequence, tying into what is already a great sounding experience. All of the utilized music is rich and full of tone, aiding its retro theme creation. Additionally, well-designed sound effects help add humour and style to the experience.
Using stylish art design and very colourful visuals, DrinkBox Studios has crafted a beautiful game that looks great on the handheld’s OLED screen. It’s bright, vivid and full of very well-drawn environments. None of them are like anything you’ve ever seen before, which is a testament to the art team who crafted their decor. That aforementioned monster movie homage is always intact, as the sides of the screen are distressed to make the experience feel aged. That, or like it’s being viewed on an older screen. Either way, it adds interesting character to an experience which is already teeming with it.
If Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack was only available on a retail cartridge, this sentence would be used to recommend running to the closest game shop in order to purchase one for yourself. However, that isn’t at all necessary, considering that it’s a PSN exclusive. For a very generous price of $7.99, this is a steal at full price. If you’re a PS Vita owner, it behooves you to give this marvelous experience a shot. Mutant Blobs Attack provides great ways to use the PS Vita’s unique features, and could be the best title released for the device thus far.
This review is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.