Back in the old days we didn’t have the Internet to guide us through tough games. We had to figure it all out for ourselves, hoping that either a friend or a scarce gaming magazine knew how to beat certain tricky spots. Today, though, every solution is simply a mouse click away.
The lack of information meant lots and lots of aimlessly wandering around. Plenty of games forced us to forgo actual logic and try everything to proceed, and there is no game that better suites that description than A Boy and his Blob.
From the title alone you can probably imagine how esoteric the gameplay is. You play as a kid with a stray pet blob that eats jellybeans. Wait, it gets better?eating different flavored jellybeans causes the blob to mutate. What does it change into? Oh, the usual: blowtorches, trampolines, ladders, hummingbirds?
It’s extremely convenient for the blob to react to food this way. You see, Blobonia is in some serious trouble, and Mr. Blob needs your help. A junk food monster has taken over and it’s up to you two to take him down using your bag of jellybeans. An absurd concept – sure – but it’s best just to swallow your gaming pride and get on with the game.
A Boy and his Blob is a clear cut example of a great idea crashing head on with execution. It’s a nice puzzle game requiring trial and error as well as detailed exploration; but the catch is that certain issues are resolved by the most bizarre combinations of jellybeans and foresight.
The game just starts; there’s no introduction or primer for the ensuing gameplay. You have to figure out everything on your own, which is fairly hard due to the sheer number of possibilities you’re faced with. There are 14 jellybean flavors, each one having a different effect on your gelatinous friend. Once you experiment with them, memorizing the effects is step number one. Most are pretty simple (punch = hole, apple = jack), but some you have to really commit to memory (cinnamon = blowtorch).
After the initial shock has worn off, you can actually start playing the game. The goal is to find a key that will open the vitamin store. With vitamins, and a vitamin-blasting gun, you can hop the next root beer rocket to Blobonia and stop the chocolate tyrant. Along the way, of course, are monsters and untold perils galore.
The biggest danger here is the unknown, and each progressive screen presents the player with a new challenge. “Which jellybean will work? Will I die if I try this??”. These are common thoughts while playing. So much of your time is spent guessing and dying, then guessing something else – and probably dying one more time. It sounds annoying but, in reality, it drives you forward and spurs you on to figure out what in the world the programmers were thinking.
And that’s how the whole game comes out as a classic; it’s so bad that it’s good. It completely circumnavigates the globe of crap. The graphics are a mixed bag, like no other. The backgrounds are fairly detailed for an NES game, while everything else looks pretty sad even by late ?80s standards. The game’s sole tune is very repetitive as well. Still, it all comes together in such an unintentional, charming way that playing it is a treat instead of a chore. Even with a complete walkthrough and emulation save states, A Boy and his Blob manages to deliver a sense of discovery and a feeling that you’re doing something unique.
A Boy and his Blob is also one of those titles that people instantly remember upon seeing. The reaction usually goes something like, “Dude, I hated this game!” or “What were you supposed to be doing?” Many stared at the screen trying to figure it out, but most simply turned it off and walked away. However, now is the time to dust it off and enjoy the magic of its complete insanity once again.