Feb 29, 2012

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Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! Review

Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! Review

As the cheapest PlayStation Vita launch title (sitting comfortably on the PlayStation Store for a meager $8), Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! knows what it is, but that’s a very good thing. This charming indie platformer doesn’t pretend to be the “real console experience” like many of its launch-day brethren. In fact, the game borrows more from iOS titles in terms of gameplay and structure. No, Mutant Blobs Attack! won’t wow you with high-fidelity visuals or a suite of creation tools. Instead, the game effortlessly combines solid platforming, interesting puzzles, and sarcastic humor to offer a remarkably charming experience that makes clever use of the Vita’s unique hardware features. Mutant Blobs Attack! doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it will leave you with a smile on your face.

The story that drives Mutant Blobs Attack! is pretty bare-bones, but it’s more than enough to keep things moving while infusing some clever tongue-in-cheek humor. As the titular blob, you consume objects in the world around you and grow progressively larger over the course of the game. Ever-hungry and given no shortage of things to munch on, you’ll soon advance from your lowly college frat house beginnings to the wide world beyond. Farms, cities, and even army bases will soon bow to you. Between each main area, you’re treated to a cartoon cutscene that shows Earth falling into deeper chaos.  These aren’t particularly well-animated, but they’re no less silly than the rest of the game, making them a perfect fit. Developer Drinkbox Interactive doesn’t shy away from funny bits, either. Levels are sprinkled with satirical references and gameplay parodies lampooning everything from the hipster movement to Angry Birds.

While you’re laughing, you’ll be enjoying a fair bit of well constructed platforming. The meat of the game feels great thanks to the Vita’s responsive analog sticks and some truly great blob physics. Unique maneuvers like double-jumping off walls or adhering to objects for a scant few seconds give the jumping sections distinct character. The game also benefits greatly from Vita control mechanics. Sliding platforms, rotating objects, and moving machinery can all be controlled with simple finger taps and swipes. Combined, these elements create several interesting puzzles for you to navigate throughout the game. The best part? These sections don’t shy away from the core mechanics that gamers love. You’ll still need to jump across platforms with well timed button presses while using the touch screen to alter your environment, and your d-pad reflexes will often be just as important as the strokes and gestures necessary to proceed. These formerly disparate ideas combine smoothly to make Mutant Blobs Attack! a joy to play for its brief duration.

In fact, a short campaign length is one of my few complaints with this game. Every level can be beaten in a matter of a few hours, and the only real incentive for returning is to raise your high scores and collect the blob friends hidden in each level for bragging rights and trophies. Furthermore, the game never gets particularly challenging – the puzzles presented mid-game will tax you just as much as those near the end, which is to say, not too much. Finally (and I never thought I would say this about a game), Drinkbox missed an opportunity to include compelling mini-games. The tilt-and-touch mechanics of Mutant Blobs Attack! would lend themselves well to ancillary game modes, so only being able to replay campaign levels is a bit disappointing.

Thankfully, Mutant Blobs Attack! does not disappoint in the effects department. A bright and simple color palette focuses on greens and browns, delivering a “cheesy horror” look that’s hard not to love. The anti-heroic blob animates well, and almost every animation serves a gameplay purpose. The entire game display is also kept within a discrete “old TV” frame that complements the cartoon-horror aesthetic. A few more music tracks would’ve been appreciated, but what’s here is pleasant and certainly not grating. On the other hand, sound effects are spectacular. Screaming humans and terrified farm animals spur your destruction onward, and the squelching consumption of objects sounds great.

Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! arrives on the PlayStation Store in the nick of time. Alongside arcade juggernaut Super Stardust Delta, Mutant Blobs Attack! offers bite-sized gaming that doesn’t sacrifice its sense of self or fun. Touch-based platforming has never been this good, and the game successfully captures the mechanical nuances of bigger games while catering to a casual market that has yet to burgeon on Sony’s new portable. For $8, you can’t go wrong.

Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 02/22/12
Developer: DrinkBox
Publisher: DrinkBox
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
MSRP: $7.99