A Boy and His Blob (NES)

September 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A Boy and His Blob - Title ScreenLicorice = LadderBouncing Marshmallows

I like side-scrollers.  I like adventure games.  I like “obscure” games that show up on “hidden gems” lists.  I like quirky games.  So it all stands to reason that I would like A Boy and His Blob, right?  Well, sure enough, I do.  No stylistic twist to get your attention here, I just plain like it.  It’s a good game.  Flawed, but good.

I had never heard of A Boy and His Blob (or, even its full title, “David Crane’s A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia”) back in the day, let alone actually having played it.  In fact, I was only clued into its existence sometime over the last couple of years.  I noticed that as I read a few “hidden gems” and “overlooked games” lists around the web and various retro games forums, this one kept popping up.  I knew it was an NES game, I knew it was an adventure game, and I knew you were a boy with blob that changed shapes when you fed it jellybeans (yes, jellybeans).  Beyond that, I didn’t know much else.

So with a fresh mindset and little in the way of expectations, I dove into A Boy and His Blob.  And then I got stuck.  After about five minutes of playing the game.  So I turned it off, and came back later.  And I got stuck again.  At the same spot.  So I turned it off and came back later.  But this time, I was determined to actually figure the damn game out.  And this is when it all started to click and I “got” the game.  I took notes on what all the different jellybeans did, I started making a map, and I remembered what Metroid taught me: never assume a dead-end is actually a dead-end.

Okay, so that’s all fine and dandy, but what is the game actually all about?  Well, the title does a pretty good job of explaining it.  You’re a boy and you have a blob.  The blob is from the planet Blobolonia, and it just so happens the king of Blobolonia is getting a little out of hand.  You need to help your blob (aka Blobert) destroy the king and restore harmony, or whatever.  It’s all very ’80s NESish.  Oh, and the king loves sweets — to the extent that vitamins are bad for him.  So your job is to buy a bunch of vitamins to use as ammo to take him down.  But in order to buy vitamins, you need money.  To get money, you need to explore the caverns beneath your hometown’s subway system to collect hidden treasure.  To collect those treasures, you need to make use of Blobert’s malleability by turning him into various objects, such as ladders, trampolines, bubbles, blowtorches(?), coconuts (??), hummingbirds (???), and various other objects.  And you turn him into those objects by feeding him various different flavors of jellybeans. (The relationships of which can be learned through mnemonic devices.  For instance, Tangerine = Trampoline, and Licorice = Ladder.)

Okay, so that’s what the game is all about, and as I already mentioned, I think it’s pretty good.  Overall, the basic mechanic of turning your blob into the right object to solve a puzzle at hand is a fun and rather unique experience.  But on the other hand, I said the game is flawed.  This is really minor and not too important, so I’ll just get it out of the way: the game is very underwhelming technologically.  The graphics and sound are pretty primitive even by NES standards.  But that’s okay, this is a retro gaming site, who really cares about that?  The main flaw of this game is its occasional obscurity regarding what to do next.  It wasn’t until I started randomly placing holes in the ground when there was no other path that I started to  make real progress.  But the problem with this is that it often means you’ll plunge to your death several times before you find the right spot to place the hole.

Luckily, there are a couple options for safe exploration.  You can turn the Blob to a coconut and roll him off the screen to see what’s ahead, or you can toss a jellybean over a cliff to see what’s below.  But more often than not, you’re going to be progressing via trial and error.  Try something.  If you die, you try something different.  Eventually, you figure out what works and what doesn’t, and you make a little more progress each time you play.

I’ve looked at other opinions of this game around the web, and the resounding consensus seems to be that it’s hard as hell.  Well, I don’t really think that’s the case.  It an unforgiving game, and it definitely takes a fair amount of trial and error to get through, but I don’t think that makes it difficult — you just have to approach it with the right mindset.  Don’t go in expecting to beat the game without a Game Over or two… Or five… Or twenty.  Just make it a point to make a little extra progress each time you play.  Do what I did: make a map and each time you play, don’t make it your goal to beat the game, but rather to fill out a little more of your map.  Eventually, you’ll fill the whole thing out and you’ll be close to beating the game.

Final Thoughts: All in all, I like A Boy and His Blob, and I recommend it to anyone that likes adventure games and puzzle-solving.  It’s an acquired taste, though.  Take your time with it.  Have patience!  Approach it with the right mindset, and you’ll find a lot to enjoy.

Deep Sea TreasureCornMarshmallow Factor

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About Tim
My name is Tim. I live in Madison, WI. I'm a retro gamer.

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