Review: Blobster (Xbox Live)
Nokia's Xbox Live exclusive title Blobster is an example of a game that looks great on paper, and has all the elements that should make for a good game - but fails to deliver. It's not easy to put my finger on why Blobster doesn't make the grade, but let's give it a go.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
Shall we start with the graphics? Over the last few weeks, there have been some really good graphical games on Windows Phone. From the high detail and faux 3D of Judge Dredd, to the fast yet simple sprites in Red Bull Kart Fighter World. Blobster has not had an artistic pass over the graphics. There are lots of nice gentle curves, and a touch of shading on anything that is meant to be curved, but every thing feels simplified, and nothing seems to match up in terms of style.
If I didn't know better, I would say that all the graphics have been done by the code monkeys in their spare time and that they've gone with these graphics to create a slightly retro feel to the world.
Then there are the hacks on zooming. When dialog boxes zoom out of the screen like the Superman titles, the pixellated nature of the graphics is given away as the zoom simply steps up the size, and leaves jagged edges on the lines and fonts. Again, a design flair and an eye for pixel perfect detail is needed to make this style of graphic work.
As an Xbox Live title, Blobster doesn't get much slack, especially as the title is in the £2.29 / $2.99 price band. An indie author might get away with the graphics if the rest of the game was up to scratch... but with Chillingo/EA publishing this title, that comes with a higher level of expectation.
And the rest of the game play is not up to scratch.
Let's talk about the level design. It's difficult to come up with anything truly new in a platform game in the 21st century (although it can be managed). Blobster has spring pads, items to collect, platforms in the sky, an awkward landscape of pipes to navigate over, and fixed end points in each short level to allow for the short burst of play you expect to get on a mobile device.
And again, it's hard to explain, but it doesn't quite work. The constant movement from left to right, the consistency of having to gain height in the middle of a level and then drop down again to the finish, the relatively easy placement of the collectible blobs around the level... doesn't come together.
Short levels provide a restriction and demand an economy of design. When it works, you can get a really nice package such as Roll In The Hole (also published by Chillingo). When it doesn't, you get Blobster.
The title also demands an accuracy in the controls of the game, and while it is quite unforgiving, it's not a deal breaker on its own. Again, it's an element that in isolation is a good idea, but then fails when added to the rest of Blobster. Tilt controls to roll left and right (or tap the edges of the screen) are quite coarse, while the ability to jump by pulling down, setting direction and releasing your finger allows for jumping in any direction... but the requirements for height and distance at some level points require perfect alignment that's difficult to achieve on the touch-screen.
One of the comments in the Windows Store is that this title is reminiscent of Nokia's 'Bounce' franchise. A central, spherical red character and a flat level design will help that. But Bounce went very (very) retro in terms of looks, but had the gameplay and level design to overcome this. Blobster just misses, feels slightly under par in every department, and quite frankly there's far better out there than this effort.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at