Games can be about anything, and they often are nowadays. Sometimes you get to play as a crack commando shooting everything in sight and other times you get to play as a nameless wanderer simply trying to find their way to a distant place on the horizon. Each game offers the player a unique way to unwind, to immerse themselves into the world offered and take on the role of someone else, usually someone more heroic. That’s all very well and good, but it doesn’t always deliver. Playing as your forty-third American army hero of the year can get dull fast and sometimes, just sometimes, you want to be a giant mutant blob from space who just rolls around absorbing junk (and people!) and getting bigger. Don’t judge me – because after you find out a little more about Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack you may well wish to join me in blobdom.
Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is a colourful platformer, the sequel to 2011’s PSN release Tales from Space: About a Blob. Upon booting the game the first thing that strikes you is the sheer vibrancy, the graphics jumping out at you through the Vita’s screen. The whole game is framed by a 1950’s style filter, both literally in terms of the game screen and figuratively in terms of its backdrops and themes. Playing as a mutant blob (presumably from space) you begin your mission as a tiny entity attempting to escape from a messy student lab, playing through a total of twenty-four main levels across six stages as you continue to devour all who oppose you.
The platforming is tight throughout, with the controls requiring confidence from the player but with the game being forgiving enough to keep you at it –there is no penalty for death other than having to restart from the last (generously spaced) checkpoint and a slower finish time. As well as the usual timed jumps, wall jumps and so forth Mutant Blobs Attack brings several fun additions to the platforming party – a magnetic ability that lets you attract or repel yourself to certain metal objects, a rocket ability that sees you propelling the blob through bits of certain levels and even some touch based environmental interaction. The main aim of each level is to consume enough matter so that you can grow and advance through the game, starting from eating wee bits of junk and rapidly progressing to chomping on attack helicopters.
As a welcome change to some Vita games the division between touch and hard controls are spot on with Mutant Blobs Attack. Control is mainly found through the use of the left analogue stick and the X button, although certain puzzles require you to make use of the touch interface. Everything just works, nothing has you cramping your hands in weird positions as you try to cope with a particularly gammy piece of touch gaming. Even better, all of the menu and out of level navigation supports both normal and touch controls allowing each player to access where they want to go how they want to. It’s a breath of fresh air for a console still desperate to showcase its selling points and shows how well the functionality can partner traditional gaming in a ‘Better with Touch’ fashion, rather than attempting to fully implement it with every idea.
However, as you progress through the levels you very quickly notice that nothing is particularly challenging, especially for a platforming veteran. Levels pass by far too quick, and gold medals for your level score are all too frequently awarded without having to try. While each level contains hidden blob friends for you to find in many cases they seem to pop out of the woodwork at you, and none of them are hidden in places that are particularly difficult to find. Apart from the online leaderboards (which you can only submit times to if you play while connected to the PSN) there is nothing compelling you to return to the completed stages, although if you do and you decide to take a slower pace a new appreciation of the attention to detail and punning ability of the development team will be found.
As well as the main levels with their take on classic platforming each stage contains a level in which the Vita’s accelerometer is used to control your blob. Again the controls are tight here, with Mutant Blobs Attack providing probably the strongest example of accelerometer gaming you are likely to see on the Vita for a while. It’s a shame then that the accelerometer levels don’t do the controls justice; the first sets the scene for a series of challenging mini-games that would provide you with a break from the main gameplay concepts, but the rest very quickly prove to just present the same ‘eat stuff and grow’ idea from the main game. It’s still fun, but you can’t help but think what could have been achieved.
Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack isn’t necessarily a must-have game for the Vita, but at the price point it comes at it is hard not to forgive the issues around longevity and difficulty. The platforming, the design, the accelerometer levels all jump out at you and demand attention, even if you are probably only going to be playing through the game once. As a budget digital offering it is clear that Mutant Blobs Attack has set a high benchmark for the games that will inevitably follow and we can only hope that others build on this worthy base.