It seems to me that all too often a game’s worth is judged solely on how complex the overall experience is. Is the AI smarter than your seventh grader, do the 4K graphics give you eye strain, and are there more than six million different in-game items of varying shades of grey to collect? We as consumers seem to thrive on getting lost in a game, building both stress and mastery as we trudge up the various learning curves of the week’s AAA titles. While these kinds of games are great, and though they offer a unique sense of stimulation and force us to earn whatever progress we make, there’s still a lot to be said for games of a simpler, more linear nature. Platformers of the current age seem to have the formula for this type of experience honed to a fine edge, and Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is the poster child of what we could consider a simple yet refreshing challenge.
Set in a wacky rendition of the present date, the story of TFS:MBA focuses around a single mutant blob and its goal to consume everything in its path. Having freed itself and countless blob-buddies from the human’s research facility, your surly little glob of snot must traverse such dangerous places as a college dorm, the moon, and an army base, all the while feeding off the landscape and growing bigger and badder. What starts as a quest to consume leftover pizza slices and beer cans soon turns into a desire to consume every single object within the solar system, including the planets and sun as your gelatinous mass increases.
While describing itself as a member of the puzzle-platformer genre, TFS:MBA really seems to focus more on the latter, as puzzles can best be described as simple one-two step annoyances. With that being said, the platforming aspect of the game is phenomenal, featuring classic mechanics like floor spikes, lasers walls, air vents, and interactive machinery. The blob physics add a whole new realm to the traditional platform gameplay, and squeezing between two grinding gears or sliding through a small crack in the wall never gets old.
In addition to jumping, your blob also has powers of telekinesis, magnetism, and jet-packing (shut up, it works). Using your psycho-kinetic powers to control levers and platforms lends a hand to the puzzle-esque parts of the game, while the magnetism and jet-pack features allow you to explore the map in its entirety. While some sections of each level are indeed a bit frustrating and only seem to work based on sheer dumb luck and a prerequisite of a certain number of deaths, the large number of save points scattered throughout each course seem to almost baby you into finishing the map.
Though the visuals are perfectly on par with what I would expect from the game, the repetitive sound loop throughout each level was maddeningly irritating. While I understand that many people might drag out finishing the game over a few days or even weeks, treating it as a recess between more serious virtual endeavors, I ran through it at breakneck speed. What I get for this, besides a permanent increase in blood pressure, is that same damn song burned into my auditory cortex. It’s so deep in there that I hear it in my sleep. Three more tracks would have at least given me some variety to choose to hate, but now I sound nitpicky.
Overall, the game itself was far too short, but even if it was longer, I’d argue that there isn’t enough motivation besides “winding down” to actually convince someone to sit down and play. You can compete for top scores on the leaderboards for each level, but that only means something to people who didn’t get enough 16th place trophies as children. There are no across-level upgrades or perks for your blob, and no collectibles, save for two hidden blob friends scattered throughout each level. I know I praise the game for its simplicity, but we can all agree there’s a difference between relaxing and boring; we still need some type of motivation!
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is a great game to put your feet up with at the end of a hard day of grinding. The pace of the game picks up and drops off randomly per each level, keeping you alert enough to appreciate the well oiled movement mechanisms at work. The addition of superpowers and interactive environments surpasses that of a standard platformer, and the game’s physics run smooth. Though it is a bit on the short side and has a musical track equivalent to the stylings of a cat on a keyboard, the rest of the game’s strengths well outweigh its weaknesses, especially if viewed as a way to idly pass time or unwind for the night.