In previous posts, I’ve mentioned a couple of games that are near the top and middle of my all-time ranking, but what sort of game is just barely good enough to make it onto my list of 80 favorites?  I’m glad you asked!

The answer is A Boy and His Blob for the original Nintendo, which is at the same time one of the most creative games ever and one of the most poorly made.  The hero in this game is the eponymous unnamed boy, who happens to have a pet blob from another planet.

The pudgy, white blob (named “Blobert”) follows the boy around everywhere, either out of loyalty or because the boy keeps feeding him jellybeans.  He loves jellybeans (unless they are ketchup flavored, and really, who can blame him for that?).

Each flavor of jellybean causes the blob to transform into a different object, which introduces the puzzle aspect of the game.  For example, a licorice jellybean will turn the blob into a ladder, a punch-flavored jellybean will turn him into a hole in the ground (punch a hole; get it?), and a cola jellybean will turn him into a giant bubble.  There are about 15 flavors of jellybeans in all, which is a good thing, because the boy is pretty useless on his own.  He can’t even jump.

What little story exists in the game goes like this:  You need to search the caverns underneath New York City for treasure, which you can then use to buy vitamins at the store.  Then, you can turn the blob into a rocket and travel to his home planet of Blobolonia, which for some reason is overrun by candy-based enemies.  (Hence the need for vitamins, I guess?  The game’s overall position on the “healthy vs. unhealthy” food debate seems a bit murky, since jellybeans, peppermints, and vitamins help you, while marshmallows, cherries, and popcorn kill you.  Besides that, everything makes perfect sense, of course.)

Here’s a sample of the gameplay:

There are some things to like about the game.  The puzzle aspect can be a lot of fun.  Also, it’s cute the way the blob follows you when you whistle.  Especially funny is how the blob’s smile instantly turns into a frown if you throw a jellybean that he can’t catch.  I also like how the game plays little musical stings sometimes when the blob transforms.  (On the other hand, the entire game uses basically the same tune with just a little variation once you reach the blob’s planet.)

But you don’t have to play the game long to realize its flaws.  When confronted with enemies, the boy’s only options are to run past them or die.  Deciding where to punch a hole is a process of trial and error, since there’s no way to know how long a drop there will be aside from painful experience in prior lives.  And it’s way too hard to control that bubble underwater!

When you get to the blob’s home planet, the game really falls apart, though.  Even though you are now supposedly armed with vitamins, most of the game still consists of having to run past the enemies without touching them, because even brushing against them is lethal.  Worst of all are the cherry “bombs,” which will kill you even if you’re not on the same screen as them.  The only way I’ve found to get past them is so totally non-intuitive that I still don’t know if it’s a glitch or what the game maker intended.

And to cap it all off, this is the only game I’ve ever seen with a final boss that is a non-moving background image.  It makes me wonder if the game was rushed into production a bit too quickly.

Still, I had a lot of fun recently when my young cousins were over for a visit, and they played this game.  (I had told them about the basic idea of the game once, and they just had to see it!)  I was there to give them hints about what to do next in order to lessen the game’s “unfair” factor when it came to stepping off ledges.  They had a lot of fun, laughing at the blob’s reaction.  And the rocket sequence (complete with heroic fanfare) was such a hit that they repeated it several times in a row, traveling from Earth to Blobolonia and back again and again!

And all of this together explains why A Boy and His Blob is my 80th favorite video game.

I was excited to learn that Nintendo is remaking this incredibly old and clunky game for the Nintendo Wii.  The videos I’ve seen of it look beautiful.  Just watching the preview is quite possibly more fun than playing the original game used to be.  And they managed to make it even more cute somehow.  I wonder if my cousins know about this game….

(Sorry about the long, loud intro to this clip.  They start showing the game itself about 23 seconds in.)

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