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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: A Boy And His Blob

I suppose you may be wondering why I have a picture of a purple jellybean at the beginning of this blog entry. On that note, I'm guessing that you're wondering why I have chosen to write this entry almost entirely in purple font. There is a reason for this, which I will get into right now.

Today (October 20) is a day that is known as 'Spirit Day'. It was created last year by a Canadian teenager as a tribute and a memorial to teenagers who have killed themselves as a result of constant emotional and physical abuse by their classmates and peers. Specifically, it is dedicated to those who sustained such bullying because of their sexual orientations, but really, anyone who has suffered from being bullied can take part in this day as well. For today's blog post, I am turning this entry purple as a way to show my support for all of the victims who have endured such bullying. In fact, I'd like to take this time to offer my support to every family member of a person who ended up taking their lives to escape the bullying they had to endure almost on a daily basis. Nobody should have to go through constant abuse for being who they are. Nobody.

To me it doesn't matter what your skin colour is, what your sexual orientation is, what your body size is, what colour eyes you have, what kind of home you live in, etc. None of that matters. What matters is what is inside.

It is also encouraged that people wear something purple if you wish to support 'Spirit Day', in memory of those who took their own lives as a result of being bullied.

Now, onto the topic of today's post. And, yes, the jellybean is a part of that post.

Oddly enough, purple jellybeans aren't really my favourite flavour of jellybean. I'm more partial to green ones myself. But in the case of the video game that I will be featuring in this blog entry, this character seems to have a very voracious appetite for jellybeans. He'll eat any size, any colour, any flavour. As if this wasn't whimsical enough, every time this creature swallows a jellybean, he'll change into some sort of object, such as a ladder, a bridge, or even a bubble!

The only creature that is capable of doing such a thing is a creature known as a 'blob'. Blobert is a fictional blob-like creature from the planet Blobolonia. Blobolonia is in danger of being taken over by an evil emperor who has decided to punish his subjects by forcing them on a diet that only allows them lollipops, chocolate cake, and marshmallows.

Granted, to a seven-year-old boy or girl, this sounds like heaven. Of course, it only takes a few months for everyone on Blobolonia to become lethargic and sluggish as a result of this new regime. Blobert soon realizes that if he doesn't do something to stop the rule of the emperor, the future of the planet and its populace will be anything but sweet.

Somehow, Blobert ends up fleeing Blobolonia and makes a landing in the middle of a large American city (my guess is that it is New York City), where he befriends a young boy. After Blobert manages to convince the boy to help him save Blobolonia, the two set off on an adventure to defeat the emperor once and for all.

And, so we have our game. 'A Boy And His Blob: Trouble On Blobolonia'.

Released in North America in January 1990 by Absolute Entertainment (a spinoff of ActiVision), A Boy And His Blob is a platform/puzzle game that takes the unnamed boy and Blobert from the city streets to hundreds of feet below ground to find ways to get the ammunition needed to defeat the emperor and make their way through Blobolonia.

The first stages of the game's development began in 1989. Game designers David Crane and Garry Kitchen were given only six weeks to complete the game with their development team. It involved a lot of 16-20 hour work days, and the team had to deal with fixing bugs within the game while promoting the game to trade shows, but in the end, the hard work was worth it.

The idea for the characters in the game were inspired by the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Herculoids, specifically after the characters Gloop and Gleep.

By the summer of 1989, the game was officially licensed by Nintendo, and by the beginning of 1990, the game was released by Nintendo where critical reception was mixed. While they praised the graphics and originality of the game's plot, the lack of enemies and vast empty spaces in each of the levels lead some to believe that the game had failed to maximize its full potential. Some even said that the game was hard to control.

(Just on a personal note, when I first played this game, I was ten years old, and I honestly didn't know what I was supposed to do half the time. I knew that I could collect treasures, but I didn't know what they could be used for (you actually use them to buy vitamins to kill the enemies in Blobolonia), and mostly, I spent the whole game feeding the blob jellybeans just to see what they did.)

At any rate, looking back on the game now, it was actually a lot more challenging than I thought. You actually had to make use of your jellybeans in creative ways to get through the game, and you really had to ration them, because in some cases, you only had a limited supply. One false move, or feeding them the wrong jellybean, and you could end up losing a life.

There are fourteen different flavours of jellybean that you have, and each one makes our blob turn into a different object, or allows him to perform a different task. Below are the different flavours of jellybeans...

Licorice – turns the blob into a ladder to climb up and down
Strawberry – turns the blob into a bridge, perfect for walking across pits
Coconut – turns the blob into a rolling coconut, used to see screens ahead of you
Cola – turns the blob into a bubble, which allows the boy to breathe underwater
Cinnamon – turns the blob into a blowtorch to burn up deadly spider webs
Apple – turns the blob into a jack to move objects directly above the blob
Lime – turns the blob into a key which can be used to unlock doors
Vanilla – turns blob into umbrella which protects boy from falling objects
Tangerine – turns blob into trampoline which can make the boy jump real high
Root Beer – turns blob into rocket, which can act as transportation to Blobolonia
Honey – turns blob into hummingbird which can make blob fly up to you
Ketchup – the blob will appear wherever the jellybean is thrown
Punch – the blob turns into a hole so the boy can fall through floors
Orange – the blob turns into the Vitablaster, your weapon in Blobolonia

In addition, the treasures you pick up on Earth can be used to buy vitamins needed to arm the Vitablaster.

There's also bags of jellybeans scattered around which will give you more jellybeans to use, as well as peppermint candies that will give the player an extra life.

And, on a funny note, at least the usage of mnemonic devices helps the player figure out what flavours correspond with what object. Whether it be through rhyming (Vanilla-Umbrella, Tangerine-Trampoline), or through word association (Cola Bubble, Apple Jack, Key Lime, etc), it's a neat little in joke.

And, while the original game didn't exactly wow the crowd, it did earn the title of 'Best In Show' at the 1989 Consumer Electronics Show, and won a Parents Choice Award in 1990. And in October 2009, the video game was remade for the Nintendo Wii, bringing a new generation of gamers together to play this game filled with whimsy and creativity.

So, who knows? Maybe everything old can be new again, if the idea is worth it.

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