I don’t know that I’ve laughed so many times at a game before. Not about a game, not during a game, but directly AT the game. Channeling the nature of old, cheesy 50s era “horror” flicks and blending it with humor that tickles virtually any player, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! delights and entertains through a perfect-length campaign.
I get most excited about talking about the meta part of the game, but that doesn’t mean that the gameplay itself doesn’t hold up. In fact, in terms of technical composition, Mutant Blobs is one of the most well-built puzzle platformers I’ve played in a long time. Imagine playing a 2D Katamari Damacy, the eccentric Japanese game where you play as a prince pushing a ball and rolling up everything in its path, snowball-style. In Mutant Blobs, an alien life-form breaks out of a college science lab and starts absorbing everything in its path, growing with every object it sucks into its vacuous goo. Levels start small: the mutant blob picks up erasers and small mice in the beginning, but by the end not even houses, tanks, or helicopters stand up to the gigantic blob. Since the game is a puzzle-platformer, reaching the end of each stage requires a combination of thought and controller-based skill to navigate.
Stages have two different types of zones: basic left-to-right areas where the blob has to grow to a certain size to pass, and zero-g areas where the blob careens through the air like a rocket-propelled shuttle to collect pickups and find the end of the section. The stellar physics engine backing the game reinforces both zones: the blob flips, flops, and floats in ways that both feel familiar and foreign at the same time, which means puzzles make players think out of the box, but there’s never a time where the game relies on a cheap gimmick or ploy for success. Mutant Blobs offers tools and traps-a-plenty to change the game like laser beams, spike pits, and missiles, but it always manages to charm even when at its most frustrating. I enjoyed all 24 basic levels, and each bonus level added some easy-going fun to the mix.
But what sets Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! apart from other puzzle-platformers is its style and humor: it feels fresh, fun, and hilarious at almost every turn. The whole game takes place in a 50s-era, pop art style; even the newscasters who voicelessly narrate the blob’s attack look like they could on the side of an old Corn Flakes cereal box. But the highlight of the game, even when matched against the spot-on platforming, intriguing puzzles, and the precise physics engine, are the in-game billboards and signs that Drinkbox littered throughout with gaming references and silly jokes that take center stage because of their wit and simple approach.
Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! holds a special place for me because it’s more than just “a good game”: it’s fun, plain and simple. No qualifiers, no stipulations, anyone with even the slightest ability to game could have a great time with this title because it’s not about platforming or puzzles or dirty jokes or obscure references: it’s about all of that, and somehow that makes it about so much more. Still, when any single part of that equation falls out of sync it’s a noticeable lapse, and a significant stretch of time close to the end of the game shows the frailty of the thread that ties all the pieces together.
Initially, after clearing the first couple worlds (and seeing on the world map that there were only five), my gut reacted with: “This game’s too short! I want more!” But Tales from Space is like a cake: the final product tastes great, but forget any one of those ingredients on the way in and you’re not going to end up with the same delicious end product. That missing ingredient in sections of the moon and most of the military base is the humor: the billboards basically vanish, leaving us with a well-tuned, but somehow hollow puzzle-platformer. Once the humor came back in the final world, I realized that maybe it’s good that the game’s on the shorter side; it only took me about 5 hours to clear while getting most all of the collectibles and high ranks on each stage, but I’m not sure they could keep up that efficient, punchy humor for a 10+ hour game.
Like candy or ice cream, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! is a treat, a welcome departure from meat-and-potatoes, dark-and-gritty, realistic gaming. That said, I don’t want every game to be a Mutant Blobs Attack!!!; there’s a place for hardcore shooters, sports titles, sandboxes, 100+ hour long RPGs, and all the other games that make this industry boom. But Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack just might be my new favorite dessert game, short and sweet, and I sure hope there’s more where it came from.