Though Sony’s marketing team may feel otherwise, I hope that the PlayStation Vita’s legacy is not defined by games like Uncharted and Wipeout. Those games absolutely turn heads and look stunning on that OLED screen, but those are ultimately experiences you can find on the PlayStation 3. No, what I hope will come to define the platform are games like Escape Plan, Sound Shapes and Gravity Rush. These games look every bit as gorgeous, but they’re designed from the ground up to take advantage of this system’s unique capabilities and portable nature. And much to my surprise, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack fits in very nicely with that group. This stylish platformer holds the distinction of being my favorite launch game by a wide margin, which seems particularly impressive because I hadn’t even heard of it until a week prior to launch.
For those of you who haven’t had a chance to play MBA‘s predecessor, About a Blob, your goal here is to simultaneously escape from various labs and cities while gobbling up everything in your path. The blob can wall jump, ground pound, manipulate magnetic fields and occasionally propel itself like a rocket through some of the levels’ more labyrinthine segments. Where MBA excels is its excellent level design. Though your move set may seem limited — no double jump, for instance — there are so many different types of obstacles to pass that I never found myself bored during the lengthy quest. From spiked metal conveyor belts that you must hover between to ominous lasers laying waste to everything behind you, developer DrinkBox Studios has done a great job of keeping the action varied and exciting.
This can also be attributed to the thoughtful use of the touchscreen. In nearly every level, there are neon ramps, elevators and gears that can be moved simply by dragging across them with your thumb. Unlike Escape Plan, which asks the player to plan multiple inputs in quick succession, MBA‘s touchscreen challenges are typically isolated to separate rooms and break up the standard traversal without bringing things to a halt. Despite having so many disparate abilities and control options, MBA manages to cohere as well as its gooey protagonist.
MBA is exactly what the Vita needs now, in terms of being a showpiece title that will play just as well in a few years as it does now. In addition to the touchscreen stuff, there are some great overhead stages that take advantage of the Vita’s tilt sensor and are polished enough so that they don’t feel as if they were shoehorned into the package. The pun-heavy background art* and sharp sprites look phenomenal on the Vita’s screen, and the jazzy score fits nicely. A downloadable 2D platformer isn’t going to sell a lot of systems, but MBA is definitely one to show off to your game-savvy friends.
*There are some great references to favorite games like Critter Crunch and Swords & Sworcery. At least one groaner referencing “double rainbows” snuck in, too, but I can let that slide.
The only element of MBA that remains sadly underdeveloped is the Katamari-Damacy-inspired gluttony at the heart of the game. Your blob can devour almost everything it can fit inside itself, and as it does so, it grows large enough to pass through previously walled-off areas. The levels will take you to the moon and back, and the Genndy-Tartokovsky-esque cutscenes allude to your blob’s ever-growing stature. There’s a missed opportunity here though, as each level begins with your blob seemingly close to its original size. Sure, you may start off the game as small as a can of Hipster Juice, but it takes a long time before you can hope to consistently inhale buildings and the like. Only the last few levels capitalize on world-inhaling scale that made the Katamari games so breathtaking.
That’s ultimately an artistic quibble, though. Mutant Blobs Attack is a game that deserves every ounce of love it’s received from early adopters, and it’s nice knowing that there’s a Vita game on day one that I will revisit in the years ahead. As the cheapest Vita game currently on the PlayStation Store, Mutant Blobs Attack should be sitting on every Vita memory card.