February 10, 2011
Tales from Space is a simple game with a very simple story. You play as a blob. You and your blob friends were winging it across space, headed for Earth, when a mad scientist spots you, and shoots you out of the sky with a rocket. You and your blob minions are scattered all over the place and it is now up to you to escape the clutches of the humans who are trying to capture and destroy you. You end up navigating many different locales such as a laboratory, a school, a farm, a factory, a military compound, and even the center of the Earth. Along the way, you absorb different objects in order to grow and meet the necessary size requirements to move onto the next area of a level. While you may start out as just a mini-blob of only a centimeter or so, by the end, you'll be large enough to absorb the entire planet (take that you silly humans). Along the way, there are obstacles such as rocket launchers to navigate, acid pools to jump, spiked/flame walls to traverse, and helicopters to shoot down.
The gameplay starts out relatively simple. This 2D platformer begins with the simple tasks of moving left and right, jumping, and absorbing different items. Later on, a magnetism mechanic is introduced where by you can cling to the sides of objects/buildings that are made of metal. On the flip side, you can also repel yourself from metal objects as well. This clever mechanic offers some very unique puzzles to solve and some fun and difficult platforming sections. If that were not enough, you then learn how to manipulate electricity by either draining an electric charge out of an object or sending the charge into an object. In the later stages, you find yourself switching between the two abilities constantly to traverse certain platforming sections or to solve puzzles. The gameplay, while simplistic on the whole, actually offers up some decent challenges. There were several times where I found myself scratching my head, trying to figure out how to solve a particular puzzle not to mention dying many times because I wasn't able to swap between the two abilities fast enough.
Like other similar platfoming titles, each level has certain items that can be collected. In Tales from Space, there are two such items. Each level has 3 different blob buddies who have been separated from the group for you to find and absorb. The other items are these glowing blue orbs that we are never told the name of. Collecting them will decrease the timer for each level by a second or so per orb. This actually is important because there is a third extra achievement in each level aside from collecting the two objects. Each level has a completion time that you will want to try and beat in order to receive a checkered race flag. While these objectives are there for players to go after, none of them are required to play through the story. However, in order to receive 100% completion and all the trophies, you will have to get them all. From start to finish, the game will last you 2-3 hours. If you endeavor to get all the trophies and achievements, the game could easily run an additional 5-6 hours.
Multiplayer was an interesting touch. There is a co-op multplayer option in the story mode where you and friend can traverse the levels together, however it never felt terribly helpful. You'll often feel like you're getting in each other's way. There are public leader boards to show the people with best level times and scores, but there isn't any online multiplayer support.
The presentation of the game is definitely fun. It has an art style similar to the type of games that The Behemoth produces (Castle Crashers). You blob is both cute and also menacing at times. It says a lot that the artists and animators were able to convey that with just the blob's eyes. The music is catchy and fun, but there are only a few tracks and I grew tired of hearing them after a couple levels as they all have the same tone and intensity level. A little more variety in the music would have been good, but what's there is definitely catchy. The sound design is just what you'd think it would be with lots of squishy sound effects for the blob and lots of explosions from all of the rockets. All in all, a pretty good presentation.
I think where the game hurts the most is in the replay value. After beating the game, there isn't much incentive to go back and play it again, especially if you've already gotten all the collectable and achievements. However, Indie games aren't necessarily known for their replay value, but considering how short the story mode is, it seems like you won't get the full bang for your buck.
So let's boil it down. Is Tales from Space; About a Blob worth a purchase from the PSN store? If you're looking for a fun platforming game with clever puzzles and a cute presentation, then yes, give this one a shot if you've got the money just laying around. However, if you're wanting a more story-driven or expansive experience that will offer more playtime, I would recommend passing on this one for the time being. While a fun experience to be sure, the price point is a little too high for what you get. However, if Drinkbox lowers the price, jump on this bad boy!
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