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It is bouncy. It is boingy! It is, err sproingy? It is Core Design's latest and introduces a brand new dimension of games playing.

Here is a game that is hard to classify! It could be a platformer or it could be a puzzler. So, that means it is either a platformer with puzzle elements to it or a puzzler with platform elements to it! Hmm, I still have not made my mind up.

To be totally honest, it would be better all-round if I could just create a new style of game just for the purpose of this review. Hey, let us do that right now. Blob is a puzzform game, err or should that be platzer? Oh dear...

Originality these days is hard to find. I mean, put yourself in the position of a games designer and try to come up with an entirely new game that has not ever been done before. Trust me, it is a pretty hard job.

Blob is a mixture between platform and puzzle fun. But Core Design have literally come up with a whole new dimension of gaming. Instead of moving vertically or horizontally, the game comes right out of the screen at you. The actual surprise of this new dimension is very pleasant indeed and Blob looks like a whole new lease of life in the sometimes stagnant puzzle/platform games sector.

The star of the game is a blue bouncing ball who incidentally looks too much like Putty for my liking. The object is to make your way through 50 levels of fast, frantic, bouncy puzzform (I thought I would go with my first idea) fun.

What you have to do to complete the levels kind of depends on which level you rare on. Sometimes you might just have to find an exit, others you might have to collect miniature Blobs, or bounce on certain platforms to make them change colour.

If you look at the screenshots on this page you are probably thinking that Blob does not look too good - well, that is only because the game does not need fancy graphics. You also miss the feeling of being able to see Blob move which is one, if not the most important parts of the game.

On the sound front there is a wonderful array of tunes to tease your earlobes. In fact, Blob probably contains some of the best music for this type of game I have heard in quite a while.

Blob does require plenty of practice and you would better not have a quick temper otherwise is se plenty of gamers throwing their monitors out of the window in true rock god style. I have a mean temper and god only knows what kept me from smashing my whole estate up in unbridled anger and frustration due to not being able to complete a level.

This is not simply because I am crap, but because Blob is just too hard. No, wrong choice of words, it is not all hard, it is the control system that lets you down more than anything. For instance, I completed the second level first go, but when I went back to it a few hours later I could not get bloody anywhere and had to put my head in a bucket of cold water for a couple of minutes just to cool my anger. There is, thankfully, a password system, so once you have completed a level you will never have to visit it ever again.

I was expecting so much more from Blob and I did not get it. The graphics and animation are really nice, the sound is terrific, the puzzles are just about right, the addiction level leaves you wanting just one more go, but Blob just does not have that final element to make it a classic puzzform (wahey, it could catch on) game.

Blob needed to be a lot more playable than it actually is. It may have had a new, refreshing, original dimension to it, but there is nothing worse than a piece of software that is just so frustrating that you do not feel like playing it any more.

It could have been so much better and I could have ridden off into the sunset with it, but it just was not to be If you want a really tough puzzform game and you like this sort of thing then it might be your cup of tea, but for those with tempers please be careful and think twice before buying.

Blob logo

What looks a little like Putty but plays like nothing you have seen before? A platformer that takes you in and out of the screen as well as up, down and sideways, that is what.

We all want to go to heaven, right? That is all Blob wants. This ball of gunge lives by a religion which preaches that those who do well in life will go to bouncy paradise and live forever, which sounds great. How much easier could it be?

Left to his own devices Blob would probably live a perfectly good life, but this turns out to be distinctly more difficult than you might expect, mainly because for a little blue drop of grot a good life involves completing 50 levels of excessive bouncing, huge precipitous drops and nerve-wrenching jumps into nothingness.

Relying on your gaming skill to help him live the saintly life of platform success, Blob puts his eternal future into your capable hands. What our ball-shaped chum does to help, basically, is bounce around all over the show, which gives this game a look and feel not dissimilar from the old 8-Bit classic Bounder.

The idea is that you guide this bouncing blue Blob around the levels of the game. Somewhat strange levels, mind you.

Did I say strange? No, that is an understatement. This game is unique. For starters, loads of coloured tiles hang in space of different heights giving it a depth (literally) that other platform games do not have - and aliens buzz around getting in the way, robbing Blob of all his vitality. All in all, this is one of the most original arcade games, in both style and presentation, that you have seen in a long while.

'Orrible little lump
Levels can be completed in two main ways. The first is to find a tile that has 'Exit' written on it (whooah, better watch out - a bit of normality creeping in there). The second is slightly more interesting (and distinctly more difficult) and involves collecting all the 'collectibles' (the manual's word, not mine) on a level.

Collectables are strange-looking little objects which sit on tiles in all the most unreachable areas of the levels, which essentially means that extreme contortions of the joystick are required if you are to get the little bouncing fellow anywhere near the requisite objects.

Occasionally before you can complete a level you have to save a set number of Spods as well. 'What the hell is a spod?' you may well be asking. Well, it is another blue, blobby lifeform, except smaller. OK? Glad we got that sorted out.

Hopefully by this time you are getting the general idea that this game oozes originality and variety. Probably the most unique aspect, though, is the very three-dimensional nature of the view and of the play. Just looking at the screenshots it is difficult to gain the feeling of perspective that you get when it is all moving around.

This 3D-perspective adds a whole new 'dimension' (groan!) to the gameplay. It also makes the control system more than a bit tricky to get the hang of, because you have to judge not only direction and distance but height as well. The poor blobby one is likely to suffer at the start, while your brain tries to adapt to thinking in three dimensions at the same time as staring at a two dimensional screen. Pass the aspirin...

Glob of grout
After fathoming out how to control the wee Blob, it is time to try to get somewhere. Landing on different coloured tiles has different effects on the way Blob bounces. Red tiles make him bounce much higher than normal while blue tiles stop him from bouncing almost completely as they absorb all the bounce energy, leaving him helplessly stranded. Ice tiles leave Blob with no directional control when he hits them, which can often leave you yelling abuse at the screen while Blob goes skidding uselessly off into the void beckoning below...

Other interesting extras to the levels are such joys as fans. These can either suck or blow; if they blow then Blob can float on top of the column of air, but if they suck then Blob is pulled down rapidly> Fans can help you ton find hidden parts of the level, but more often than not they just mess up your perfectly positioned jump.

Switches abound throughout the levels and are used to turn hidden platforms on and off, which is extremely useful on the frequent occasions when there seems to be no way of getting to a particular platform. Some of the puzzles can be quite hard and require extremely accurate bouncing and occasionally a little luck to solve.

Landing safely after a bounce can be a problem because if Blob falls too far he can hurt himself on impact. This usually happens after bouncing on a red tile which sends Blob into orbit. Tiles which Blob has landed on too violently often begin to crack and further excessive use of force will cause them to break completely. This can lead Blob to grief, particularly if you were relying on the tile that just disintegrated to save you from plunging to oblivion.

The one consolation for the all-too-frequent deaths is that it is really quite funny. Blob opens his mouth in a scream as he dwindles in size and disappears into the void, with all hope of ever reaching bouncing paradise cruelly destroyed by your one clumsy move of the joystick.

The expressions on the face of the Blobby One as he gets increasingly badly injured are amusing - he gets more and more depressed and eventually explodes as he dies.

The graphics in general are right up to the excellent standards we expect from cutesy platform games in this day and age, and they move beautifully too. The vertical enlarging and shrinking of the platforms as they get nearer or further is very well done and adds a great feeling of depth to the game. The feeling of stepping off the edge of a platform into gaping nothingness is really quite worrying.

"Wonderfully different", is perhaps the easiest way of describing this game. There is nothing else quite like it. Knowing that the next level will probably be even more weird than the present one is a great incentive to keep playing.

After a while you definitely begin to feel really rather sorry for the poor little blob, and you cannot help but identify with him as he tumbles to his doom yet again - though that is not going to stop you from resurrecting him and making the sad diminutive lump start all over again!

Cute platform games - we have got dozens. But this, like the classic Nebulus, takes a new viewpoint which makes a world of difference, as well as giving us all the puzzles and action we expect. A winner.

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In der Draufsicht gezeigte Plattformen genießen am Amiga ja so etwas wie Seltenheitswert - auch wenn sich Core Design hier ganz offensichtlich beim C64-Klassiker "Bounder" bedient hat...

Die Landschaften sind von oben zu sehen, darunter erkennt man schermenhaft weitere Plattformen, während darüberliegende durch gestrichelte Linien dargestellt werden. Und mittendrin sucht ein kugelförmiges Kuschel-Alien fünfzig Levels lang nach seinem Nachwuchs, der beim Dimensionssprung aus dem Raumschiff gefallen ist.

Ein Abschnitt gilt als gelöst, sobald alle Gegenstände aufgesammelt, sämtliche Baby-Blobs befreit und die Exit-Fliese erreicht ist - sollte der Ausgang rot blinken, hat das Muttertier noch irgendwas vergessen. Für Streß sorgen unterdessen brüchige Teilstücke, solche mit Schußanlagen, Sprungmechanismen oder Teleporterfeldern; wieder andere verlangsamen den Blob oder kehren gar die Steuerung um.

Doch hält der Bodenbelag auch positive Überraschungen bereit, etwa Paßwörter oder Tips. All das kann man gut gebrauchen, weil auch allerlei Gegner unterwegs sind, zudem macht dem Spieler ein Zeitlimit zu schaffen.

Was einem hier noch zu schaffen macht, ist die hypersensible Steuerung: Wer seinen Stick nicht moment- und millimetergenau im Griff hat, verliert bei jedem Sprung auf ein höher gelegenes Plateau eines der fünf Bildschirmleben! Da hätten sich die Programmierer getrost mehr Mühe geben können, genau wie die Grafiker - von der ungewöhnlichen 3D-Perspektive und den teilweise recht putzigen Animationen einmal abgesehen, macht das Spiel einen ziemlich tristen Eindruck.

Auch der Sound kommt über das Mittelmaß nicht hinaus, weshalb Blob letzten Endes nur mit Einschränkungen zu empfehlen ist. (C. Borgmeier)

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Cor! Original 3D amorphous puzzley action! From Core!

A couple of weeks ago I went for a trip to the seaside (Weston-Super-Mare to be precise). Things had been a bit stressful at the office on the last issue and I needed a break, you know how it is. So there I was, strolling down the pier (well, battling my way down the pier in the face of a Force 9 typhoon, actually, but that's not important right now), heading for the arcade for a few games of bingo and a '99', like you do, when my attention was attracted by something written on the beach below.

About halfway along the pier, in a huge expanse of virgin sand that there were no people within 200 yards of, in really neat 'handwriting' about three feet high, was the phrase "Here is a place of disaffection - TS Eliot". I was thrown off my stride a bit by this sudden unexpected discovery (which was unfortunate, because the momentary loss of concentration allowed the wind to seize me in its grip and I went staggering into a small child, causing his candy floss and fluffy Hulk Hogan teddy bear become fused into one sticky entity), but not quite as much as I was by the sudden unexpected arrival out of nowhere this month of probably the most original game I've seen this year.

Reassuringly, Blob seems to have come as almost as much of a surprise to Core as it did to us. It popped through their letterbox up one day in a practically-finished state as a sample of work from coder Jonathan (sic) Hilliard, impressing the Core boys and girls so much that they bought it up on the spot.

"Oh, and by the way we've got this - you might like to have a look at sometime" kind of way, which made it all the more pleasant when it turned out to be so fab.

You're doubtful, aren't you? You're looking at the screenshots and going "Doesn't look like much to me. Reckon Stuart's having another one of his 'funny' turns. Yup." But you're wrong. Think about it - how many games actually make you shout at them? How many games get you flinching on the edge of your seat? How many games give you a dizzying sense of terror in the pit of your stomach when you fall down a hole? This one does.

Blob's a bouncy ball, and he lives in one of those strange, alien worlds where the only way to pass the long sunless days is to bounce around on a series of platforms suspended, quite literally, in space. Sometimes he likes to paint the platforms different colours, sometimes he likes to wander across the walkways finding little lost baby Blobs and rescuing them, and sometimes he just bounces around for the sheer hell of it. Mostly, though, what happens is that he slips, ricochets or otherwise falls off the edge of the platforms, and plunges into the bottomless void to his presumed death.

It's ridiculously entertaining just to bounce around

Y'see, Blob is a 3D game. Not your everyday boring old vector-graphics-and-polygons 3D game, but a 3D game where the sense of dimensional depth is the whole point of the thing. To get anywhere you must bounce Blob either up, 'out of' the screen or down 'into' it.

Tiles hang in the middle of the darkness, appearing first in outline as you bounce towards them, then solidly as you reach their level (a great way to solve the 'how to judge distances' problem you might otherwise expect), and disappearing quickly into the void as you leave them behind, creating a scary atmosphere of isolation and uncertainty. A misplaced nudge on the joystick and you're falling, falling down into the inky blackness, becoming smaller and smaller until you disappear from view entirely, somewhere around where I imagine the cathode-ray of your TV set used to be. It's really quite frightening.

And that, if you'd also care to check out the 'Load Of Blocks' box elsewhere on these pages for a little more technical detail, is pretty much the extent of it. Much of the beauty of Blob lies in its utterly graspable simplicity - unlike some puzzle games you can work it out almost totally without recourse to the instructions, and it's ridiculously entertaining just to bounce around for ages marvelling at the sense of teetering-on-the-edge precariousness before you even bother trying to play the game properly.

When you get into it, the gameplay isn't really that far removed from One Step Beyond, say, (with a few baddies thrown in), but the viewpoint makes it feel like nothing else you've ever played (unless you've got an old Speccy or C64 and a copy of Bounder, that is).

It's gripping in a way that I rather wish it hadn't been this week (it arrived in the last week before this month's deadline, and I really shouldn't have spent the best part of three days with it before I wrote the review), and being so unexpected just made it more of a treat.

We broke several of the natural laws of time in order to get you some levels for a coverdisk demo, so I hope you appreciate it was much as I did. This is wonderful.

Inexplicably, Blob's world is made up entirely of square-shaped blocks, all of which have different properties and ways of affecting Blob's life. Here's just a selection...

These tiles don't actually do anything to Blob, but tey do offer a timely suggestion as to which would be the best way to go next. Mostly.

Some blocks have incredibly powerful fans mounted on them which Blob can hover on.

Squares with puddles on them absorb Blob's bounciness on impact, and hence are impossible to get much height from.

Cracked tiles are a bit on the perilous side - a couple of good firm bounces and they'll disintegrate beneath you.

A painted tile, which you've just painted.

The charmingly-named 'Spewer' throws out various types of projectile which can slow down, damage or kill our plucky Blob.

Message tiles contain cute little scrolls which give you useful hints and tips (like 'Go up, dude!') or level passwords.

Some tiles contain little hives which can be broken to reveal 'spods' or baby Blobs. These follow you around and sometimes have to be taken to the exit to activate it.

Shooter blocks fire bullets alternately left and right, mindless of the possible danger to life and property.

Switch blocks do a variety of things, but mostly they're concerned with making other blocks materialise out of the ether, usually in a helpful way.

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The rebirth of the puzzle game in recent years has thrown all sorts of weird and not-so wonderful titles onto the market. Unable to resist the temptation, Core are now taking their bite of what has turned out to be a very lucrative biscuit.

With Blob, Core have included generous amounts of action to appeal to people like me who like to zombie-out in front of a shoot 'em up. Who needs unnecessary brain work? The aim is to rescue Blob's expansive family, who make Earth, Wind And Fire look like a solo act. Blob is, basically, a blob, rather limited when it comes to overcoming the legions of nefarious aliens which stand between him and his siblings.

Each screen contains loads of different types of tiles which affect Blob in different ways. Some will bounce him to higher levels, while others will teleport him or slow him down. Using these tiles is the key to cracking the game. There are often several ways to complete a level, it's just a matter of sitting back and seeing if you can work out the correct route.

As Blob only has a limited amount of energy he needs to be kept as far away from the strength-sapping aliens as possible. Most of them can be destroyed by bouncing on them, but it's often best to just steer clear as that takes less time and effort. Should you run out of time though, an evil Blob clone appears. This chases your Blob around until you complete the level, or they touch which results in both their deaths.

This is one of the better puzzle games of the year, although it's nothing remarkable. The graphics are cute with plenty of nice sprites making up for the minimalist backdrops.

Ultimately, though, the game just doesn't offer enough long-term interest. Once you can complete the first 10 or so levels the game starts to become a repetitive chore and when that happens you won't come back to it.