When it arrived for the Vita in 2012, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack offered a challenging and sometimes puzzling romp through around 30 levels of sci-fi mayhem. A move to consoles two years later hasn't changed much about the source material. The blob still responds beautifully to your commands, and the design still feels fresh, but there are some disappointing new issues too.
This is in many respects a straight port, with necessary adjustments to bring it to a larger viewing surface and some tweaks to puzzles where they make sense. The game still begins as you, represented by a little blob of jelly with attitude (note the spikes), escape a cage and begin terrorizing a scientific research building. During the platforming stages that follow, the unnamed goop slides, hops, and even flies through mostly sterile environments populated by lab equipment, security systems, picnicking astronauts, whales, and tasty civilians. The whole time, it consumes anything smaller than itself, until eventually there's not much left that qualifies. As in the PlayStation 2 classic Katamari Damacy, backtracking to old obstacles and adding them to your own mass feels joyful.
Mutant Blobs Attack boasts an attractive art style that wouldn't have been out of place in magazine and billboard ads during the '50s. There's a washed-out look to a lot of it, with little splashes of color that mostly center around the antihero you control and the food he can consume. On the Vita's screen, the aesthetic was especially lovely, and it looks terrific now even on a substantially larger display. The kooky soundtrack works as nicely coming from television speakers as it does a handheld unit, and the cutscenes between stages remain adorable.
Unfortunately, the game's control scheme didn't translate as well as its audiovisual components. The blob itself performs admirably, and he possesses abilities that allow you to also manipulate the environment to solve puzzles. Not much precision is required in the early going, and there aren't major penalties if you make a mistake (especially since the developers were smart and placed frequent checkpoints throughout every stage so that you never have to tackle more than one challenge at a time), but the puzzle design in later stages grows more devious, and it's easy to get fatally fried by a laser even when you know what you're expected to do to survive.
Backtracking to old obstacles and adding them to your own mass feels joyful.
In one case, for instance, you need to cross a wide area with laser beams serving as its base. The way to accomplish that task is to manipulate a series of four floating, C-shaped platforms. You can press shoulder buttons to toggle which one you are trying to manipulate, and moving the right analog stick then allows you to direct the architecture's movement via telekinesis. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to start moving the wrong piece at the wrong time, and that's fatal for the ball of goop in your charge.
Other situations might find you rotating giant wheels while the blob works through them. On the Vita, this was again handled with finger slides and felt natural. With a controller's analog stick, environmental responses to your commands are often jerky. Gears and turrets either barely adjust or move with such gusto that you accidentally squash your otherwise resilient character. Nearly effortless precision is a thing of the past. It was easy to take for granted, and now it's gone.Click above for more images.
Bonus stages also provide less of a thrill, now that you interact with them by way of a new control scheme. The stages take place from a top-down perspective. Previously, you would tilt the Vita to direct the path the slime followed as it slid through the environment, scarfing down objects and quickly gaining mass. Sometimes you also had to swipe along the screen to manipulate barriers. Here, all you have to do is tilt the analog stick and the barriers are absent. The challenge is gone too, and with it much of the satisfaction that came from surviving another minigame interlude.
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack was and still is an enjoyable platformer, regardless of the device on which you play it, but it's difficult to recommend this new release to anyone who already has access to the superior Vita rendition. The attractive aesthetic and the light puzzle elements that made the original release worthwhile have returned mostly unscathed, but the control limitations this time around hurt the experience, and that's a shame. Hopefully, vengeful slimes everywhere will forgive the developers the infraction.