Thanks to Black Letter Media for the review code
Title: Raining Blobs
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 11/15/2019
Raining Blobs goes for that pixel art style I’ve talked about time and time again, though here the developers use it in a smart way, stylizing the game as if it was some sort of mid 90’s Arcade game, where the game board is represented with sharp sprites over a background and each of the playable characters are portrayed in spritework in that background, which that reminds me a bit of where characters in Magical Drop would be displayed.
The menus are usually easy to navigate, though whenever you pause a game it sends you back to the title screen, which also serves as the pause menu, so more often than not I would nearly cause a paused game to quit because I forgot that I was in the middle of a game when I came back to a play session via sleep mode. Clunky pausing aside, this game still looks and navigates fairly well. There’s also a varied collection of music tracks that you can switch between in some of the modes, though I found most of these tracks to just be average at best, with only a small few standing out.
Raining Blobs is a puzzle game with several different play modes on offer, though they all revolve around the same core gameplay of linking up gels and popping them to create chain reactions. While this may sound like a Puyo Puyo clone at first glance, it honestly isn’t, since the game feels a bit more like Puzzle Fighter than Puyo, and has a bit of its own twist.
How the game accomplishes this feeling is by using a link system where a colored set of gels can be built upon as you please. Whether you want to drop one, two, four, or more normal colored gels onto another, they’ll gradually lead to a bigger cluster. You can then put a colored gel with a star on it in order to establish the first “end” of the link, and then place another star gel to complete the other end. Think of it like a circuit, and then you have a game where clearing said circuits is the key to victory.
So instead of just clearing the gels when you get four of them (like in Puyo) or by dropping a special color item (like with Puzzle Fighter), Raining Blobs instead has you dropping two of said color items in order to clear away the color. This means that it’s incredibly easy to build up combos and chain reactions since you have a lot more time to plan out complex popping strategies. So you could have a super massive cluster of red gels off to the side, in need of one more star gel, but you could combine it with a green cluster and stack the required red gel on top of that one, and clear the green gel to cause the red gels to complete afterward. Chain reactions such as these is how you score big points in the game, and the bigger the clusters, the more points you get.
Thus, for the single player arcade mode, Raining Blobs becomes a seriously addicting score chaser. The flow of gameplay works pretty well, and creating chain reactions one after another leads to a satisfaction I almost never get whenever I play similar games in their solo modes, which feel stale after a while. Maybe it’s because you can unlock stuff in the game’s gallery depending on how high your level gets in a play sessions, or due to the in-game achievements, but even then, I didn’t seem to get bored of this mode too much, which surprised me considering how I usually shun single player modes in games like these in favor of the competitive aspects.
Speaking of which, in the multiplayer focused modes, the gameplay for these is altered slightly to make up for the multiple players. In Arcade mode, the game shifts from a score chaser to a competitive mode, with up to eight players supported, although the screen gets awfully small when you fight eight or more players at once, so I recommend sticking to just four players. Likewise, the game’s tournament mode consists of one on one fights where you must defeat the CPU in battle, and these work like your standard VS battle in a game like Puzzle Fighter. Likewise, you also have an endless mode where you have to defeat as many CPUs as possible before one of them knocks you out.
Yet despite the fun and addicting gameplay loop in single player, the multiplayer aspects of this game feel a bit half-baked. You do have plenty of customization options to choose from for these modes, whether it’s changing how many garbage blobs are thrown your way at once, turning off the ability for you or the opponent to counter one another, or giving you more time before garbage blobs fall on you.
So while these customization options are welcome and I found tweaking them to help me a little, the defaults still left me with some major gripes about how this multiplayer works, mainly the fact that even if you get a big chain reaction, the other players don’t really get affected that much, due to the aforementioned limit of how many blobs are dropped off at once. It seems this is meant to prevent a player from being murdered in one shot, and this can easily be adjusted in the Arcade mode to allow for more garbage to be sent over to you, but in the Tournament and endless modes I’ve had odd moments where I felt like I should have made a powerful impact, only for little to happen, even if the opponent didn’t manage to do a successful offset. Likewise, I’d see the CPU preparing a scary combo, only for me to get hit with enough garbage to comfortably survive.
It kinda makes the back and forth panic of other puzzle battle games feel a lot weaker here, and part of me wishes the default settings were more intensive. Thankfully, the tournament mode does benefit from an aggressive AI that’ll give you a challenge, and the CPUs in Arcade mode have plenty of difficulty options, but I can’t help but feel that this game works better as a single player puzzler than a multiplayer one.
With all that said, there is one last mode to make note of, and it’s a Puzzle mode. Akin to Nazo Puyo, you must clear out the entire pre-fixed board by figuring out where to place sets of gels, but here you’re mandated to go through 100 rounds, with your performance depending on how many of those rounds you clear. The fact that this means you’ll be spending a ton of time in this mode regardless of your performance leads to the Puzzle mode dragging on a lot more than it should be, which makes me wish that it was like the endless mode in that it would keep throwing puzzles at you until you failed, since I feel it would benefit the pick up and play nature of this genre more.
In conclusion, Raining Blobs is a pretty frantic and fun puzzler. Offering a similar satisfactory feel to games like Puzzle Fighter and Puyo Puyo, the core gameplay loop here is good, and the single player scorechaser modes are enjoyable enough to be worth replaying for new scores. However, the competitive aspects of this game don’t flow nearly as well as they should, and I found the puzzle mode to drag on far too long for a game like this. It’s a shame too, since if this had a bit more tweaking to be a more exciting multiplayer game, this could stand as a very addictive puzzler just like what inspired it, but as it stands now, only the single player aspects succeed in that regard.
Still, there’s quite a bit of replay value for the price point, from unlockable character art, tons of challenging in-game achievements, high score chasing, (though no online leaderboards, unfortunately) and a hidden character. Thus, if you like going for the highest scores or unlocking everything, there should be a good amount of stuff here to aim for getting. I just really, really wish some more polish went into the competitive aspects, since it feels like the core gameplay and score chasing aspects had the most polish put in them.
I give Raining Blobs a 7 out of 10.