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Joystiq interview: Majesco, WayForward spill the jelly beans on A Boy and His Blob

Jason Dobson
03.20.09
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Every child wants a pet, be it a dog, cat, goldfish, or in the case of industry luminary David Crane's 1989 slice of Americana, A Boy an His Blob, a space alien with a hankering for sweets. Unlike E.T., however, Crane's extra terrestrial's fixation wasn't Reese's Pieces, but jelly beans of nearly every flavor imaginable, both delicious and gross. Not even Jelly Belly has a ketchup flavor in its confectionery arsenal, not that that's any reason to boast.

Now twenty years on A Boy and His Blob is set to make its return. We recently caught up with Majesco exec Joe Sutton as well as WayForward director Sean Velasco -- and managed to even talk producer Robb Alvey down off a roller coaster to join the conversation -- to discover just what flavor of adventure we can expect out of the jelly bean-munching amoeba's hop onto the Wii.

Gallery: A Boy and His Blob (Wii) | 12 Photos

The original A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia, as well as its Game Boy sequel, were designed by industry luminary and Activision co-founder David Crane. Is he at all involved with this project in any capacity, even in a consulting role?

Sean Velasco: David Crane was not involved with the project at all, but we deeply respect both him and his work.

We're curious as to how Majesco ended up with the rights to A Boy and His Blob. With the original title both developed and published by companies that are no longer with us -- Imagineering and Absolute Entertainment respectively -- who did you have to go to stake your claim on the franchise?

This game will further the legacy of WayForward as one of the best developers today.

Joseph Sutton: We had been looking to acquire the rights to some of the great franchises of old when we were developing games for the Game Boy Advance. A Boy and His Blob is one that we really loved and felt would certainly resonate with players at the time and probably always. We were able to acquire the rights after Absolute went bankrupt about 10 years ago.

So you own the rights outright now? Could this release mark a release of the original A Boy and His Blob over the Wii's Virtual Console?

JS: We own the rights to the franchise outright now and are definitely looking at that option.

Would it be best to describe this game as a remake or a sequel to the original 1989 NES classic?

Robb Alvey: It's taking the original spirit of the game and creating something for this generation of gamers. If you're familiar with the original game, you'll recognize immediately the homage we pay to its origin. And if you've never played the original, it's not going to feel like anything "retro."

SV: This game is not a remake!! Yell it to the skies! However, this game is not a sequel to the original, either. Let's call it a "reimagining."

Did WayForward's "reimagining" of another classic franchise, Konami's Contra, factor into Majesco's decision to look to the studio to revisit this classic, though certainly more niche franchise?

SV: I wouldn't imagine it could have hurt!

RA: I think one of WayForward's strengths is the side-scroller genre. While our involvement in Contra 4 was probably a factor, I would have to think that our background in platform games and the ability to bring a 2D world to life had a lot to do with that decision as well.

JS: WayForward has been on our radar for a very long time now, going back to their Game Boy days, through the very impressive Shantae, Contra 4 and others. We felt they were the perfect fit for this franchise and they have exceeded our expectations in every way.

When we sat down with them to discuss the games features and look, they really nailed down what makes the original idea so compelling while adding elements of mechanics art and storytelling all their own. The screens and videos released thus far only hint at what will be in the game. Some of the transformations are truly remarkable and we think players will really enjoy the relationship and synergy between the 2 characters.

This game will only further the legacy of WayForward as one of the best developers working today.

So is revisiting classic properties something that WayForward actively seeks out?

SV: Being huge fans of classic gaming, WayForward is always looking for opportunities to reinvigorate brands. We have mentioned lists in other interviews, but we'll toss out some more favorites here: E.V.O. – The search for Eden, Ninja Cop, Metroid, Clash at Demonhead, Milon's Secret Castle, Dig Dug, River City Ransom, Yar's Revenge.

I'm sure there are a ton more, as well. Call us - We want to re-envision these games for the new generation!

If you're familiar with the original, you'll recognize immediately the homage we pay.

Back to the project at hand, being neither a sequel, nor a remake, do you have some specific examples of how this version of A Boy and His Blob is similar to the original?

SV: Well, the game still features the titular boy and blob! The core gameplay theme of the game, using an AI character to transform and help you advance, is retained. There are also slight story similarities and some of the blob's transformations are the same.

RA: The core game mechanic of feeding jelly beans to the blob which then transforms him into an object to help you solve puzzles is still there. You may recognize some of the locations, the jelly beans, etc, but I don't want to give too much away.

Then can you say how it is different?

SV: Gameplay-wise, this game is a massive reworking of the entire A Boy and His Blob concept. The play control and game flow has all been thrown out and totally rethought. You can jump, aim your jellybean throws, select beans quickly, and interact in more meaningful ways with the blob. The previous game could be confusing and obtuse; this game has a smoother learning curve that ramps up to very fiendish puzzles, especially towards the end.

Presentation-wise, the game has obviously undergone a complete overhaul too. The hand-drawn animation and heartwarming look cause the player to become very invested in the characters. The soaring musical score also adds to the charm. While the gameplay is always the key to the fun, the presentation helps to elevate the entire experience.

Finally, Joseph mentioned earlier that Majesco is looking into releasing A Boy and His Blob over the Wii's Virtual Console. Is there any chance we might see the original game as an unlockable in this game as well?

SV: With the Virtual Console on Wii, putting NES games on the disc is a tricky situation. Stay tuned for more on what we have planned to honor the original game.

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