When you look at where most of the weird and wonderful things in the gaming industry are happening these days, it’s in the indie game sector. Small teams thinking outside the box to do something totally different to stand out from the crowd. Teenage Blob is the perfect example of that inventive spirit. A collaboration between indie band The Superweaks and indie developers Team Lazerbeam, Teenage Blob is a split release. Half album. Half game. Wholly enjoyable.
This isn’t like any normal split album though. The content from Team Lazerbeam and The Superweaks isn’t independent from one another. You don’t consume the music and games separately. They’re complimentary. I don’t know what the creative process was behind Teenage Blob – whether the music was written first and games were built to accompany them or it was all made in tandem – but for every Superweaks song, there’s a mini-game that feels like a natural accompaniment that you play while the music washes over you.
The 6 tracks/mini-games in Teenage Blob form a loose plot of sorts. You play as a gelatinous teenager who wakes up to a text message from their friend. The Superweaks are playing a gig in their town that night and they have tickets. Awesome. Only problem is, this blob doesn’t have the cool boots that they want to wear to the show. Thus begins a day of odd job work including selling guitars, skateboarding around town high-5’ing folk and delivering sandwiches. Once you’ve earned enough, you can grab your new tim-tims and head to the gig.
Each mini-game in Teenage Blob uses only one control method – the up, down, left and right keys in conjunction with the space bar. There’s no tutorial to each mini-game and very few on screen prompts about what to press and when. Instead, the game uses intuitive controls that riff on classics that many gamers will be familiar with.
The game always begins with a track called New Year. It’s here as the baggy beats of the song liven up does your blog person take a humanoid form. Once they’ve grown appendages, you get to dress them and chat to your Mum, complete dialogue options. Once you’ve said your goodbyes to mother dearest, you’re free to choose one of the 3 available levels/tracks next. ‘Paperperson’, a irreverent take on the classic Paperboy, ‘Guitar Zero’, a tongue in cheek version of Guitar Hero and ‘Tony Dork’, a skateboarding game that’s more OlliOlli than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Once you’re complete all 3 of these tracks then the Teenage Blob can head to the shop to buy flashy new footwear from an impressive range. While the boot style doesn’t really matter, it has a small bearing on the penultimate track/level ‘Ghoststep’, which has the jellychild heading to the show and moshing out to The SuperWeaks. Expect stage dives and mosh pits. Finally, there’s ‘The Deepest Blues’, a gentile track/level that accompanies the credits.
The music of Teenage Blob is fantastic. I hadn’t heard of The Superweaks before playing this title but I’m a fan now. It’s the type of sound we don’t get often in the UK with a refined yet grungy fusion of melodic power pop and chugging indie rock. Each track included on the game is different from one another and offers a different tone to each level of the game. Obviously, if alternative/indie music isn’t your taste, it’s unlikely you’ll get anything from Teenage Blob. The music really is the star of the show here and if The Superweaks aren’t your bag, this game won’t change your mind on that.
The accompanying games are simplistic, easy and instantly intuitive. Portrayed in big colourful, chunky visuals as if made entirely in Microsoft Paint, there’s very little invention here but the games are all fast fun. I imagine that’s the aim for Teenage Blob – Team Lazerbeam has 4 minutes, the length of a song, to introduce a game and get you playing it along to the music. These games have to be tight and they have to be easy to play without a tonne of mechanics that would have to be explained. Mission accomplished on that front.
One of the more impressive elements of the game play here is how it matches the song structures. In Paperperson for example, whenever the song reaches the chorus, the game play changes from a Paperboy perspective into a side-on 2D downhill bike ride. During the song’s bridge, which is quieter and almost gentile, the view changes to a wide 2D shot of a lake as the Teenage Blob slowly cycles across the bottom of the screen. Each of the levels has interesting ways of aligning the game to the music, some of which are brutally obvious while others are almost invisible – taking a break to chat to a friend during the bridge of Guitar Zero is far removed from how the game slows you down during The Deepest Blues so that you exit the water just as the last drum hit happens.
And then, it simply ends. With each song lasting around 4 minutes, you’ll have finished Teenage Blob within half an hour. I audibly muttered “Wait. That’s it?” when i realised there was nothing more to play.
That’s partly because I’d quite enjoyed what I’d played of Teenage Blog and partly because the structure of the game is quite restrictive. During a single run on the game, you’re only allowed to play each mini-game/track once. If you want to play a particular level again, you’ve got to complete the whole game and restart it. There’s very little replayability to the game either, with only superficial changes or Steam Achievements as motivation to restart the gaming aspect to Teenage Blob. There’s also no way to simply listen to the music without having to go through the game which might have been a nice touch. Maybe that’s not included because of how protective the music industry is over their content but after tapping my toe along to The Superweaks tracks while playing, I really wanted to give it a closer listen without the gaming aspect overlapping it.
If I was being cynical, it’d be easy to write Teenage Blob off as a novel concept that exists just to sell music. This isn’t just a Trojan horse to sell an EP though. There’s intelligence in the game types, the tone and the execution on display here. There’s just not enough of it. It’s a concept – collaboration between indie games and music creators – that I’d like to see explored more because I think it certainly has potential to elevate and celebrate both mediums. Teenage Blob doesn’t quite fulfill that potential but it is an exciting trailblazer that others will hopefully follow (I know it’s not the first to do this but it is the best example to date). Maybe next time, we’ll get a full album.
Simplistic but fun mini-games can’t quite match the quality of the music they’re accompanying in Teenage Blob, a unique split EP music/game that’s over before it really hits its stride.
Teenage Blob launches on PC via Steam (review version) on August 13th, 2020.
Developer: Team Lazerbeam / The Superweaks
Publisher: SUPERHOT PRESENTS / Team Lazerbeam
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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