Eight-Bit Junkyard

Rediscovering video games of the past

“A Boy and His Blob”
(Absolute, 1989)

For the bulk of 1982 and into the beginning of 1983, Activision’s “Pitfall!” was the bestselling game in the United States. For 64 straight weeks, gamers feverishly navigated Pitfall Harry through the jungle in his quest for gold bars. Outside of said treasure and an expertly placed buoyant swamp log, every pixel of “Pitfall!” existed for one reason: killing you.

In the early days of Reagan’s America, there were no robust life meters — one touch and you were dead. Whether by quicksand, croc, or running out of time, Atari-era video games were cruel, punishing, and unforgiving.

The man responsible for “Pitfall!” was David Crane. He left Atari in 1979 to form Activision, the first independent video game publisher. The critical and financial capital Crane got from “Pitfall!” should have let him create more games steeped in his electronic vision. Instead, he spent much of the decade working on video game adaptations of the Ghostbusters and Transformers franchises.

Crane left Activision and went on to found Absolute Entertainment. In the last days of the decade, the company released “A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia,” a game that proudly carried on the legacy of “Pitfall!” It begins like most stories: a young boy and his alien blob go on a quest to save the blob’s home planet. Blobert, the titular blob, follows the unnamed boy through caves and subway systems beneath the earth as they gain the supplies needed to travel to Blobolonia. If the boy touches water or softly brushes against a host of stalagmites, he dies. Sound familiar?

Unlike Pitfall Harry, who had only his fists and feet to protect him, the boy has a bagful of jellybeans. When fed to Blobert, each jellybean flavor transforms the white, gelatinous blob into a useful item. For example, licorice turns him into a ladder so you can collect — you guessed it — gold bars. Cola jellybeans turn Blobert into a protective bubble that lets you travel safely under water. Vanilla? That yields a multi-purpose umbrella that both slows dangerous descents and blocks boulders from crushing you. Tangerine? That’s a trampoline. My favorite is the coconut jellybean that creates the magical form of . . . a coconut.

All of these abilities aid your adventure, though to be honest, it’s the rocket powers of the root beer jellybean that are most essential. The cinnamon bean blowtorch is cool, but it’s not going to help you with interstellar travel.

“A Boy and His Blob,” sadly, sounds much more fun than it is. An update to “Pitfall!” with a dash of “Transformers,” all with a silly plot and addictive soundtrack, should have made this game a huge hit. Though many remember it fondly, this writer included, it was so difficult that, like “Pitfall!,” after hundreds of attempts, it stopped being fun and became a chore. It’s more entertaining to binge on real jellybeans than it is to try, and fail, to build yet another strawberry-flavored bridge over some deadly obstacle.

Hidden Gem or Total Junk 
Concept: Hidden Gem
Execution: Total Junk