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  Invasion of the Blobs

Is this some cheesy '50s horror flick?

No, but it is the title of a children's book by Robert Stewart. But that's not the "Invasion of the Blobs" I'll be talking about in this article.

This "Invasion of the Blobs" is a computer game I made several years ago with the help of a program called Game-Maker. This Game-Maker is not to be confused with Garry Kitchen's Commodore 64 version, or Mark Overmars' popular Windows application.

The Game-Maker I used ran in DOS, and was published by Recreational Software Designs around 1991. I found and ordered it out of a software catalog for about $50. The program was a utility that let you draw and move characters, enemies, and maps, with no programming required.

I directed a lot of my creative energy into learning how to use Game-Maker and coming up with games to design with it. My first game was simple: just a guy trying to get through a maze.

Wait a minute... a guy, in a maze... mazeguy?

That's right, my nickname came from a game character I made a long time ago, and there he is. I'd love to tell you why the "mazeguy" name was transferred from him to me, but I honestly can't remember how or when that happened. I do know that the maze game grew and became "Invasion of the Blobs", and the hero's name changed to Bobby along with it.

Bobby is an eight-year-old boy who confronts an army of space aliens with a variety of weapons and items to save Earth and rescue his kidnapped friend, Melissa. If you're wondering how one ordinary kid can defeat thousands of blobs while all of the world's militaries combined presumably can't, or what possible reason the enemy could have for abducting a little girl, I have a perfectly logical explanation for you: Beats me.

You see, "Invasion of the Blobs" is a perfect example of what I like to call "making it up as you go along". That's why, throughout the course of his adventure, Bobby burns down trees, skis down a mountain, pilots a spaceship, crawls through an alien's insides, and hurls anvils at a giant, five-eyed plum. Although the game certainly lacks continuity, it has plenty of variety, which makes playing it kind of fun.

Well, I think that about covers the background behind the game. So without any further ado, let's follow young Bobby as he battles the...

(actual, clumsily-drawn-with-a-mouse title screen)

World 1: The Forest

Bobby's quests begins in a wooded area filled with trees, hills, and streams. He is defenseless at first, and must dodge the blobs as they bounce around. The blobs will hurt Bobby if he collides with them, but he can regain some strength by eating pizza slices that he finds laying on the ground. Yummy.

Bobby finds a flamethrower at the end of the first level. He can use it in the next one to burn blobs and small trees that block his path. This weapon is also used against the boss at the end of this world.

After fighting his way through the forest maze, Bobby confronts an evil tree. He fends off attacks from army ants and bad apples, and fires some fire at the tempermental timber. Bobby's attack is too hot for the tree to handle, and the gate leading to the next world opens.

World 2: Snow and Ice

It's easy to lose control on the slippery slopes in these levels. First, Bobby finds himself on a sheet of ice. Once he gets moving in one direction, he has difficuly trying to stop. Sliding into blobs is a real danger here. In some places, fish pop up through holes in the ice, serving as stepping stones and allowing Bobby to cross.

Once Bobby gets off the ice, he can hit the slopes with the help of a pair of skis. Trees, snowmen, and more blobs cover the hillside. While maneuvering around these obstacles, Bobby can grab some cold pizza as well. Really, REALLY cold pizza.

Towards the bottom of the hill, a time bomb is set and follows Bobby down the mountain. He must race to the finish before the bomb catches up to him and explodes. Running into a snowman at this point not only costs him some energy, but precious seconds as well.

World 3: Into Outer Space

The blobs have taken over a top secret base. Bobby sneaks in to find out why. His path is blocked by a green door, which can only be unlocked by pressing a green button. After a series of colored buttons and doors, he finds a powerful rocket. It's equipped with lasers, missiles, and even has a lightning bolt on the side!

Bobby blasts off and puts his new spaceship to the test. It isn't long before he's greeted by a squadron of space-faring blobs. It turns out lasers can slice right through slime. What's more surprising is that pizza can be found floating in the vacuum of space.

After travelling a few light years, Bobby finds the blobs' spaceship. He also finds a huge, red beast defending it. Propeller-topped blobs try to annoy Bobby, but his rocket's weaponry can knock them out. The spaceship can be entered once the big guy is defeated. And yes, that's an "I love Mars" bumper sticker on the UFO.

World 4: Inside the Spaceship

The alien vessel is filled with even more nasty blobs. Luckily, Bobby finds one blob that isn't like the others. He's actually friendly, and tags along with our hero. It's a good thing too, because Bobby couldn't pass a "BLOBS ONLY!" gate without its help.

I now feel obliged to depart from my "two screenshots and a world description" format for a moment to post the following image and ask the question:

What was I thinking?!?

It's a disco... with a dancing couple... and a trumpet player... flanked by giant pencils... in a UFO... Yup...

Um, let's continue with World 4, shall we? The boss is a big, scaly, green guy protected by panes of glass and grabbing gloves. To break through his defenses, a puddle of plasma must be dropped in the path of a walking thingee. When it steps on the goop, a ball will pop off of its head and bounce towards the monster. If it isn't scooped up by a hand, one of the panels will shatter. Once all of them are broken, Bobby can crawl into the giant's mouth and proceed.

World 5: The Final Confrontation!

Inside the alien are lots of bacteria and parasites that will give Bobby a nasty case of Saturn Space Flu if they come into contact with him. As it turns out, even blobs like to eat pizza since there's a slice resting in the stomach region. There's also a power potion that gives Bobby the strength to throw heavy anvils in the last two levels.

Bobby exits the alien via a hole in its tail and enters an actual maze! This section is filled with one-way doors. The challenge is in finding a way around them and not talking a wrong turn that puts you back at the start.

Finally, Bobby comes eye to eye to eye to eye to eye to eye with the blob leader: Quinteye! He is very-well protected. Drills pop out of the floor, cyclopses waddle around, purple people eaters swoop in, and ghosts of adventure past come back to haunt Bobby. If the pumped up kid can blind the beast, he'll finally be reunited with Melissa!

The Ending

With his final breath, Quinteye triggers the ship's self-destruct sequence. Bobby races down a corridor and finds Melissa imprisoned behind a force field. He tries to deactivate it, but has no luck.

Suddenly, the friendly blob comes to the children's aid. It morphs into a key which unlocks the barrier. As pipes and machines burst all around them, the three board the waiting rocket and blast off just before the UFO explodes.

Would you like to play "Invasion of the Blobs"?

Well, you can! If you have Java installed, you can play within your web browser. Or, if you have experience using a DOS emulator such as DOSBox, you can download a ZIP archive containing all of the files needed to play the game.

Other Game-Maker Game Makers

A prolific G-M user named Eric-Jon Rössel Tairne (aka Aderack) has started The Game-Maker Archive. You can read about hundreds of other games, and even play some in your browser if you have Java installed.

G. Andrew Stone, the lead programmer of Game-Maker, has shared some thoughts on the program at his website, effluvia of a scattered mind.

To Be Continued...

I made a sequel to Invasion of the Blobs, subtitled "The Evolution Revolution". It stars hostage-turned-hero Melissa at age 18. The graphics, level variety, and plot development are all far better than my first attempt.

You can read all about it, as well as my attempts to complete a trilogy, here.

Video Walkthroughs

I recorded gameplay footage of both games. Take a look if you need help on a particular level or can't get the games to run smoothly on your computer.