Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Ichigeku Sachuu!! Hoihoi-san (PS2)

In the year 20XX, the face of pest control is small robots with live weapons, just like in the 2000AD series Banzai Battalion, though unlike Banzai Battalion, this is a Japanese videogame from 2003, so the robot in question is a tiny maid. Anyway, I think the plot is that you're some guy who's bought one of these robots and set up a small business for himself hiring it out to kill the insects in his neighbours' houses, since Japan is a warm, humid country and therefore, full of huge insects with no respect for human privacy.

It's nota very good business model, though, since the fees he collects for this task barely cover the cost of ammunition for Hoihoi's guns. You will be able to afford the best melee weapon after only a few stages, and that coupled with a mastery of sneaking up on the bugs that like to run away, will save you a lot of bullets, and therefore money.

I haven't really explained the game at all yet, have I? It's a 3D third person shooter, that's very much from a bygone age. We've all complained about how a lot of modern 3D games feel very similar, due to them all using near-identical control schemes where the left analogue stick moves your character, and the right moves the camera around them. Hoihoi-san is from the days when a lot of developers hadn't really figured this out yet, so while the left analogue stick does move Hoihoi around, the right stick does nothing at all, the player's only control of the camera being the L1 button putting it directly behind Hoihoi. If you're wondering about aiming your guns, well that's all automatic: if you're near an enemy, a red crosshair will appear on it, and you can shoot them.

The incredibly dated controls aside, this is a pretty good game! It's nothing special, but it looks alright, it's cute, and smashing bugs is very satisfying. Another thing to note about the bugs is that having them be normal-sized and shrinking the player down to their level is far creepier than the typical videogame approach of having normal-sized protagonists and giant bugs. And though all the characters and the stages are cartoony, the bugs are fairly realistic-looking, making them even creepier. The stages are obviously all rooms in people's houses: living rooms, basements, kitchens, etc. You can tell that you're in a different person's house on different stages, though, as different people have different sets of belongings and tastes in decor, which is another nice little touch.

Though it isn't a bad game, I can't really recommend playing Ichigeku Sachii!! Hoihoi-san. Like I've said, it's incredibly dated, and it's also pretty frustrating at first, until you get used to all its little idiosyncracies, and there just isn't anything about it that's interesting or exciting enough to get past its faults.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Penky (Arcade)

It's a tragic thing, when a game has an interesting concept, but poor execution, and Penky represents one such tragedy. The base concept is actually pretty cool, and so simple and obvious that I'm surprised I haven't seen it done before: You walk around painting the floor, like in the old ame Crush Roller, but rather than just avoiding enemies and trying to paint the whole floor of the stage, you are instead competing with another floor painter to have most of the floor yur colour when the time runs out. I guess it's also a little like Splatoon too?

Unfortunately, Penky is a product of Yunsung, a Korean developer whos games have been featured on this blog before, pretty much exclusively in reference to their habit of making poor-quality knock-offs of Compile games. So it might not be an original concept at all, but just stolen from another game of which I'm not aware. All the typical hallmarks of poor games from mainland Asia are in full effect, though: stuff happening onscreen for no reason, low quality sampled music stolen from other sources (including at least one track from the excellent Mega Drive shooting game Thunderforce IV), ugly characters that look like depressing poundshop toys, and a general air of cheapness.

The negativity isn't just confined to the game's presentation, either: it also plays really badly. Now, the aim, as I've already stated, is to make most of the floor your colour before time runs out. So fast movement should be key, right? And there is a power-up that makes you move very fast for a couple of seconds. The problem is that there's also a bunch more power-ups that don't seem to do anything at all, and a lot of the time your character will be slowed to a crawl, or even just randomly stopping to do a stupid pose, both with no obvious reason or explanation. Also, during the matches, other characters will sometimes appear and wander around, clearing both player's colour wherever they tread. All this adds up to a game that's competitive in concept, but completely down to random chance in practice, making it a useless waste of time.

There's other problems too, like how, if you're playing single player, you'll just fight the same opponent over and over on different stages, no matter how many times you beat them. But really, talking about Penky any longer would just be flogging a dead horse. All you need to know is that it's awful and you shouldn't bother playing it.