Only in Japan

As I, and many more Japanese developers and publishers, lament the falling behind of Japanese games, now much harder to ignore, it behooves us to remember that Japan is not doomed; it does do certain things right and allows for games that no Western publisher, even in these indie-courting times would probably ever greenlight. Exhibit A: Noby Noby Boy.

If you haven’t played this Playstation Network exclusive yet, well, um, nothing that can be said about it would make any sense. Even watching the trailers and movies on-line can’t quite convey the utter insanity this product enjoys. Imagine a designer, possibly delirious from lack of sleep or maybe even riding the Cake horse, just throws up some ideas for the Hell of it with nobody to tap him on the shoulder to say “Excuse me, this is just ridiculous and insane, let’s not do this”; imagine also graphics that are colourful and cute but also sort of smell like 1st year Game College graduate's experimental tomfoolery. Imagine a game with no direction, challenges, goals. You are now only part-way to imagining Noby Noby Boy. Seriously, just play it for a while and enjoy – that’s really all you can do with it. Like me, you probably won’t spend weeks and weeks on this, but for $5 it’s hardly worth fretting over. At that price it easily outlasts a movie rental or purchase, so just go ahead and give it a try. Your brain will thank you for it.

Noby Noby Boy is a toy, in the purest sense of the word. We could only call it a game because it is played on a games console, but that’s about it. There are some trophies that, provided you cheat on the internet and find out what they are for, could provide some goals for you to aim at, but generally, the only function this game has is to occupy you and make you waste some time, time spent giggling, being confused, laughing, more being confused, being confounded, and possibly more giggling. If I were forced to describe the game, I mean toy, which I’d hate to do, it’d be something like: you control an extendable worm-like character that can fool about in a scene, eat stuff, poop stuff and let characters ride on his back. There is some meta-game (whatever that means) about growing long and having the Girl character grow long with you in order to reach the moon or something, but generally, it’s about faffing about.

And it’s great that such titles, alongside the gorgeous “Flower”, also on the Playstation Network, are being made. Noby Noby Boy is obviously several degrees more insane than Flower, which is simply beautiful and relaxing, but both offer a gaming experience that is quite unexpected. And if these games prove to be a success, which I not only hope they do but somehow think they will, it will show that there is a market for non-gamey games. It certainly shows Japan has an ace up its sleeve; technically it may be behind, but when it comes to mad ideas, the possibility to explore them and release them commercially, they still seems to have the upper hand.

44 comments:

  1. And this is why I want someone to explain to me why Japanese constantly get attacked as being uncreative and memorizing and regurgitating. If such is the case, why is the collective EXTREMELY creative output of the society so huge? After all, that's the only 'creativity' that affects our lives as individuals — the artistic expression around us that we can enjoy. So who cares if the kids in your English class respond "I'm fine, thank you, and you?"

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  2. Well, these type of 'toy' games don't appeal to me but I may give them a try once I am done with the glut of games I still have to play through. I guess I'm a bit of an old-schooler & prefer the more traditional games that Japan is known for.

    Nevertheless it is great that individualistic left-field creators have an opportunity to get away with this & shows that the games industry has done a bit of maturing these past few years.

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  3. A bit like Minotaur China Shop, then :)

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  4. I've as feeling that noby noby boy was never really greenlit as such. I think that after the success of Katamari, Namco were eager to keep hold of Keita Takahashi and allowed him some freedom to play with some ideas. After some time they realised that he hadn't really made anything as such, although there was a weird thing that was kind of funny to watch and mess about with and they thought it would sell to the legions of Katamari fans who love the style and humour of that game, so they released it on PSN for less than $10.

    But it is really awesome that this kind of thing is getting released now, and shows that even modern, highly risk-averse publishers are realising the importance of trying to create new ideas.

    Mind you, I think the games we could play on our Spectrums and to a lesser extent Amigas and STs were often equally as weird as this.

    YMLL

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  6. I agree the Noby Noby game is kinda lame but it still kinda fun to play. Look, this is the same country that has kimonos for dogs.
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/kimonos-for-dogs-only-in-japan/
    What else can you expect???

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