[Gamasutra contributor Quintin Smith examines two versions of harried, squeaky-clean PSP title Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!, and how the panic it creates helps players feel every bit the bumbling villain.]
There's been an odd glut of tongue-in-cheek Japanese games based on 16-bit RPGs recently, games like Half Minute Hero
and 3D Dot Heroes.
I've already picked my favorite. I like it because it's about PANIC.
I love panic in games. That icy pang of realization, the blitz of thoughts that follows, the test of keeping your cool. In panic you can find such easy access to that magical realm where the only things in existence are you and the game. And it's such a useful design tool!
Resident Evil 4
was full of boring bits like rooms where nothing happens or having to retrace your steps to stick a stone donkey tail on a carving of a donkey, but nobody noticed, because those moments were respite from panic. Inaction became soothing, and a masterful action game became a game of the year.
My favorite of the comedy 16-bit reimaginings, then: Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!
, a PSP series which gives you the task of digging out a dungeon with the aim of killing the heroes that habitually raid it. The original game isn't great -- but the sequel is, and that's getting released in America in Spring 2010, with the majestic title of Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! Time to Tighten Up Security.
The first game (out now in America as Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This?)
is so impoverished in terms of content it resembles a prototype, which probably explains why it didn't get a boxed English language release and can currently be found in the shiny blue limbo of the Playstation Store.
And yeah, Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!
does panic very, very well. Here's how it works:
You play the overlord of a 16bit RPG dungeon, which you view from a side-on perspective like you would an ant farm. The game is in digging out earth to create the tunnels and chambers of your dungeon while keeping it populated with monsters.
Every so often a bunch of nosy jerks known as 'Heroes' will come crashing through your front door, and the game asks where in your existing excavations you want to hide. The game is lost if the heroes find your squealing avatar and manage to drag him, trussed up like a common criminal, back to the surface.
What's alarming about this? Well, the way you enlist monsters, for one. Certain tiles of dirt contain nutrients, or, after a hero has cast a spell near them, magic. The more nutrients or magic in a square, the higher level the monster that comes staggering out when you dig out that tile. Fine.
Except all but the lowest-level slimes and sprites need to eat lower-level monsters to survive and reproduce. You're not just filling your dungeon with employees, you're managing a fragile ecosystem, and nature runs its course so fast you're always returning to view parts of your dungeon to find they've changed.
Your lizardmen might have eaten all the dogs in their area and are starving as a result, or your faeries have reproduced like bunnies and set up shop where you were planning to lure a dragon. The exception to this rule is when you want the inevitable to happen for the purposes of something like evolution, whereupon you'll watch predator and prey avoid one another like opposing genders at a school prom. And that's not even the bad news.
Because your only real means of interacting with the world is permanently digging out these tiles, Badman
's quirk is that, like a Go board, you only have a limited number of moves to choose from. While most defense games have you building, Badman
gets you subtracting.
The irony is that the ultimate protection, 1000 feet of packed dirt, is there from the start, but you need to hide. So you dig down, dig deeper, always chipping away at your options and always panicking because of the acute awareness that you're backing yourself into a corner and sooner or later those heroes are gonna come for you.
Did I mention you need to dig fast? The time frame on each party of heroes arriving is agonizingly tight, so you're often slicing out serpentine tunnels by holding down the dig button and sliding your pickaxe over the screen, praying you don't screw up that delicate ecosystem. You do, of course, and worse besides.
Whether you're extending your dungeon or cutting out delicious nutrient-rich tiles for the monsters within, you'll end up turning blind corners into smooth curves, putting safe spots in killzones and (most embarrassingly of all) knocking down walls and creating shortcuts that let heroes bypass whole areas of your dungeon.
And so you panic. You panic because there's no save, and your dungeon is in ruins, and you don't want to start the level again, and-- oh, mercy! Oh, mother! Here they come!
I'm a big fan of games which invisibly force you into role-playing your character through mechanics alone, so it makes me pretty happy when you end up every bit the bumbling villain in Badman
. As a player you'll brood, you'll giggle, you'll hatch plots (the game's too fast-paced for any grand strategy, so hatch you must) and you'll panic when your schemes don't work out, most likely because you ruined them yourself. I love it.
for a trailer and a little more info on Time To Tighten Up
Security. And remember, don't bother with the first game! It's not being All It Can Be. Save yourself for this.
[Quinns is a freelance journalist who has fun working for Eurogamer, contributing to Rock Paper Shotgun and reading Every Game Ever. You can currently find him in the damp Irish city of Galway or at quintinsmithster at gmail dot com.]