Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review: Noby Noby Boy

Namco Bandai

PSN ($7.90)

Made by Keita Takahashi, designer of the popular Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy makes a little less sense than I had any right to expect. The game, available for a nominal sum on the Playstation Network, makes the most of a rather simple conceit – as the snake-like Boy, you can eat anything you can see on a level, allowing you to stretch yourself out, whip yourself around, and fling objects into the air. Quite what the ludic purpose of this is, I’m not sure – beyond being able to tie yourself in knots with the precision handling of two analogue sticks – but it all adds to the colour and general fun of each level, and besides, watching cartoonish people trip over your elongated rainbow midsection never gets old. Especially if you decide to devour them after the fact.

If you’ve got your PS3 console online, you can collaborate with other players all over the world – once you’ve eaten and stretched the Boy enough, reached certain worldwide total lengths (which are stored online in the form of a space-dwelling, ever-expanding character named Girl), bonus levels will be unlocked for all players. In a real way, then, you’re helping other gamers by contributing to Girl’s length, and as long as enough people keep playing, there’ll be new levels popping up in the game every few weeks.

In terms of immediate value for money, you might not be terribly impressed. $7.90 for a glorified version of that Snake game your flatmate has on his oh-so-generic Nokia phone? Not so cool, Keita Takahashi. But some people cough up this much money for a single drink. (Or more, if you want your drink to match Boy’s rainbow colours.) The game is, however, perfect for pick-up-and-play relaxation and is as logical a next step as you can imagine from Katamari Damacy. Which is to say, it shares nothing with its predecessor other than a colourful art direction and a pervasive lack of context.

Noby Noby Boy is more about the experience than the destination. There are no enemies, time limits, or real hints about just what a player should be doing. The stages are randomly generated, and you can switch between them at will, regardless of your progress. While the game does support Trophies, they seem to pop up randomly, and there’s no real objective, beyond advancing Girl outside of the solar system and forcing the developers to make more levels. Ultimately, Noby Noby Boy is simply good clean fun; a brightly coloured, confusing and slightly rewarding way to fill in time.

[This review first appeared in Critic magazine.]

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