Another inside Keita Takahashi’s primary colour mind gives PlayStation 3 owners the exclusive rights to stretch themselves, quite literally, to the moon and back. More of a social experiment than a game, how does the spirtual follow-up to Katamari Damacy hold out?
Noby Noby Boy, despite it’s alienating visage, couldn’t be simpler to describe: you, playing as BOY, must stretch as much as you can, interacting with the various toys and inhabitants of the level you’re currently on, and then tell GIRL how far you’ve stretched. The total of everybody’s BOY lengths are then totted up in real time, and thus allowing GIRL to reach out around our solar system giving everyone the chance to play on more planets than just Earth, which is unlocked from the start.
The introduction is pure Takahashi: leading you through the controls but expecting you to guess what they are in a bizarre game-show like twist, which slightly outstays its welcome but once done is out of the way. It’s only when you’ve got all the controls does the game tell you there’s a manual with them all listed – this is just Namco’s way of telling you that to get the most out of Noby Noby Boy you’re going to have to experiment yourself, the game doesn’t lead you by the hand, there’s no signposting and the lack of any real level structure might be unfamiliar to new gamers.
That shouldn’t put off readers of TheSixthAxis though – we’re assuming you’re intelligent enough to know that this isn’t so much a game, but more of a community-based experiment in which everyone with an online connection is encouraged to work together, albeit remotely, to further GIRL’s length and thus find more areas to explore. Without that, you’re limited to just stretching and playing in the same basic set of environments, which while fun (and randomly generated) can only last so long.
So, how does it work? Well, the left side of the SIXAXIS controls the front of BOY, and the right side the back. The left analog stick moves the front of your worm-like character, L2 makes you rigid (and can grab, eat and fix yourself to things) and by tapping the trigger you can jump – likewise, the right analog stick and R2 do the same for the back of BOY, simple controls but ones that offer a multitude of uses. Want to bite onto a spinning mushroom and fling your back-end around smacking into dogs? Do it. Want to eat a bit bit of fruit and then void it at a passing cyclist with testicles for a chin? Do it.
Noby Noby Boy is all about seeing what you can do with the environment. What happens when 10 fat sumo wrestlers climb aboard your length? Can you combine animals in your intestines? What’s above the level – like, really high up? What rude words can you write on the side of your friend’s BOY? Experiment, have fun, and report your length to GIRL as often as you can remember.
There’s something about Keita Takahashi’s games that give them a distinct character. It’s not just the bold, primary colours, the lack of texturing or the basic models, but probably some kind of abstract combination of all three – at a glance you can tell this is from the same stable as Katamari and that would either attract you or repel you depending on whether your mind is open or you only play games with bald space marines in them. We don’t care either way, but it must be a hard sell for Namco in this current console generation, especially when there’s not actually a game to go with it.
Still, even when there’s loads on screen and BOY is stretched all over the place, the 30fps frame rate holds out just fine. There’s nothing remarkable about the graphics aside from their unique style, but there doesn’t need to be – the wacky real-life animals that make up the HUD just add to the feeling that Takahashi really doesn’t care if his game sells or not, and all power to Namco for not forcing any unnecessary changes to the way the game looks.
Plinky music, repetitive barks, daft stretchy noises and the squelchy chewing of GIRL. It’s all exactly as you’d expect.
The concept is absolutely now, and it’s great. Work together with people you’ll never see to expand the available level set, all the time competing to see who can stretch the most in a given day. If you’ve got unlimited time, just stretch all day long and you’ll top the charts, otherwise a little each day will help the global cause enough to make you feel good. The game supports some deliciously kooky Trophies, has a screenshot saving mode and a full complement of video recording, including embedded YouTube encoding. At first glances this could be running on a PS2, but these little bonuses make it something only the PS3 could offer.
So how on earth do you score something like this? It’s not a game, it’s a toy, and it’s one that will only work long term if people keep stretching. It’s a wicked idea, though, and is priced at that impulse-buy level so hopefully enough of you will take the chance with Noby Noby Boy and see what all the fuss is about. It’s unique, and original PSN Store downloads should be encouraged if there’s enough substance to what they’re offering, and like BOY himself the more you stretch out of Namco’s latest, the more you’ll get out of it. Great fun, then, but a title with a totally unsure future – best buy it now, just to make sure.