Readers with keen memories may remember my previous top five weird games from last year. And just to prove that mildly interesting ideas are worth recycling, here’s a further five games that perplex, confuse and bewilder as much as they entertain…
Literally translated as ‘Super Big Brother’, this series of Japanese shoot-em-ups distinguishes itself by being quite possibly the only homoerotic shooting franchise in gaming history. Beginning with the PC Engine original in 1992, the Cho Aniki games spiced up a fairly ordinary Gradius clone with an almost unbroken procession of muscle bound men in erotic poses. Despite its classification as a ‘kuso-ge’ – or ‘shitty game’ in our native tongue, the Cho Aniki games have enjoyed an enduring cult status, with no fewer than six sequels appearing on platforms as diverse as the Bandai Wonderswan and the PlayStation 2. And thanks to the Wii’s Virtual Arcade, the PC Engine original’s bizarre delights can be enjoyed by a whole new generation.
Now this top-down shooter really is a kuso-ge, and just about the most lavatorially obsessed game you’re ever likely to play. Another PC Engine release (a console with more than its fair share of weirdness, come to think of it), Toilet Kids relates the tale of a young man who finds himself sucked into his toilet and flushed out in an alternate world of pooey delights. All this boils down to a retooled version of Xevious with curling spires of fecal matter, clattering toilet lids and spiders with vast pink backsides. While this description probably sounds like a vomit-inducing trawl through a sea of brown sprites, the reality is actually quite the opposite: the gameplay isn’t exactly Ikaruga, but there’s some genuinely imaginative, if simplistic, character designs to unearth, including a serene-looking cross-legged poo god and a gigantic blue elephant with earrings and a big jobby hat. Now something of a collector’s item, Toilet Kids‘ scatalogical humour is unlikely to endear it to family friendly Nintendo, so don’t expect to see this one on Virtual Arcade any time soon.
Just to remind us that not all weird games originate from Japan, along comes the wilfully strange Captain Blood. Created by French outfit Exxos, Captain Blood was a space exploration game that mixed a Jean Michel Jarre soundtrack with interplanetary conversations, trippy flying sequences and surprising flashes of nudity. The game’s objective was to search the galaxy for five clones of your character and destroy them; this was done by flying to different planets and chatting to aliens via a neat icon-based communication system. Say the right things and the aliens will give you coordinates to one of the clones. If this sounds like a comparatively sensible game, just try playing it – not only is there a palpably strange atmosphere hanging over it (partially thanks to the Gigeresque production design, which looked absolutely stunning back in 1988), but the game also featured some genuinely bizarre aliens and conversations (‘Me like female ondoyante, laugh laugh’).
Developers Exxos followed up Captain Blood with the equally odd Purple Saturn Day and Kult: The Temple Of The Flying Saucers, while their press statement upon opening their doors in June 1988 contained bizarre sentences of Dadaist proportions: ‘I ask you to say after me some magic sentences which point out his country to him: ATA ATA hoglo hulu, ATA ATA hoglo hulu…’
Exxos were quite, quite mad.
Trio The Punch – Never Forget Me
And now back to Japan for Data East’s nonsensical take on the beat-em-up genre, Trio The Punch. Released to arcades in 1990 and later ported to the PS2, Trio The Punch was critically panned for its apparently unrelated levels (which jumped all over the place, from the Jungle to medieval Japan to what appeared to be the future, with no regard for coherence or plot) and whimsical characters (the first level’s area boss is a giant pink sheep). Featuring appearances from other Data East games – chubby fire breather Karnov turns up as another area boss – Trio The Punch could be regarded as the company’s own version of Parodius (Konami’s self referential series of shooters), though its warped sense of humour is more disturbing than disarming.
Doki Doki Majo Shinpan!
It was only a matter of time before someone began to explore the ‘erotic’ possibilities afforded by Nintendo DS’s unique control system, and SNK took the medieval pastime of witch finding to lecherous new heights with last year’s Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! (Thump Thump Witch Judgement, or Heart-Pounding Magical Investigation, depending on who you believe). The rather facile object of the game is to prod, tickle and stroke every pixel of the game’s harem of (far too young) girls until their hidden ‘witch mark’ is found. As far as I can tell, that’s all there is to do. Despite this, the game has been popular enough in its native country to spawn a sequel and manga tie-ins. Weird, and more than a bit creepy to boot.
Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.