Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obocchama Kun

Pack-in Video / Namco

A quick point-by-point comparison of Obocchama Kun with its cartoony peers might lead one to believe that the game is a relative failure. Its run-and-throw style reminds one of New Adventure Island, but it certainly doesn't achieve the pace or excitement of that mad sprint. Its levels are as straightforward as its core gameplay, so expect none of the exploration, secret-searching, or strategic item management that can be enjoyed in Son Son II. It has no thrillingly dangerous obstacle courses a la Momotarou Katsugeki, as it chooses to remain content with typical bottomless pits as far as hazards go. And while its visuals and audio are really rather nice, they're still dinosaur-era stuff, so nothing it does superficially can best the wonderful colors and high-quality audio of a Bonk's Revenge or the occasional special effects of a Dragon Egg.

Things look grim indeed at this point, but there are two things that save Obocchama Kun from the life of scorn that a J.J. & Jeff endures.

First of all, it's really fucking weird. The main character is a funny, odd-looking freak who absolutely refuses to conform to game-society norms. He doesn't simply duck--he transforms himself into a little mutt. He doesn't just hop along and grab power-ups--he leaps up onto turtle-shell stages and strikes a singer's pose to make the good stuff appear. And he has plenty of nut-job allies, including a musclebound escort man, a helicopter bearing the face of a bearded fellow, a truncheon-tossing crybaby, and a gleeful Air Zonk reject.

Yep, the good guys sure are interesting... as are the villains, like the speedy hyenas and bubble-belching condors. These creatures certainly are neat in design, and they keep you very busy and alert. There's always something being shot or thrown your way or some miscreant trying to claw you or crush you or charge right through you. The designers were so proud of these active evildoers that they made sure every single one of them--from the big, tough minotaur to the small, silly monkey--gets introduced just prior to the start of the level it resides in.

Bosses get no such fanfare, but they're neat too, if too easy to take down (especially the chicken choker).

Obocchama Kun is at its best when it sticks to its strengths--being weird and providing lots of attackers to deal with. When it occasionally tries to "change things up," it typically falters: underwater levels, for instance, play horribly. But such deviations take place infrequently enough not to make a major impact. And considering that the game is indeed aesthetically appealing when it comes right down to it, there actually aren't many points to mark it off for, whether it's quite as awesome as its contemporaries or not. It's a title worth trying for its own bizarre merits.

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