Noby Noby Boy (PS3)
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 02/19/2009
Let’s start with a little word association, shall we? I say Japan, you say… No, that’s just sick. I say Japan, you say? No! That’s even worse! This is an all ages review, we can’t talk about that. Now, I say Japan and you say. What? Eels? Really? No, seriously, no one would ever…. eels? Jesus….
Okay, so that was a failed experiment, but the word we were looking for was “Weird”. Not that your answers didn’t fall under that category too, but… *shudder* They really make statues of that? Who would….
Okay, before I need some brain-bleach, lets just agree that Japan does weird things and move on, shall we?
Noby Noby Boy is your standard love story. BOY meets GIRL, BOY stretches to rediculous amounts to appease GIRL, GIRL greedily devours the love from BOY to stretch herself across the universe to bring happiness to new people and planets. You know, the usual.
There really isn’t anything beyond that, though. But then, Noby Noby Boy isn’t so much a game as it is an experience. There’s no points, no real levels (just different maps), and no enemies, powerups, or challenges. It’s just you stretching around, over, under and through stuff.
But the “story” here fits the game, so in that aspect, they’ve succeeded. A weird little story for a weird little game.
Story Rating: Enjoyable
For a PS3 game, the graphics are a little disappointing, appearing to be more last-gen than anything else. I understand that detail was sacrificed for smoothness, even going down to wire-frame mode to keep things going sometimes, but a little more definition couldn’t hurt.
Stylistically, everything fits perfectly. The characters are minimalistic, appearing more like an impressionistic cartoon than anything streamlined or stylized like in Katamari Damacy (which was created by the same folks). If I had to describe it, they’re like a Japanese Dream Sequence as designed by Mummenschanz. The rest of the world is just as odd, with giant letters, falling planets, cars made of vegetables, and clouds shaped like donuts. All of this is done in a lovely, gentle pastel theme with soft rainbow colors that will put you to sleep if you’re not careful.
Also, you live in a house shaped like a clown that blows bubbles through its nose, and you burp/fart hearts as you stretch.
So yeah, weird.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
The music follows along nicely with the graphics in that it’s soft, flowing, and will put you to sleep. It’s so low-key that you’ll often forget its there. To be honest, I can’t tell you how many, if any, different tracks there are, as they all blend together and fade into the background.
The sound effects, however, are a different story.
While they’re crisp and clean, they’re a bit loud, and can be annoying at times. For instance, the stretching noise increases and decreases in pitch as you stretch or shrink. But if you’re trying to stretch farther and farther, as the game encourages, the pitch gets higher and higher, for longer and longer, and continues as long as you’re trying to stretch, holding high pitches that change less and less often until you finally hit the mute button or give up. I’d recommend the mute button, since giving up is just the same sound in reverse for about half the duration.
Sound Rating: Decent
Controls start out simply enough. Left analog stick controls the head of your body, and the right analog stick controls the back end. By moving the two in opposite directions, you can stretch BOY and earn points. To help you stretch, there are a variety of objects to interact with; houses, trees, giant spinning mushrooms, taffy stretchers, you know, the usual.
Holding L1 and tilting the controller will zoom in and out (out so far as to see the creepy looking Sun (who looks like a lion with a flower head) peeping through the top of the earth to its core where you’re playing) and holding both L1 and R1 at the same time will allow you to tilt and pan the view to any angle, including upside down. You can also tap either of them to quarter-circle pan around the BOY.
L2 and R2, when held, will root the BOY’s end in place, allowing the other end to stretch easier. Tapping either of these will cause the respective end to jump, and repeated tapping can approximate flying. You’ve got very little control over that form of movement, though, so it can be sort of awkward to get where you want to be. To make things more difficult, tapping L2 will eat an object (more on that in a minute) and tapping R2 will poop it out. No, seriously, there’s a fart noise and recoil and everything. Recoil. Can you name another game where your character can be propelled by shooting pigs out their backside? Didn’t think so. Thank you, Japan.
But wait, that’s not all. Holding R2 will cause everything you’ve eaten to start shooting out. Now I know what you’re asking (besides “How many parentheses have you used on this review, Robert?), doesn’t R2 root your rear in place? It does, my friends, it does. Which means if you’ve had a heavy meal of pigs, sumo wrestlers, giant letters and shrubbery, and you’re trying to keep a grip on the ground while stretching the front end around a particularly tricky object, your “grip” button won’t grip since your end will be bouncing off the ground as it literally shoots a variety of objects at high velocity across the screen. Why would they do that? No idea, but I’d go with “running theme of the review” for $400.
Holding L3 and R3 at the same time will cause you to shrink, also violently voiding your bowels, which is handy because if you stretch too much, you can rip in half. And of course, once you’ve been ripped in half, there’s only one way to put yourself back together. That’s right, you have to eat your own ass. You saw that coming, didn’t you? Now you’re getting a feel for Noby Noby Boy
Of course, the controls get even more complex; in order to enter the sub-menus, you have to move the left analog at the same time as pressing start. Which of course means that you’re moving while selecting the menu. But that’s not all, because some menus keep you moving as you scroll through. So controlling the cursor while reading the directions causes BOY to walk around, which while it can’t really lead to death, can lead to a lot of inconveniences. Again, I have no idea why they would do this other than because they can.
Throw all of this together and you’ve got a moderately complex control scheme. Trying to root one end while moving the other end of your character while panning around to see him requires you to hold L1, R1, R2, and both sticks simultaneously while tilting the SixAxis the right way. It can be a pain, but is the gameplay worth it?
Yes and no.
First off, Noby Noby Boy is something wholely unique and new. The very feel of the game from the start lets you know that you’re about to try something different. How different? How about a giant space squirrel saving your game for starters? Or how when you fall off the board you spring back to life from the chiminy of your clown-head house? Or just the fact that it’s not even really a game? There are no enemies, no levels, no major conclusion. Just stretching.
It sounds like a simple game, and it is. You stretch. Around buildings, trees, people, clouds, whatever. Every meter you stretch is added to your total (even if you shrink back down) and your total is fed to GIRL to get her to stretch to other planets. Eating objects also adds to your length, but it plays out weirdly. You can only eat objects if they’re the right size and at the right angle to you. There’s no guideline for when you can move to larger items, or how you should approach them, it’s more trial and error. Though it is fun to watch all the people who decided to go for a relaxing ride on your back when they run off screaming after you start eating things. It’s almost as if they don’t trust the giant, all-consuming worm-beast.
It’s a simple game, and I like it, but there is one problem. All the objects, with the exception of your house, move. That means when you’re wrapped around a series of trees trying to stretch out your body, the trees will slowly slide and topple over, leaving you with lots of slack at best, or slingshotting across the board at worst. In a game whose only purpose is to have you stretch, they certainly aren’t helping you any. And that slow slide toward oblivion builds some resentment, and eventually boredom. Yes, seeing the new levels is neat, but it slowly turns from originality to novelty, and I got bored.
For all it’s flaws, Noby Noby Boy is certainly something that deserves being played, it’s just that there’s a lot of room for improvement here.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Decent
There’s quite a lot of different maps to be had, and as more people play, more levels are unlocked. It’s a great feature that really encourages the online community to be more of a community. The devs predicted that it would take 2 weeks of play before the moon was reached, and it was done in 4 days. How long it’s going to take everyone to reach Mars is more up in the air. But still, I think it’s a nice development angle.
Replayability Rating: Good
If a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, if a game has no opposition to the character, and therefore no challenge, can it be said to have Balance? A koan for the modern age, no doubt. But in terms of reviewing, what do we do? A lack of balance is, in itself, almost a kind of balance; therefore a score must be awarded. A perfectly balanced score should be appropriate.
Balance Rating: Decent
Noby Noby Boy certainly does not lack for originality. From concept to execution, this game is groundbreaking in its originality. Now whether or not this is something that everybody likes and spawns countless imitators the way most original games do remains to be seen. But what can be said with certainty is that there’s nothing else out there like it.
Originality Rating: Unparalleled
There is a certain amount of addictiveness in trying to find new and innovative ways to stretch yourself around objects, or to interact with them. Each level gives you something new to do, so there’s lots of different combinations to explore. Unfortunately, all this variety paradoxically comes down to pretty much the same thing. I think what I’m trying to say is that once the shine has worn off, the game gets kinda dull.
If you’re really into the “experiential” gameplay, then this game will keep you glued to your PS3. If you’re a run of the mill gamer, though, you’ll probably get bored with your new toy quickly enough.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
9. Appeal Factor
Like I’ve said before, it’s fun for a while. I think the appeal of Noby Noby Boy is more about the novelty than the game itself. After a while, things start to look the same, nothing works as well as it could, and it gets a bit boring. Now I’ll fully acknowledge that there are some who would view the same aspects in a more positive light, but I just don’t think it’ll hold gamers for that long. In fact, I’ve been wondering what happens to the remaining players when the majority lose interest? Will they ever make it to the later planets, or with the devs have to help them out a little bit and unveil a new level after a certain period of time?
Appeal Factor Rating: Mediocre
It’s no Katamari Damacy. Seriously, that’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it? Everyone expects something like the original Katamari experience, and we’re bummed when we don’t get it. Is it fair? No. Is it what’s happening? Yes, of course. It’s unfair, but realistic. And while Noby Noby Boy certainly brings out the creativity we saw before, the gameplay and excitement are missing. Let’s just hope it’s the Sophomore Slump and the next development will be better.
Miscellaneous Rating: Poor
Story / Modes: Enjoyable
Control / Gameplay: Decent
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game
Short Attention Span Summary
Noby Noby Boy is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Whether this is a good thing or not depends deeply on your gameplay preferences. While it’s not a game for everyone, it’s definitely something everyone should experience at least once. There’s more out there than FPS’s, and you should always be open to new experiences, especially at a bargain price like this.