Thursday, September 12, 2013

Game 10: 3 Choume no Tama - Tama and Friends - 3 Choume Obake Panic!!

What a mouthful, eh? This is what I was looking forward to though, the Japanese games that never made it to the states either because they were too different for us, or we would have no idea why they even existed. This is in the latter category.

Tama and Friends was apparently a short-lived anime in Japan that continues to sell merchandise there. Here, we didn't even get to see the complete run or any of the movies, so this would have made no sense at all.

I played this without doing any research on the source material though, so I was pretty much just guessing my way through it. I would also like to note for posterity that I do not speak any Japanese, so for those of you who do, I apologize for choosing all of the wrong options, always. For the rest of us, well, be prepared to see some squiggly lines that neither of us understand.
For instance, this screen says "Do not take screenshots or you will be killed!"
The game starts out with me getting four tokens via a random checkerboard not unlike bingo. I don't know what the tokens do, but clearly they are important as they have a cat's paw on them. And I'm a cat. As we all know, currency is only important when it has pictures of our extremities on it.

Not pictured: my extremities
After I get my extra-important-cat's-paw-tokens (which I will be calling EXIM cawkens) I am treated to a scene where a wide-eyed cat, presumably Tama, has a conversation with a concerned polar bear. I can only guess what they're discussing, but I assume it's very, very important. And worrisome.

Then I am thrown into the neighborhood with my four tokens and absolutely no clue as to what I should be doing. It's pretty obvious though, from the cutesy music and laid-back characters that this game is intended for fairly young children. The cat walks around like he's on ketamine, slowly and without purpose, while cars speed by harmlessly.
Ha ha, just kidding, that car hit me and took away one of my lives
Yep, this game opens with a gambling game where you determine how many lives you get, then you promptly get hit by a speeding car. And I'm not sure what that house I'm standing in front of is supposed to be, but it sure looks like a casino. Surely a game intended for kids wouldn't have a casino in it, right?
No this is definitely a casino meant for children
I have no idea what this mini-game is, but it's not looking good for me so far. Every time I hit A, I lose a life and a ball with a face on it rolls down. I am then invited to pick a matching face from above and knock out that square. I am literally gambling with my life at this point, and with 2 lives left I'm running out of luck. 

Suddenly, I am given 10 extra lives and I still have no idea what I'm doing. I continue to gamble my lives away until I am awarded another 10 lives. Finally, it occurs to me that I win every time I knock out all the squares in a line. Suddenly, things are looking up, but I'd better quit while I'm ahead. 

I leave the casino with about 18 lives, and walk around for a bit longer until I finally find a house that has a little bouncing icon over it. Obviously something is happening there if somebody took the time to put a bouncing flag over it. They must need a talking cat to come solve a problem for them.
I'm not sure if anyone noticed this, but...there are paw prints (audible gasp)
Looks like an evil mastermind with paws has dug a hole! Either that or some sort of evil zombie cat has risen from its (extremely shallow) grave, which given the dark themes of the game so far would not surprise me in the least. And in fact, after seeing a bunch of dialogue, I do notice a new cat sprinting all around the neighborhood, dodging cars and resisting the urge to gamble. There's the culprit! Problem solved, we'll just hang the cat.
"Holy crap!! Don't hang me you sick bastard~!"
Nope, I guess it wasn't the cat. The hole must have been dug by...evil staring eyes? They're pretty terrifying actually, because those eyes don't belong to anything living, or anything kind. Those are the eyes of death, the eyes of our mortality staring us in the face, laughing at our achievements. "You are nothing but moving dust, a collapsing waveform devoid of meaning."

Or maybe they're just rats, whatever.

After talking with the so-called "innocent" cat, I am dumped back on the world map directly into the path of a car. Wonderful. This is turning into one of those detective stories where everything imaginable goes wrong in one day. Licking my wounds, I make my way over to another unidentifiable house with an icon floating over it. Lot of bouncing flags 'round here. 

Actually I think this was a trap set by the rats because I find myself immediately dropped into a dark maze. Full of rats. 
They say that it's always darkest just before the rats 
After wandering around the maze for a bit, I suddenly realizeI'm working against time as the music speeds up and changes. That timer at the bottom depletes swiftly, and there's not nearly enough time to explore the entire maze. It's's awful, frankly. Especially since I don't know what I'm looking for and I keep running into rats, which costs me a life every time. I run out of time and lose another life. It just keeps getting better.

Luckily, my second try is much more successful, and I find the, er, next clue I guess.
Tama and Friends - Horrifying Rat Maze Trash Adventure!!
Great I found a bell what is next in this tense adventure and detective story

I guess that the bell must be tied to the culprit behind the mysterious hole/empty grave. Or well, it used to be tied to the culprit. Now it's in a sewer. Full of rats.

Did I mention the rats?

Anyway, I trek across the map again, this time deftly avoiding all the cars except the one that purposefully backs over me. This game is constantly finding new ways to be incredibly cruel, you know?

My next destination appears to be a haunted house where all my kidnapped friends are. Wait, when did my friends get time to be kidnapped? This plot is too elaborate for an illiterate person like myself. Let's just assume that the hole really was an empty grave, and now all of the alley cats in the town are wandering about in a trance, seeking brains. My friends holed up in this house but it turned out to be haunted and now they're trapped. 

It's as plausible as anything else I can think of, so let's roll with it.

How...did you even get there?
The idea is to push those squares around to form a path to the trapped animal. You also have to make sure you can get to the next room as well. Sounds easy but some of the puzzles are pretty fiendish, and one wrong move will screw up the entire puzzle. If that happens, you have to restart the room at the cost of a life. Brutal.

I get through a few rooms and lose many lives in the process. It doesn't help that the ghosts and bats will take your lives too. This is just cruel, cruel I say.

Back off. I don't even care if you're a ghost I'll rip your face off.
Eventually I succumb to the forces of darkness, and am forced to restart the entire haunted house. Wow, this game doesn't really pull any punches, huh? The worst part is I have to do the little "hey let's randomize your lives" thing again after I die. My next attempt sees me starting with just a single life, and I am immediately struck by a car and kicked back to the beginning.

I can't believe they made this game for kids.

Does that crying cat have a smiley face on its head what is wrong with this game
The thing is, I remember games like this. Games that were clearly designed with young children in mind, but made to the punishing standards of masochistic adults. Remember Kid Icarus? How about Zelda II? The final world of Mario 3? Cutesy games, one and all, but terrifyingly difficult.

That doesn't even begin to cover the themes of gambling, rat swarms, and vehicular catslaughter. Man, games used to be different. I'm convinced that these ultra-difficult and dark, yet kid-oriented games have created a generation of masochists who want games to punch them in the gut and spit in their face. "Do you like this yet? Are you having fun now?" And the answer is yes, yes I am having fun, please just one more level. I can take it, you know I can take it.

And this game is fun! I actually played it even more than what I wrote above. It's pretty darn good, and it really doesn't hold back. It respects my ability to keep trying, and it's not afraid to drown a few cats along the way.
Yes I said drown
I think that, when I have time to play a game just for fun, I'll come back to this one. And that's pretty high praise considering how little time I have for gaming anymore! I don't know what it says about me though. I guess I'm just a sucker for punishment.

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