While some developers cater to fans, ignore fans, or port shovelware Keita Takahashi aims for the edge of the solar system. Though not quite a household name like Shigeru Miyamoto or Will Wright, Takahashi should be known for Katamari Damacy and its sequel, two trippy games so fresh and fun the world waited with bated breath to see what his next endeavor might be. Eventually word came that Takahashi would rather quit making games and design playgrounds.
Then word came that Noby Noby Boy would be his next venture. And nobody knew what it was – even Takahashi had trouble describing it. Now, all mystery surrounding the game has been lifted since it’s been available for some time on the PS3’s Playstation Network. Even then, it’s not an easy game to describe or play…
You control Noby Noby Boy, a sausage-like entity who has to stretch his body to obscene lengths. To do this Boy must eat the flora and fauna littering the world. After Boy is satisfied devouring and stretching he must report the lengths he stretched to the Sun – a guy with a sunflower-shaped head peering down at you from on high – who then transfers the distance stretched to Noby Noby Girl, who stretches her heart-covered sausage-body all the way across the solar system.
Here’s the interesting part: the game is online, so everyone playing Noby Noby Boy has their distances added cumulatively in order for Girl to stretch to new worlds. In a roundabout way, Noby Noby Boy is a massively multiplayer online game. So far, only the Moon and Mars have been unlocked. It will probably be a long time before we reach Jupiter.
Like Monty Python meets Takashi Murakami, the game resembles a mixed-up cartoon – child-like yet threatening in an absurd sort of way. As the game loads, photo-realistic woodland critters hide in corners of the screen, chittering away as the data spools up. A fairy that looks like a bee offers you advice on how to play the game. The way to quit the game is to enter a house with a face and a straw-like nose that shoots out green fluorescent blobs. Everything is cute and the trees and clouds have eyes. Eating the things with eyes poses some interesting questions, as Boy can effectively wipe out the entire map of all life, resulting in a mini-apocalypse for the bears, squirrels and human-like characters otherwise minding their own business. Of course, you can restore everything to order by, um, evacuating Boy’s bowels, complete with cute “poot” sounds. Boy himself is a marvel of “cute” design, a pink bulbous mass of Kirby-like rubber in his default unstretched form, and taffy made of rainbows when he’s stretched hundreds of meters. Adorable little multi-colored hearts spring out from underneath him as he pitter-patters around the world, and he blinks his eyes one at a time like some soft-minded dope. All this happens while a simple guitar track plays quietly in the background, although updates to the game added some new tracks including a bizarre song with taunting lyrics that consist mainly of “Noby noby noby noby noby.”
The worst thing about Noby Noby Boy is controlling Boy. An in-game manual explains things but it doesn’t make matters any easier. Using both analog sticks to move his head and butt independently is easy enough but even simple moves like flying (yes, Boy flies to get around sometimes) and eating can be challenging – because they’re mapped to the same damn button. I don’t know how that makes sense, but then maybe that’s the point. The rest of the game makes little to no sense, so why should the controls?
Similarly, controlling the camera is a nightmare. There are at least six different button presses and combinations to move the field of view around, including the Playstation 3’s Sixaxis motion control, which is just insane because it never works. But again, that may be the point. The whole game is insane. Other than that I can’t think of any other excuse for such an unfriendly interface. It makes the game a chore to play.
The best thing to do is to play with friends in the same room. It’s a blast as everyone tries to figure out the (lousy) controls, and it made me pay attention to the ridiculous things people say when playing video games:
“Stretch around the tree to eat the boar.”
“I’m gonna eat all these mummies.”
“I guess I need to stretch more so I don’t accidentally poop.”
“Can I eat my own butt?”
“Yeah, we went through the donuts before.”
“Look at that chicken! I’m gonna eat all these chickens.”
“All right, I ate a sumo. That’s all I wanted to do.”
“You only ate one sumo?”
“This is a sumo-eating worm’s dream.”
Comparisons to William S. Burroughs and Akira were also thrown about, so good times are guaranteed in the right company.
Despite hang-ups with the controls, Noby Noby Boy is a terrific experience. It is nowhere near as good as Katamari and there are no immediate goals, levels or points to achieve besides the ones you set for yourself – eat the sumo, or fly through the donut-shaped cloud. There are Trophies for stretching certain lengths and eating certain things, otherwise, that’s it. Stretch, go up to the Sun, have Girl eat up your length (er…) and hope everyone else in the world is stretching Boy so Girl can stretch to Jupiter and beyond the bounds.