Published on June 28th, 2012 | by Sgt. Mettool1
Review: Noby Noby Boy
The funny thing about the English language is that it is constantly evolving. Words and their associated definitions are always changing and adapting to new standards. The word “game” is one such term. “Video games” are no more; for many of us, they have simply become “games”.
But how do we define a game? Does it need to have a goal? Do we need to be sitting in front of a TV and shooting zombies in the head? Does there need to be a point? Do we need tight controls, a plot, and other such elements that we’ve come to accept as granted when it comes to games?
Noby Noby Boy challenges all these ideas. And it brings to the table one of the most unique and nonsensical gaming experiences in a good long while.
Released in 2009, Noby Noby Boy carries the signature art style of Keita Takahashi, the famed mastermind behind the Katamari Damacy series. But rather than roll a ball and collect things for your ambiguous king, Noby Noby Boy pits you as BOY, a caterpillar-like creature who can stretch to hundreds of times his normal length. BOY can not only stretch, but also weave himself around objects in randomly-generated environments and eat to his heart’s content. Players control BOY with the two control sticks; one for each of the two segments of his body. Pulling BOY’s segments apart will cause him to stretch. The shoulder buttons allow BOY to eat and defecate objects in the environment. And you can even control the camera using the PS3 controller’s Sixaxis feature.
You may be wondering where these mechanics play into something bigger. But honestly, do they really have to? Think of Noby Noby Boy as like a playground: you make your own goals, set your own ideals, and play with the environment in ways that only you can imagine. And at the end of the day, it’s still very entertaining. You’re not shooting monsters or gaining experience points of any sort. You’re just having some good, old-fashioned fun.
The only concrete goal to really speak of is a collaborative one. As you stretch and grow, you add meters to your overall length, which you can report to GIRL in the sky above and add to her overall length. GIRL is constantly growing as players report their length and add to her size. When the game launched, she began her stretch at Earth, and eventually grew long enough to reach the Moon, Mars, and beyond. At the time of this writing, GIRL had recently passed Uranus. And as more planets are reached, new levels will unlock. To think that we, as a playerbase, have not fully unlocked all the contents of Noby Noby Boy three years later really gives you an idea of how much effort the developers wanted us to put into this collaborative goal. Outside of this, the only other goal to speak of is the trophy list, which you can easily finish in an hour.
While you can see everything Noby Noby Boy has to offer in one sitting, there’s still plenty of reason to come back. The level generator is quite fluid and will almost always give you a fresh experience every time. The only real problem with the maps is that they can sometimes be unfriendly to the camera: curvy or slanted landscapes tend to clip through the camera at awkward angles, and also cause the camera to struggle in keeping up with your character. This can easily be remedied by generating another level, but it is an annoyance nonetheless.
It’s hard to judge a game like this when it clearly wasn’t developed for its graphics and music. The visuals here are purely Takahashi, with strange, cartoony characters and objects gallivanting about the place as BOY stretches and eats to his heart’s content. The game probably could’ve run on a PS2 rather easily, but like Katamari, that isn’t the focus here. The music is, on the other hand, quite fantastic and includes several brilliant acoustic guitar pieces that are sure to scratch that bluegrass itch you’ve been having lately.
I only have one real criticism here. One could argue that there is a fine line between what is an artistic game and what is interactive art. There are certain expectations for each, and you can’t really market one as the other without some sort of backlash from the community. And unfortunately, Noby Noby Boy teeters dangerously close to this line. Again, going back to my earlier argument of what constitutes a game: the definition is always evolving. But are we spending our five bucks on a game, or are we paying five dollars admission to an art exhibit? It’s difficult to tell. Depending on your opinion of art, this may be a make-it-or-break-it deal.
Nonetheless, those of you looking for a unique and bizarre experience owe it to yourself to give Noby Noby Boy a try. For five bucks, you really can’t go wrong with Takahashi’s latest (and probably final) game project.