Publisher: D3Publisher of America
Developer: D3, SCEI
Release Date: September 26, 2006
WTF, indeed! The acronym is perhaps best known as a popular (and vulgar) piece of internet jargon, but D3Publisher of America have something else in mind: Work Time Fun. I don't doubt that a double-meaning is implied; after all, WTF has more than a few "what the ..." moments. However, it must be noted that the full title is entirely literal. The time spent playing WTF mainly consists of doing "work" – menial tasks for imaginary money that can be spent to further your gameplay experience. Certainly the question must be posed: Is doing all this work actually fun?
To call WTF a strange game is a bit of an understatement: This is clearly one of the most bizarre games to be released in the North American market. At first glance, it appears to be similar to Nintendo's WarioWare series of games. While this comparison is not without merit, the format of the game is what really sets it apart. Where a WarioWare game might push a new mini-game at you after a few seconds of play, WTF is a more relaxing experience, which gives you the chance to explore the "workplace" (check e-mail, use the vending machines).
Much of the gameplay held within WTF is accessible via the Job Placement option on the main menu. Just four games are available from the start, but the funds earned from doing these jobs can be used in the Vending Machine menu to obtain additional games and trinkets. Many of the games last for quite some time; one in which you put caps on pens seems to last until you decide you cannot take it anymore. Others, such as the wrestling-inspired Three Count, last for roughly a minute and then award you with a paycheck. The Vending Machine works more like the little machines outside your local supermarket. Instead of picking what you want, it is up to the luck of the draw. Toss in your cash and hope for the best!
Aside from additional games, you may also end up with useless trinkets or interesting tools. The trinkets are merely visual items that seem to serve no real purpose; it's kind of a collect-'em-all concept, except you would always much rather have gotten a game or tool instead. The trinkets can be traded with other users via the PSP's wireless capabilities, though your desire to do that will largely depend on your interest in mastering the game. The tools, on the other hand, do serve some sort of purpose, though amusement still remains the overall goal.
Of the tools I had a chance to test out, I found the Ramen Timer to be the most amusing. After choosing between a male or female model and picking an amount of time (three, four, or five minutes), you are treated to a video of a half-naked Japanese person keeping track of your time and performing vaguely suggestive acts. Another tool, Chinese Astrologer, takes your age, sex, and birthday and generates an odd bit of advice. Mine said that my "teeth are healthier than anyone's." Take that, everyone. The Eye Spy tool uses the wide screen of the PSP to display a set of eyes – those of a cat, infant, or anime character (among others) – that you can hold in place of your own to surprise a friend. The eyeballs of each character can be controlled with the analog stick for eerie effect.
Of course, Work is the first word in the expanded title of the game, so most of your time will be spent exploring the more interactive features of the title. The better mini-games are short and silly; Three Count has you as the unfortunate beefcake being pinned in a match sponsored by "Rick's Extreme Sporting Goods" (who have a cow as their logo). Your objective is to break out of the pin as close to the three count as possible. For example, a 2.91 is significantly better than a 1.57. Escape successfully three times, and you will win the match and earn a tiny paycheck. Bishop's Game takes a familiar (and rather dangerous) real-life game and takes it to the small screen. As an ice pick hovers above a human hand, you must stab between each finger as many times as possible without missing or stabbing the flesh. It is certainly one of the rare events better experienced in a video game than in real life.
Some of the games really do feel like work and last for an inordinate amount of time. Pendemonium has you putting caps on pens – that's the whole game, and it never seems to end. When you get tired of it, you quit and are awarded a meager salary for your slave labor. Another game, Chick Sorting, has you sorting baby chicks into one of three boxes: male, female, or "Heaven-bound." If you play fast enough, it can be fairly challenging, but you're expected to play for 10 whole minutes to complete it. Luckily, you can opt out at any time, but I have the feeling that it could have been better structured with a tight time limit and an expectation of sorted chicks (say, 30 chicks in 30 seconds). Perhaps the unchecked repetition found in some of the mini-games will be addressed in the final retail version.
WTF features some light multiplayer capabilities via the ad-hoc connection option, which means that you must be within close proximity of your opponents. In the Hell Cantina menu, you can trade trinkets earned from the Vending Machines with other players. Clicking the Now Hiring sub-menu option initiates a game for others to join, and the Apply for Jobs option allows you to join someone else's game. WTF also features the amusing Out Sourcing mode, which lets you send a mini-game to a nearby friend who doesn't have the game disc. The kicker here is that you can receive the (in-game) money earned from their labor, which makes this a stunningly realistic depiction of corporate practices from around the world.
WTF is a game with a heap of potential; its unabashed embrace of bizarre Japanese humor makes it a potentially endless source of entertaining gameplay. My time spent playing the preview build of the title often forced me to chortle quietly to myself, though there were certainly a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. My only concern is whether there will be enough variety in the mini-games to keep the experience interesting for more than a few hours. WTF will go head-to-head this fall with Atari's HOT PXL for the title of "Best Wacky Mini-Game Collection for PSP." Perhaps the winner of that competition can take on the forthcoming WarioWare: Smooth Moves for Wii in the World Championship. Perhaps then, and only then, all will be right with the world.