Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Developer: Acquire/ SCE Studios Japan
Release Date: July 16, 2009
It seems as if every RPG on the market essentially boils down to the same thing: Unlikely hero rises from obscurity to vanquish evil and save the land. It's trite, it's boring, and it's about time things got turned on their heads. Enter Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This?, the latest title from NIS, better known as the hilariously twisted minds responsible for the Disgaea series and Prinny, Can I Really be the Hero? The publisher delivers once again with a hilarious, deep and complicated game, but this one may be a little too obscure and difficult for most players. While NIS games are always difficult and somewhat niche, this one's so tricky it may have defeated its own purpose.
Players take on the role of the God of Destruction, summoned to the earthly realm by the Overlord. You see, he wants to take over the world in your name, but some pesky heroes keep showing up in his dungeon, killing off all his minions and taking him captive. Therefore, you must use your pickax (of doom, I assume) to carve out a new lair for Badman and teach those meddlesome heroes a lesson they won't soon forget.
The game's mechanics couldn't be simpler, as you merely point your pickax at a block of dirt and press Square to excavate it. This in turn creates new paths around the dungeon and also releases the evil minions trapped inside. Starting off, you'll be harvesting lowly slimemoss, the dim-witted yet indispensible workhorses of your sinister army. These little blobs simply move in straight lines, sucking up nutrients from blocks and depositing it in others, and they continue to wander mindlessly in a straight line until they hit a wall. Thanks to the slimes, however, you can pile more and more nutrients into blocks and thus birth bigger and badder creatures. Slimemoss soon give way to omnoms, lizardmen, dragons or even demons, and that's only a handful of the servants available to you. There are also mana-based creatures to summon forth and blast particularly powerful heroes with spells and wizardry. There is a vibrant and thriving ecosystem in your subterranean world, and with careful management, you can put together an army that will make even the mightiest heroes tremble with fear.
The title's story mode contains 11 chapters, and I'll just warn you now that the first few times you head in, don't expect to make it beyond chapter two or three. The game has a punishingly high difficulty level, and until you understand all the finer points of dungeon construction and management, the intruding heroes will likely cut through your meager defenses and drag Badman off again and again in defeat. As a further slap in the face, there is no checkpoint system, so once you lose in story mode, you have to start fresh with a brand new dungeon and new sets of minions. While this may help you avoid the mistakes that did you in last time, it also means that if you lost simply to a turn of bad luck, then your frustration level and blood pressure will likely skyrocket.
If Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman! merely featured this punishing story mode, then it would be utterly worthless and hold absolutely no appeal beyond the very small niche of players who enjoy games that mercilessly punish them without ever bringing forth the promise of victory. Thankfully, though, there's more to the title than that, and it also features an extensive training/challenge mode. The training missions do a fair job of teaching you what all the different units are, their strengths and weaknesses and how to summon them, as well as laying out general strategies and tactics for success. After the training sessions, there are also pages upon pages of challenges that will give you a leg up in the game's main mode, and if you manage to complete all the tasks presented, then you are primed to become a formidable dungeon master indeed.
The problems, though, are twofold; first off, the challenge missions can be quite tough, and even managing to work through them will often tax your brain to its limit and drive you up the wall as you attempt to work out the best method for success. Furthermore, none of the training sessions or challenges accurately prepares you for the game's most difficult aspect: the fact that your minions all basically hate each other.
OK, so "hate" isn't totally accurate, but seeing as how this is an ecosystem, all creatures need to eat. Omnoms eat slimemoss, lizardmen eat omnoms, and so on and so forth. That means you'll need to walk a fine line between building your army and keeping it fed, and normally it isn't long before one need falls to the other. Making things even tougher is the fact that larger creatures are even harder to manage and will often decimate your dungeon on their own, without the heroes even having to lift a finger. Dragons will simply burninate anything in their way, so once another unit wanders into their hallway, you might as well kiss it goodbye; demons are even worse, as they'll actually ignore heroes and fight each other if they're in close enough proximity.
The other trying factor is that you have no direct control over your units, and they just kind of wander around of their own accord. This often leads them to either walk straight into danger or away from the very heroes they're supposed to be fighting, making you wonder why you're even bothering to build this elaborate dungeon when simply blowing up the heroes guild would probably be a much more efficient and less frustrating course of action. Now I'm starting to see why the heroes always win in other games; it's not because they're particularly powerful or virtuous, but evil minions are clearly too stupid to put up much of a fight.
If you don't mind the hair-pulling difficulty, then the game does have a great deal of charm. The graphics are adorably retro, with everything featuring an 8-bit, heavily pixelated look. Our review copy of the game came on a PSP UMD, but since then, it's been announced that the title will only be available via download. While the visuals may look ugly on a big HD set, rest assured that they are quite charming if you're playing the game on Sony's handheld. The title is also humorous, with very clever writing and enough in-jokes to have gamers chuckling every couple of minutes. The almanac of minions and heroes is a true treat, and leafing through the entries will invariably put a smile on your face. It's just a good thing the game is so generous with the humor because you won't be laughing when you're trying to keep up with the gameplay and constantly getting stomped by ever-stronger heroes.
Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This? is a game that will appeal to a very small demographic, but it'll likely earn a devoted hardcore fan base. Much like other NIS games, the title is aimed at a very particular type of gamer, and anyone outside of this cabal likely won't be willing to put up with the game's difficulty long enough to figure out all the intricacies required to be successful. The title is funny, but I can't honestly say if it's particularly fun, as the brand of fun it offers is restricted to an extremely narrow audience. To all those who enjoy their punishment with a side of laughs, by all means check this one out.Score: 7.2/10
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