Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Appeal of Unusual Games

Ninja Baseball Bat Man - Arcade
This topic really is subjective because many gamers have different tastes. Many gamers play different kinds of games, and individually, they play the kinds of games that others would turn away from. It's hard to actually define what an unusual game is, especially if you haven't played any game that looked out of the ordinary. Is there a basic criteria of what a game needs in order to be called unusual?

Let's start with the example above. Ninja Baseball Bat Man? What kind of game is that? It's a game that involves Anime characters that look similar to the Power Rangers performing baseball activities while beating up the bad guys. That sounds pretty ordinary, right? No, not really, and that's all there is to it when it comes to making a game "unusual". This game was released in the arcades in 1993 and it was given a decent reception from gamers all over the world. Of course, you don't get much in terms of updated material surrounding this game franchise, but you need to applaud the creativity that was put into this game.

For those of you who ever mistook Ninja Baseball Bat Man with just a ninja, a baseball game and DC Comics' own Batman, then give yourselves a humorous round of applause!

Ninja Golf - Atari 7800
I'm not quite done talking about ninjas yet, and no, I won't be talking about you in this blog entry, Ryu Hayabusa! There is another ninja-themed game that came out well before Ninja Baseball Bat Man, and that game was Ninja Golf for the Atari 7800. Of course, not many people know about this game since it was released on a console that had a very short lifespan to begin with. The Atari 7800 was supposedly going to try and compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System, but with Atari's lousy timing to properly figure things out in the 1980's, the Atari 7800 was too little too late.

However, we can give pause and observe this game called Ninja Golf. What was this game about? Well, it was about some random ninja going out to the golf course to hit some balls and work on his golf game. Then all of a sudden, and without any good reason, a bunch of other ninjas came out to interfere and engaged in fights with this poor ninja. Never mind the fact that our poor ninja friend had to also deal with giant frogs and mean gophers who would throw rocks at him! I feel bad for this ninja! The poor guy can't catch a break!

I guess you could say that everyone was golfing... and then they were Kung Fu fighting! Okay, that was bad. Sorry!

Titus the Fox - Game Boy
There are a few more examples of unusual games that obviously didn't catch on as much as their developers were hoping. No one can forget the countless blunders that were made by the developer Titus, but many gamers tend to forget that their fox logo was actually Titus' mascot. In fact, Titus the Fox had a couple games of his own where he would go on platforming adventures, collecting keys and items to throw back at enemies. This concept alone is not unusual, but considering the game development company we're talking about here, it's easy to see why Titus the Fox games give off the vibes of unusual games. They just stick out there with the "what could have been" type of feeling.

Bubsy... Um... Yeah...
Then there's Bubsy, which I have no real knowledge of whatsoever, but I have heard plenty of bad things about one Bubsy game. Bubsy 3D has been critically panned as being one of the worst games of all time by the usual suspect game reviewers IGN, GamesRadar and GameTrailers. The graphics, controls and the obnoxious personality of Bubsy were the main reasons behind this critical panning. People have said that this is a terrible duplicate of Super Mario 64, since of course both of these games were released in late 1996, early 1997.

What's funny about this game franchise is that earlier when Bubsy: In Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind got released in 1993, Bubsy was held in high regard, winning Electronic Gaming Monthly's "Most Hype for a Character of 1993". The concept of a Bubsy game was somewhat understandable as Bubsy was just a cat who could throw yarn balls at enemies. It's just sad that you can take a character from having such great promise to ultimately just throwing that potential into the trash can with a lazy 3D version.

"I guess that's how business goes! Cha-ching!"
A Dog's Life - PS2
Finally, here's an example of taking one's appreciation of man's best friend into the gaming context. A Dog's Life for the Playstation 2 is still a game that I look at as being "out there", a completely unusual take on how a dog lives its life. Now thankfully, the developers of this game didn't go too crazy and suddenly make the dog walk on its two feet like a person, but I have to wonder what they were thinking in making this kind of game. I wouldn't even say that A Dog's Life is a bad game, but it's definitely a niche game that not everyone will like.

If you have pets, and especially a dog, then you could get a big kick out of this game. If you don't care all that much about the gameplay mechanics of animals in the context of real life, then you probably wouldn't want to waste your time on this game. The premise of this game is simple; you just run around as a dog looking for stuff to do. You perform tasks to get food from people, interact with the environment and even interact with other animals. It's hard for me to say if this was a good idea or not, but I guess you have to give the develops of this game an A for effort and an A for thinking outside the box.

Is Being An Unusual Game Good for Gaming?

It highly depends on the context of the unusual game. When we pick up a normal game, like a sports game, a shooting game or your typical Mario or Sonic-like platforming game, we pretty much know what to expect. We get the premise of these games right away.  When we pick up games like the ones I just mentioned, however, we do tend to pause and step back because we don't know what to expect, and after we play these kinds of games once, will we be motivated to play them again?

I love thinking outside the box. I love creating game ideas that other people haven't thought of. That fuels my creativity as an aspiring game designer and writer. It never hurts to bring up a new idea that you know hasn't been developed yet by anyone else, and an idea that you feel confidently about. It really comes down to planning. How will you plan in advance to make sure that this unusual game will succeed?

In closing, unusual games are good, as long as they don't go off the deep end... if you know what I mean!

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