Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a new champion.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army has held the “Longest. Title. EVAR!” throne for long enough. Its eleven word name (go ahead and count if you don’t believe me) has been shoved aside by the even more impressive Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This? which clocks in at twelve. Now that we’ve established the new King of Names That are Difficult to Say in One Breath, it’s time to look past that and really get to know the game underneath. And the game hiding behind the massive title is fantastic.
You assume the role of the recently summoned God of Destruction, your singular task being to protect the servant that summoned you in the first place. In this case it’s a sharp-tongued, dark-robed, totally defenseless bastion of evil bent on world domination. You can just call him Badman.
Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! is very simple on the surface. The graphics are very bare-bones, with a few different sprites representing the handful of creatures and heroes with some color variations thrown in for good measure. The surface world and its inhabitants (as well as those planing to destroy it from beneath) have a very 16-bit era look to them. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that it looks a lot like a Super Nintendo game. That’s not to say Badman! is an ugly game, of course. Sure it looks simple, but the colors are vibrant, the framerate is smooth (keep in mind, as your dungeon gets bigger so does your population), and there’s a lot of subtle personality crammed into the character sprites. NIS lets their humor shine through once more in the form of badly named heroes (“Shonuff,” and “Chimli” are two of my favorites), hilarious character descriptions and goofy “intro” movies for the heroes on each level.
Gameplay is a totally different beast. Many are familiar with the term “easy to learn, difficult to master.” Well, Badman! is that concept personified. You have a large grid on which you carve out your dungeon, one block at a time. You also have a set number of “Dig Points” which you use when hollowing out your subterranean fortress. If you run out, you can’t dig anymore. Any leftover points can be used to upgrade your monsters for the next round. After tunneling out a few rooms and paths, those reprehensible heroes inevitably show up to ruin your fun. Once that happens you need to tuck Badman away somewhere safe, and hope your dungeon layout and creature population will kill them before they find him, tie him up and drag him back to the entrance. It doesn’t sound so tough, does it? Well that’s just the basic stuff.
Within certain blocks, there are nutrients (shown as a green, moss-like growth). These nutrients are used to create the most basic of dungeon denizens: the Slimemoss. Slimemosses will absorb nutrients and disperse them throughout your halls, and higher nutrient concentrations will yield stronger creatures such as Omnoms or the versatile Lizardmen. Omnoms eat Slimemosses to reproduce, to evolve into Omnom Flies and to keep from starving to death. Lizardmen eat Omnoms in much the same way for the same reasons. This twisted Food Pyramid is also vital to a successful campaign. If you make too many Omnoms, they’ll eat all of your Slimemosses and you won’t be able to spread nutrients as efficiently. If you don’t have enough Omnoms, your Lizardmen may starve to death before the heroes even show up. Still with me so far? Good, because there’s a lot more.
As heroes traverse your den of despair, fight your minions and cheat their way to victory (i.e. using healing magic. Not cool!), the walls will absorb the mana energy. Mana works exactly like nutrients except it produces different, magical creatures. The wisp-like Spirits distribute the mana, the fairy-like Liliths will eat the Spirits to reproduce and coat the halls with a sticky, hero stalling web, and the dragon-like… well, Dragons, will just kill anything that manages to get in front of them. I won’t even get into the particulars of Wookiemen, Diabros and creating special creatures through careful nutrient and mana management for the sake of space.
Above all, the most important thing to consider when playing Badman! is the shape of your dungeon. Different creatures have different movement patterns. Slimemosses and Spirits will move forward until they hit a wall, then they’ll either turn or go back the way they came. Constructing a dungeon that controls the flow of your resources is the only way to progress beyond the first few levels. Liliths are excellent long range fighters, but they’re most effective in narrow spaces. Dragons can only move horizontally (left and right), and so on.
Despite these complexities (of which there are plenty more, I assure you), Badman! is not a long game. The main story mode can be completed in less than half an hour. It’s very arcade-like in this respect and is meant to be played over and over again. If you fail, you start over from the beginning. If you win, you watch the credits and play once more to try and get a better final grade. Once the game is done, you’ll learn how to unlock hard mode (aka: Holy Home Invasion Robbery, Badman! Why Does This Always Happen to Me?) which presents a new scheme for conquest and a new set of heroes attempting to stop you. There’s also a challenge mode meant to really test your skill (and patience). It may only take a few minutes to complete from start to finish, but the amount of hours it can absorb are near-limitless.
Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! is a tough game to sell. Its intentionally retro graphics and simplistic design will most likely be lost on the majority of “gamers.” Its brutal difficulty (anything after level 3 can lead to hair loss) will turn plenty of others off as well. However, Badman! is also quirky, funny, charming, fun and addicting. If you have a PSP, even if you don’t normally like this kind of stuff, I strongly recommend you at least check out the demo. If you have a PSP and you love oddball Japanese games (guilty), just buy it already.
Things We Liked: Shockingly deep gameplay (no pun intended). Quirky style and characters. Hours upon hours of entertainment. “And you have MY fanfic!” – The Biggest Little Loser Chimli.
Things We Disliked: Shockingly difficult after the first few levels. Unforgiving challenges.
Target Audience: Strategy fans. Open-minded PSP owners. Crazy Japanese Game lovers. Anyone who has a soft spot for Dig-Dug and/or Dungeon Keeper.
(Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This? – Available on PSP via PlayStation Network. Downloadable Only. New to CFD’s reviews? Read our explanation here.)