Noby Noby Boy

Written by Alex Watson

February 24, 2009 | 11:41

Tags: #boy #girl #katamari #length #playstation-network #stretch #takahashi #weird

Companies: #japan #namco-bandai

We Love Katamari

Like Katamari Damacy (literally ‘clump of souls’) Noby Noby Boy’s title is instructive as to the concept that gives the game its meaning and feeling. It comes from the Japanese word ‘nobiru’, which means to stretch out, both physically and mentally.

"It is about being laid back and free. It means having no restrictions to your actions, being who you are, feeling easy," Takahashi told Eurogamer. In Japanese, a relaxed, chilled weekend is ‘nobi nobi to shieta shumatsu.’

As with Katamari, much of the game’s design seems to flow from the control system. Each analogue stick on the Sixaxis pad controls one end of BOY. They’re independent, so you can stretch yourself simply by running away from your tail. You can jump by using the triggers, you can eat objects and you can also poop them out. There aren’t any set levels, but you can get the game to generate new maps. They’re not large – it’s quite easy to grow BOY so that he’s bigger than the level itself – but they’re always full of interesting items to experiment with.

We found a world full of delicately balanced towers of dice, just begging to be knocked over, in one session. Climbing frames are also common occurrences, as are houses, trees and chimneys for you to entangle yourself with. All of the objects respond fairly realistically to physics, and there’s a definite weight and heft to the game. BOY too feels really part of the world – when he stretches there’s a wonderful sensation of elasticity, and you just know, sooner or later, that his two ends will ping back together.

Noby Noby Boy I Loved Katamari Damacy
This is your house. What, you you were expecting it to look sensible?

While it’s clearly an experiment, just a few minutes of play is enough to reveal that the experiment isn’t the result of a lack of ideas. Indeed, Noby Noby Boy is one of the most conceptually pure games you’ll ever come across. The only thing you need to do is get longer; you then report your length to the Sun, and it’s added to GIRL’s (no sniggering at the back, please). GIRL’s length is the result of the efforts of all the BOYs on earth, giving the game an interesting co-operative angle. GIRL herself is trying to reach the Moon (Takahashi reckons that'll take players around two weeks) and when she gets there then new levels will be unlocked.

What’s more, there are some subtle directions as to what to do in the game – but these are all delivered as part of the experience, rather than through mission briefings or objectives which would arguably break the flow of the game. There are trophies to discover, one of which is the wonderfully titled ‘Meeting the Space Squirrel’, and you can also record movies of what you do in game. These can be uploaded directly to YouTube; given the flexibility of BOY and the physics of his world, it won’t be long before we see Line Rider style demonstrations of creativity within the game.

Noby Noby Boy I Loved Katamari Damacy
If you stand around, I will eat you

Like Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy is full of eye-catching touches - you spray hearts when you wander around, you can even play around inside the in-game manual – but it does arguably lack the humour of its forebear. The camera controls are also a little on the frustrating side, as you need to use the Sixaxis tilting to manoeuvre it. The calm, acoustic music is apt but a little too repetitive, and it would be nice if it was more varied or if you could listen to your own. Borrowing a little from Audiosurf in this respect would be no bad thing.

There’s no doubt that Noby Noby Boy is fun, and it’s perhaps the best example I’ve encountered of the game being to figure out the game. Whether it’s engaging, especially over a long period of time, is a harder question to answer. Although we call them ‘games’, what we have come to understand computer games as involves much more than play – competition is a key element also, and it’s almost completely lacking from Noby Noby Boy.

Without competition, without difficulty, the game lacks structure – Noby Noby Boy is as much a game is as a blank sheet of paper and a pen is. It’s the possibility of everything and nothing, and what you might find depends on your disposition and mood as much as the game itself. Pricing it so cheaply is a brilliant move though, as it means Noby Noby Boy shoulders little in the way of expectations.

Give it a go; if you love it, then you might want to go so far as to buy one of the stylish Noby Noby Boy t-shirts Takahashi has designed with US Mac software coders Panic. If you hate it, there’s always the next page to read.
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