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BenneB 03-14-2009 05:02 PM

Please rate this review: Noby Noby Boy (EDITED)
So yeah. Read, rate, give feedback.

(Now edited in response to feedback. Tried to replace “unbreakable” with “never-breaking”, but I didn’t like that as much. Sorry.)

Chicken Genocide Made Fun Again

HIGH Joyful physics, joyful graphics, joyful menus, joyful everything

LOW Kind of pointless

WTF Stretching kind of turns me on

In Noby Noby Boy, you play as Boy. You can stretch. There are chickens. There are no goals. There are no epic bosses. You can go places and eat things and you don’t really do anything. It’s the best game released this year.

Before we go any further, let’s address just how much fun stretching in this game is. Your character, “Boy”, has two controllable parts; his head and his ass, both pink spheres with matchstick legs attached. Each responds to one of the Playstation controller’s sticks. When you start the game, Boy’s head and ass are so close they intersect with each other. Pull them in opposite directions, and the pink bond between them will strain before bursting into a colorful rope connecting both halves. Pull this rope tight, and it will stretch as much as you like to. There’s always a palpable strength to your character, like you were pulling a giant never-breaking lump of silly putty. The rope rises and falls in a believable way, like making ripples in a pond, only with a living, breathing character.

Each of Noby Noby Boy’s levels takes place on a randomly generated cube, with no goals or objectives but lots of characters and structures to wrap yourself around. If you want, you can stretch yourself around a herd of chickens and chuck the lot of them off the edge. They’ll materialize back on the stage a second later, oblivious. Imagine a 3D Mario game like this, with no death, just some random stages run and jump around on, experiencing the wonderful movement of running and jumping. It would probably be great, right? But in such a game, the player would quickly get bored with how little Mario’s capable of; he’s restrained to just running and jumping. In Noby Noby Boy, your potential is only restrained by how far you can stretch. You can stretch for eternity.

A surprising thing was how … I’m not sure I should say this … how erotic it felt to stretch in this game. I don’t even mean in the obvious “extend” / “grow” sort of way. When you stretch, it makes a sound that starts as a low moan, but as you keep it up it gets faster and faster and higher pitched as you go farther than you’ve ever gone before and you’re shaking buildings from their foundations. It’s a little disappointing when you let go and don’t snap back, but just fall limp. It might be Keita Takahashi channeling his sexual experiences.

Keita Takahashi, creator of this game as well as Katamari Damacy, has somehow managed to inject real joy into this game. He and his staff honestly enjoyed making it, and it shows in all the ideas packed in here just for their own sake. Eat a chicken and a person, and it’ll become a chicken-person. Why not? When Takahashi was taking pictures for a web banner of the game, he took one of Boy wrapped around a Pac-Man statue. Someone told him that Pac-Man stood out more than Boy did, to which he replied, “Players may buy the game by mistaking it for a Pac-Man game! Wouldn’t it be nice?” I mean – in this videogaming culture we’ve constructed, where any game creator who shows the slightest semblance of personality gets bashed by the media, how does someone like Keita Takahashi end up making videogames?

It’s likely that Takahashi himself is frustrated with the expectations thrust at game designers, something that also shines through in this game. The first time you play, a fairy tells you that the game has no goals, that you don’t have to roll anything up into a ball. When you become obscured by the environment, the graphics turn to mere wireframes, a small but bitter jab at anyone who was overly impressed by Katamari Damacy, where a transparent flower appeared when your view was obstructed. On the Playstation blog, Takahashi said that he was expecting the criticisms he received, but had no regrets, except that not everyone could enjoy the game like he intended.

The graphics in this game are simple. This has somehow become synonymous with “bad” in the gaming world, because what’s the point if a game isn’t RUNNING AT 60 FRAMES PER SECOND, FEATURING DYNAMIC LIGHTING AND 20 MILLION INTENSE POLYGONS IN OUTRAGEOUSLY EPIC ENVIRONMENTS??? By the way, in games like that, people can still pass through each other by accident without noticing. In Noby Noby Boy, when you run into people, they bounce away. With such simple, geometric yet well-designed graphics, the designers were able to program almost perfect collision detection, so that no matter what you do, it doesn’t seem out of place in the world. There are some objects that go through each other, but that’s never as jarring as in most pseudo-realistic war games.

Every button does something in Noby Noby Boy. Press the square button while the fairy’s talking, and his word balloon will change color. Press up or down on the control pad while Boy has text written on him, and it will rotate around his body. Press the select button while pressing left on the control stick, and you can play a 2-D minigame, featuring Noby Noby’s catchiest music. It feels like there’s so much to discover in this game, like anything might happen if you press the right thing at the right time. There’s a childish sense of exploration to just the experience of pressing buttons on your controller. I mean, that’s a little amazing, right?

Did I mention that you can fly? You can fly. Should you wish it, you can travel across the sky, watching as your tail travels in your wake, shimmering like a colorful Chinese dragon from an alternate universe. It’s more satisfying and relaxing than killing an entire army of space-Nazis. It’s kind of beautiful, in its way.

If there’s anything wrong with Noby Noby Boy, it’s that, at the end of the day, it’s kind of pointless. I’m fine with that myself, and I don’t think it having objectives would improve it, but it can be bothersome at times. You’ll be stretching past a windmill, having woven your way through every window in an empty building, all while wrapping around a tree from 50 feet away, and suddenly you’ll think; “Why am I doing this?” When you think that, it’s time to stop playing.

But for every doubtful moment, there’s a second of modest beauty. Like when you find that you can combine a chicken and a person in your stomach, creating a chicken-person. Or when a pair of teenage potato-girls has gathered near you, seemingly willing to get eaten and digested. (Maybe it’s a sex thing.) Or when you realize you’re almost choking back tears, overwhelmed with the sheer joyfulness of this amazing game. Or when you’re just playing it and not noticing, letting your mind wander. It’s a strawberry milkshake on a hot summer day, sitting on the park bench and watching the clouds overhead. That’s a ridiculous thing to call a videogame, but Noby Noby Boy is a ridiculous game. Play it.


Disclosures: Downloaded on the Playstation 3 for $5. I’ve played the game for about 12 hours total, give or take.

Parents: Noby Noby Boy has been given an ESRB E rating for Comic Mischief. There is pooping.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There’s not a lot of music in this game, and what there is is mostly quiet and not really worth hearing. The sound effects are nice, but they’re not essential.

Brad Gallaway 03-15-2009 12:40 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Noby Noby Boy
Hey BenneB…

You know, to be perfectly honest, I actually love what you've done here.

I'm not sure that I would really call it a review per se, but that's not necessarily a bad thing… you know how to write, you express your thoughts, you kept me engaged in what you were saying.

This piece is different… pretty odd, really, but I liked it.

My only feedback at this point is that a little bit of cleanup is called for. I think I’d probably delete the part that starts with “Killzone 2…” and also the part that begins with “Some people…”

Also, the closing paragraph doesn't do much for me. I say scrap it and come up with a stronger close.

Finally, from an editorial perspective I have to say that giving this game a nine is perhaps a wee bit on the generous side-- I wouldn't really fight you on it, but I would ask that you give it some sincere thought and really decide whether a nine is appropriate or not.

Anyway, good work… I like this a lot. Implement those tweaks and I'd be ready to give you the green light.

BenneB 03-15-2009 09:05 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Noby Noby Boy
Thanks for the comment, Brad! I don't really like it when people make the distinction between review / not a review, but I guess you're right about most of those changes.

And yes, even if I get bored of it within a week, I think a nine is an appropriate score for this game, if only because of its "cultural significance", or maybe to emphasize that more people should play this game. But thanks!

Jason Karney 03-19-2009 07:38 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Noby Noby Boy

I really liked this piece. I see how it could be argued as a little "loose" for a review, at least in terms of our site. On the other hand, I think the writing style appeals to me because it's a little different and flows like this "game." It works for me, for this game review.

I'm with Brad on ditching the Killzone 2 paragraph; maybe generalize the reference? Also on re-writing the final paragraph. It needs some more directed umph (technical term :)); a channel to put your enthusiasm into specific words that summarize what you loved about the game, and why you think it's the best release of the year so far.

This part:

"How does that kind of person end up making videogames? Look at Todd Howard! Look at Ken Levine! Look at the media surrounding videogames, actively discouraging any game creator who shows the slightest semblance of personality! (Look at Kotaku!) How does someone like Keita Takahashi end up making videogames?"
Is one of those pieces that stands out as a good thought but jars from the rest of the review. I have those in my own writing -- the clever bits that I love, but get edited out during final reviews because they stand out. I'd cut this entirely, or at least drop it down to a sentence or two.

Otherwise, just a little bit of spit and polish to streamline, and you'd be good to go.

Kudos on getting all the details before and after the review, to fit our format.

If you are willing to make the edits Brad and I suggest, I'd approve this for publishing on our homepage.

On a personal note -- 12 hours? I thought about buying this game myself, but I wasn't sure if I'd play past an hour. Your review makes me want to try it now.

Also personally, I'd go with a headline title that plays on eating/combining chicken and people to tie in with your review; although that's just me.

Thanks, and I hope you'll write more in the future.


aoki 03-19-2009 07:52 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Noby Noby Boy
there's a lot to like about this review. does ramble a bit and there are the aforementioned jarring bits which i'd agree about dropping but nothing that editing couldn't fix.

punchy opener, one of the best i've read.

i like this par:

"Pull them in opposite directions, and the pink bond between them will strain before bursting into a colorful rope connecting both halves...There’s always a palpable strength to your character, like you were pulling a giant unbreakable lump of silly putty."

to be nitpicky i'd drop 'unbreakable' from the last sentence (i hate words starting with 'un', 'dis', 'anti', etc) but this is an example of good writing style with clear descriptions.

i don't have to think too hard to get what you're saying which is good. the sentences go places and say things, also good.

BenneB 03-20-2009 06:52 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Noby Noby Boy
Um, for full disclosure I may have played it for a little less than 12 hours. Or I might have played it for more than 12 hours! I don't know, it's not like I counted or anything. All I know is that I've played it for 3 weeks on and off, give or take, and it's still fun.

I'm probably going to edit this review now!

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