Appealing to the prepubescent BOY in all of us

Noby Noby Boy, is…well, it’s a bit strange, I won’t lie. With no real goals to speak of and – for the most part – a complete lack of the positive reinforcement I’m used to games feeding me, it’s hard to explain why I’m as fixated on it as I am. But I’ve been playing a lot of it, and damn it, I’m having a blast.

[[image: ar_022509_noby_01.jpg:There’s some sort of adolescent joke to make here, I’m sure of it.:center:0]]
I know perfectly well why I gave it a chance anyway: it’s the next thing to come from Keita Takahashi, and having recently (and very randomly) introduced my girlfriend to Katamari Damacy, it was perfect timing, really. Even more than that, though, I found myself attracted to the idea that everyone playing the game was contributing to GIRL’s progress all at once. The only real point to the game, if it needs one, is to stretch yourself to contribute to this meta goal. It just strikes me as one of those things that will seem quaint after the fact but is a rush to be a part of, y’know? (And speaking of which, you may be interested to know that as of Monday afternoon, four days after we started, Earth’s collective Playstation 3 owners have managed to grow GIRL enough to pass the Moon!)

It’s probably my imagination – combined with all the Retro Game Challenge excitement lately – but it seems to me that the purposefully vague instructions and nonexistent hype are the best attempt to recreate that NES school yard method of information swapping that the internet killed. Everything from cool moves to weird tricks (I’ve heard no less than three slightly different input codes for unlocking an easter egg in the manual) were being discovered as people collaborated to figure out what the heck to do. Aside from a very brief tutorial, the game hardly tells you how to do anything, and though the power of the internet has already probably spoiled most of that, it’s a valiant effort.

[[image: ar_022509_noby_02.jpg:Age-old story – BOY meets GIRL, GIRL leaves to find friends on other planets, BOY wanders if his breath smells.:center:0]]
In a more serious game this would be frustrating, but Noby Noby Boy’s open nature somehow provides encouragement to just play. If you let yourself buy into the concept, then the lack of a time limit or goal – save for the worldwide one – tends to shut off the part of your with the alarms sounding because you don’t know how or what you’re doing. Like the first time I played Mario 64, I found myself moving around just to see where I could go and how I could move, and the game never once told me how I should be doing this or interacting with that. It really is more like a toy in that regard, and I for one am perfectly happy with it, especially for the measly $5 I spent on it.

Of course, I also ate a woman and farted her out into space while the man she was holding hands with fled in terror, so my refined high-brow humor may be just as responsible as my subconscious desire to return to simpler times for my fascination with the game. Who knows.

12 thoughts on “Appealing to the prepubescent BOY in all of us

  1. “Of course, I also ate a woman and farted her out into space while the man she was holding hands with fled in terror”


  2. My big problem with the game is the random staging elements of it. There is no level design, only randomly assorted objects for every map. Occasionally you’ll get something you can work with and have fun with, like threading various objects with holes in them or working your way through a multi-arch structure that happens to be there. However, chances are greater that you’ll get a map with a bunch of objects with little potential for something fun to happen. Even worse, you might run into a map that is just plain annoying. One of the maps I was unfortunate to run into was one with tons of spinning tops in them. Sounds like a good idea, but they kept going off the edge. In this game, when something goes off the edge, it falls back down from the sky. So what ended up happening was giant tops raining from the sky. Normally this would be awesome, but in this case it obscured my vision so much that I could do nothing except work my way to the house to switch the map. It was miserable. I think that if the random element were taken out of it, the toy would work better. But as it stands it is just a curious diversion with no guarantee of what you’re going to get.

    That and I’m sad I can’t tie myself in a knot.

  3. Well, it’s not like it takes all that long to switch maps until you see one that looks fun. It’s true that something other than “rectangle with stuff on it” would be nice, but on the other hand, I’m kind of amazed that I’m still finding new objects and creatures after four days of playing. I ate a tapir!

  4. I say this only in a spirit of wry amusement, but: the spam filter, which hated my blog’s URL, was cool with the above comment. Clearly, there are still a few bugs in the system.

  5. Sorry about that–shoulda known that would happen. Please disregard.

    To contribute to the discussion, sort of, my favorite game with very little real purpose is Tail of the Sun. I know a lot of people hate it, and I did too at first, but gradually I came to feel it was one of the best things ever. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to just running around, eating plants, and clubbing wildlife to death that resonates bigtime for me.

  6. I am a big fan of Noby Noby BOY and I hope that all the people talking about Flower would start working this under-appreciated game into their conversations. While both games toy with the “what makes a game a game” idea, I think Noby Noby BOY does a better job of pushing those boundaries and is more fun as a result – even if it isn’t nearly as pretty.

  7. Right, but whereas I think Flower is more of an experiment to see what kind of emotions a game can make you feel in ways other mediums couldn’t, I think Noby Noby Boy is coming from the “how much fun can you have when there’s no real goal” side. They both contribute in interesting ways, though, and I’m glad I bought both.

  8. I stopped playing after I got the trophies. This toy is amazing, but it needs some new items to interact with. Maybe every new planet opens up another trophy? Something.

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