Thursday, 17 November 2016

Hyakumanton no Barabara (PSP)

So, it's only after playing the Japanese version of this game for a few hours that I learn that it actually had a western release, under the name "Patchwork Heroes". But I think the fact that I've never seen or heard anyone speak about either version makes it fine material for an obscure videogames blog. Anyway, if, like me, seeing screenshots of it makes you assume that it's some kind of quirky tower defence-type thing where you build flying battleships with cannons and turrets and things. It's actually kind of the opposite! What Hyakumanton no Barabara is is an imaginative twist on the old Qix formula, that sees you cutting apart huge flying battleships while working under the pressure of a strict time limit (since you want to destroy the battleships before they reach your hometown), and while under attack from the ships' various defence systems, mobile and otherwise.

So the way it works is that you climb around on the side of the ship, and you can cut swathes across it. If you cut in such a manner that the ship is split in two, the smallest part is destroyed and falls away. Your mission on each stage is to keep destroying bits of the ship until it falls out of the sky. Some stages also add little extra objectives that need to be fulfilled alongside your main goal, like ensuring one certain part of the ship remains intact, or collecting all of a certain item that's strewn around the ship.

There's many different kinds of enemies crawling around the ship triyng to stop you, and they each have a skill, like being able to repair the ship, or being able to fly, so they can't be killed when you cut away the part of the ship they're standing on, and so on. You can take two hits from enemies before dying, represented by the fact that you have two other people climbing alongside you at the start of each stage. There's also prisoners to rescue from cages dotted around the place, and if you have less than two remaining, they'll step in to replace them. Otherwise, they'll fly away with a balloon. There's also a few power-ups, which are the same as usual for Qix-alikes: faster movement, stop time for all the enemies, and so on.

The game looks and sounds really nice, too! Like you could guess from the game's western title, everything looks like it's made from big, colourful patchwork quilts. What you can't tell from the title is that the music is really bouncy and fun, sounding like a kind of eastern european marching band? It's pretty unique, as far as videogame soundtracks go, at least.

I really enjoyed this game. I'd even go as far as to say  that playing it is the most fun I've ever had playing a Qix-alike game! That might be damning with faint praise, since most of them have more of a "addiction through frustration" thing going on, rather than genuine enjoyment. But yeah, Hyakumanton no Barabara/Patchwork Heroes is a great little unsung hero of the PSP library. I think it might also be the first PSP game I've featured on this blog that I recommend without reservation? That's nice.

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