Saturday, 2 March 2019

Curiosites Vol. 15 - Ohenro-san (Gamecube)

"Walking Simulator" is a disparaging name often given to non-violent, narrative-driven games, sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly. Though the term didn't really exist in 2003 when Ohenro-san Hosshin no Dojo was released, it's a mantle that fits the game perfectly. Ohenro-san is literally a game about walking across Japan and visiting temples and that's it. It's meant to come with a special controller with buttons for left and right steps, as well as a pedometer so the walking you do in your day-to-day life can be transferred into the game, but I had neither of those things, so I was just pushing forward on the analogue stick to progress.

Because this was meant as a substitute for a real pilgrimage, aimed at the old and infirm who couldn't make the journey themselves, everything is represented as a slide show of photos of the real locations, rather than being a polygonal rendering for you to walk through and explore in real time. Of course I understand why it was done in this way, but it's not very impressive, and it really doesn't give the impression of walking from place to place: when I say it's a slideshow, that's all it feels like, there's no sensation of movement at all.

Once you're at a temple, you can do various things like light a candle, get a talisman, do some reading, and so on, but really, that's all there is to this. It's not a game, and it's not intended to be played like one, and so it wouldn't be fair to judge it as one, either. I'm just posting about it because it's weird and obscure and there's probably not many people who know about it.

The nature of this thing is that recommending it or not recommending it is kind of meaningless, though I will say this: unless you can read Japanese and you really, really love seeing photos of Japanese temples, I can't imagine how you'd get anything out of this at all.

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