As a reviewer, I usually do my best to judge a game based on the standards set by its genre. This helps me to get a feeling for how fans of the genre would receive the game and makes the scores more meaningful in my eyes. The only time when my normal procedure works against me is when a game comes along that defies any kind of genre I’ve seen before, which is the kind of game you get with Noby Noby Boy. It is an experiment in gaming, which means that it is not a traditional video game.
In Noby Noby Boy you control Boy: a little four legged pink animal with the ability to stretch his body great distances. You control the front of his body with the left analog stick, and the rear of his body with the right analog stick. This is confusing at first, but most people will probably get used to it with time. You can eat objects by holding the L2 button down slightly, shoot the objects out of your backside by holding R2, and propel your body into the air (front or back) by depressing the L2 or R2 buttons fully. Since the right analog stick is taken up with moving your posterior, there obviously needs to be a less than common method for camera control, which is done using the Six-axis. Holding L1 will allow you to zoom in and out by tilting the controller forward or back, and holding R1 and L1 at the same time allows you to freely change the angle of the camera.
You can stretch your body by pulling the two sections of your body apart. You start at only one meter in length, but can get to more than 100 meters after stretching yourself as far as possible. Once stretched, you still only have direct control over your head legs and your rear legs, and your stretched out middle section swings around by the laws of physics and the forces you apply to it, so controlling your Boy when fully stretched can be quite the challenge. If you grow tired of being stretched out you can press the L3 or R3 buttons to pull yourself back into the original compact form you start out as.
When you first start up the game, a little fairy (at least I think it is a fairy) will take you through the basics of the controls using a fake quiz in which you have to guess the button for each of the 6 different actions that were deemed necessary for you to know. Once you have completed this quiz you are given a trophy and plopped onto a square of land with nothingness on each end. You are not given any kind of direction as of yet, or told how to play the game, but instead are encouraged to experiment and find your own fun. Each map you visit will have various objects as well as creatures and people that you can play with to your heart's content. Eat them, poop them out, wrap yourself around random objects and see how far you can stretch yourself before you fall off the planet, anything you feel like doing really. If you or any of the objects on the map fall off into the void they are immediately returned without any kind of consequence.
Any creature or humanoid inhabitant will react to what you are doing based on some kind of drug induced AI that I haven’t really gotten a handle on. They will ride Noby Noby Boy at points, crowd around you if you appear to be doing something interesting, or run away if you open your mouth to begin eating things, and they also do things totally unrelated to Boy, such as climb into cars or helicopters, or even ride creatures. Even Boy himself is dictated by some AI, and if you decide to stop touching the controller he will start strolling around the map, content to play Noby Noby Boy even if you don’t want to. It actually makes for quite an interesting screensaver.
The story and actual goal of the game are never really presented as being the focal point of the game, but they do indeed exist. Noby Noby Boy keeps track of how much you stretch Boy, and after you have finished playing around for a while you can report your stretching achievements to Girl, who will stretch an amount equal to whatever you report to her, with the goal of stretching from Earth to the Moon and every planet in the Solar System so “we can all be friends”. If you were the only one contributing to Girl’s growth, any high school science class will teach you that it would be a monumental task for you to stretch enough for Girl to reach the Moon, but luckily you aren’t alone. Every single person that buys Noby Noby Boy reports to the same Girl, and you all work together to try and help Girl reach new areas. You won’t do this just for giggles, however, as every new planet that Girl reaches will give you new areas to play around in as Boy. Girl also serves as a leaderboard of those who have contributed the most to her growth, giving the game a competitive nature for those who want to take it in that direction.
If you want to change maps or quit the game, you can use the Boy House, a small house with a nose that shoots bubbles and a Technicolor roof. Once inside you can choose to generate a new random map to play in, or quit the game for the night. Multiple menus are accessed by pressing a direction on the left analog stick while simultaneously pressing the select or start buttons. There are a few other little secret controls that I have come across which are necessary to gain all of the trophies in the game, but I will leave those for you to discover yourself as that is half the fun.
The visuals in Noby Noby Boy are the same quirky weird style that many grew to love in the Katamari Damacy series. Everything consists of simplistic polygons that are actually quite pleasant to look at, but technically totally unimpressive. There are many weird moments where the inhabitants of the map will get stuck on a wall or randomly walk in circles, but it is hard to define if these are bugs or simply meant to be that way for the hilarity of it. The menu style is well done and very simple to understand, and also keeps you in the game even when you pick through menu options.
The music is probably my biggest disappointment in the title. Katamari Damacy had some of the most memorable songs in all of gaming and is actually one of the few game soundtracks which I own. Unfortunately, Noby Noby Boy’s soundtrack is much more subdued, consisting mostly of instrumental acoustics. There is only one song in one of the menus which has the same grab as songs in previous titles, but I found it more annoying than anything else. The sound effects are minimal, but serve their purpose well.
The gameplay is the main draw of this title, but it is hard to toss a grade on something so peculiar. Controls take a while to get used to, and the lack of objectives may leave some wondering how they should spend their time, but the physics for Boy are well done and lead to many interesting situations. Each map that I tried had at least one thing to get me interested (except for a mushroom farm that really had nothing but mushrooms and farmers on tractors). Unfortunately, the same physics that dictate how your own body moves seem to not apply to certain situations, and anything you poop out will float away heedless of any sense of gravity. There are a lot of weird little secrets to be found and played around with, but there are only so many different things you can do with the abilities given to you, so the gameplay comes across as slightly shallow at points.
The hardest thing to score for Noby Noby Boy is its value. Since there are no necessary objectives, the playthrough time is totally dictated by how the gameplay connects with you. I personally found myself getting rather bored after around 2 hours of randomly playing on different maps. All I can say for sure is that I think the title is definitely worth the 5 dollars for admission, if only to try and the experience it first hand. It is a totally different kind of game to the norm, that leaves everything up to the player, but most people will get enough kick out of to be worth a meagre 5 dollar investment.
Noby Noby Boy is one of those titles that goes so far outside the norms of gaming that many will shun it as being shallow or not having direction, but I think that is unfair. It is an experiment in gaming that leaves everything, even overall objectives and goals, up to the player. It is a fun little PSN game that many will probably grow to love. The physics driven gameplay, pleasing art style, and interesting system of cooperation and competitiveness make this title worth the minimal expenditure, but the disappointingly mundane music, inhabitants that act without any apparent reason, and limited options in gameplay keep Noby Noby Boy from greatness. It isn’t a game for everyone, but I’m sure that it will find many fans who will appreciate all of its little eccentricities, and for good reason.