Friday, April 2, 2010

Let's Muscle

Digital distribution is the future of Kusoge; if not the present.

For a while there, it was the minigame collection, which consistently delivered on the promise of giving you a whole bunch of mid to low quality games in a single package, but there was still the whole thing about manufacturing and shipping physical copies.

Now, I'm not an economist, but I saw one on TV, so let's take a moment here to talk shop. Video games cost money to make, physical commodities cost money to produce and distribute, and of course, liquor and prostitutes cost money to procure. Now, the cost of developing a video game depends on the amount of man hours (time X size of staff) spent on it. The bigger a game is, the more time is needed to finish everything; the better a game is, the more time is needed to make sure everything works properly.

Now, this being a kusoge discussion, let's go ahead and throw quality out the window. The game need only not crash or have crippling bugs in it to be considered complete, so the cost of your game scales up entirely based on how big it is, so the further you scale back on this, the cheaper it is to fart your game out onto the world... hence the minigame collection.

Unfortunately, while the development costs scale up, manufacturing and distribution are much less flexible, as the game will take up an entire disc whether it be a sprawling RPG or, say, Balloon Pop. This is where digital distribution comes in, because if your game is 5 whole MB of crap, it's just more efficient to sell it over the internet, which turns the whole thing into as low cost an operation as possible.

And lowered costs means more money for the things that matter most... procuring liquor and prostitutes.

In a fairly short span, digital distribution has set the bar for console games at an amazingly new level of low. For the sake of this post, I won't get into the indie games on the 360, because even though any amount of money seems like a little too much for the "Make the sphere touch the other sphere," game, many of those are created by hobbyists. Many more still by upstart companies with barely a budget to work with.

No, the game I'd like to salute today comes from a company that has neither of these two excuses to fall back on. That company is Namco, and the game in question is a WiiWare release called Muscle March.

Now, this is by no means a "farted out in an afternoon" affair. It does look and sound pretty good, and I do like it, but I can't in good faith recommend that anyone purchase this game without making sure you understand what you're paying for, because for all intents and purposes, Muscle March is a single minigame.

This is a good time to be a fan of Kusoge, the quality of games had quite tragically been on the rise in recent years, and in it's own way, Muscle March harkens back to the days of Action 52, when Active Enterprises quite infamously declared that each game on the cart must have been worth $4 on it's own, and released the thing at a price point of $200. Then, not to be outdone, Nintendo themselves recently released a metronome and instrument tuner for their DSiWare download service. Metronome and instrument tuner sold separately, of course, $2 each.

But I digress. Actually, this whole post has been a digression at this point.

So... back to Muscle March.

Muscle March will always hold a special place in my heart. This was possibly the first kusoge that I was actually aware of before it had even been released in Japan, thanks to a trailer that had spread around the interwebs. Even from a cursory glance, I knew this game was going to be deliciously bad, and thought to myself "I must play this... you don't understand... I must play this game."

Much to everyone's surprise, it was localized and released in North America, where it was promptly treated with hostility by the "eww, that looks gey." crowd. Which, of course, is utter nonsense.

No, this is a game about bodybuilders.

Perfectly toned, barely clothed, bodybuilders.

Who need to chase down the thief who stole their protein powder. Thus, for much of the game, you're looking at a procession of gorgeously sculpted backsides in motion, listening to uptempo j-pop, going through whimsical environments, like downtown, ancient Japan, a spaceship, and of course, a rainbow...

... waiting for your chance to pin the perp to the ground, at which time your fellow bodybuilders join in, creating a big, sweaty stockpile (an orgy, if you will) of rock hard abs and solid glutes.

Now I ask... did any of that sound gay to you?

As for the actual gameplay, the protein powder thief (of which there are several) will run through a series of walls, or other solid surfaces, while flexing his own manly biceps, and you need to copy his pose in order to fit through the hole. The nunchuk controls your left arm, the wiimote your right one, and you determine whether each individual arm is flexing upward or downward by pointing the respective controller device either up or down. For the full effect, you can flex your own muscles, but it's not really necessary.

Once you've penetrated enough holes, you need to frantically waggle both devices in order to hopefully pick up enough speed to catch up with the perp. After he's been caught, he'll pass the powder along the next thief. There are three courses, and three perps to chase down per course, then there's an endless mode where you can hone your skills, or play with up to four of your friends. Of course, if you actually manage to get three of your friends to play this with you, then I can honestly say I admire your charisma.

And... yeah, that's it. Four different environments of nine total stages, which are pretty much the same game with different graphics. Goodnight and Good Luck.

Incidentally, according to wikipedia, this game was originally meant to be an arcade game, which makes a lot of sense. As an arcade experience, the shortness and simplicity of the game make perfect sense, and surely, for a couple quarters (or whatever the yen equivalent of a couple quarters might be) you get a one-off quickie experience with the game (a fling, if you will) and can then walk away feeling satisfied. It's just when you play the game for longer than a few rounds at a time that it's shallowness really becomes an obstacle to enjoyment.

You know, much like a minigame.

The game actually does have another problem, though. I play a lot of Wii games, and I don't shy away from the crazy wagglers while I'm at it, so I can tell you from experience that any game that requires both gestural motion control and fast reaction time is going to have problems. At some point, these two factors conflict with each other. Even if you can still see the hole and process it mentally in time, moving your arms fast enough to keep up becomes a real problem.

But I reiterate... I like this game. Not just in a "haha it's so bad" kind of way, either. I think it's a fun minigame, an experience unto itself, and certainly a great conversation piece for when you have friends over, but be warned, your mileage may vary.

Then again, you're reading a blog about kusoge, so I'm sure you already knew that.

Muscle March, in all your almost-naked bodybuilder glory; Camp Kusoge salutes you.


  1. Is it just me, or is one of the musclemen a polar bear, and another one is a woman?

  2. It's not just you... they're all pretty much pallet swaps, though.

    Also, among the protein powder thieves, there's a football player, an alien, an android, and Nobunaga.