Blood is thicker than gameplay.
I'm a fan of weird entertainment. Be it a spastic Mr. Bungle tune or a barely tolerable movie chronicling the sexploits of a deranged, past-his-prime Mickey Rooney, I've always had an admiration for the bizarre. Some things are too much for anyone not on LSD, but you get the point.
When it comes to weird, the world of interactive entertainment has offered up some tasty, obtuse nuggets over the years. Cavemen trying to reach the sun, barfing caterpillars, robotic polar bears, and even, well, this, have pushed our logical brains to Defcon 5 levels of comprehension.
So when Japanese developer Fresh Games announced a game that let you fly around as a mosquito sucking blood from a cute Japanese family, I starting salivating over the possibilities. Published stateside by Eidos, Mister Mosquito is nothing if not strange, though unfortunately it's not much more.
The game starts off with a classic bang, a fantastic, completely retarded intro sequence that introduces you to the Yamada house by way of a panoramic, rendered shot of the home accompanied by a hysterically cheesy female voice laying down the ground rules. It's summertime, you're a mosquito, and a sucking you must go.
Despite its enticing premise, the gameplay is very straightforward. You fly around a number of small, fixed stages attempting to fill up your blood quota. To do this, you must find the 'suck' points, on your victim, dive in for the kill, suck some blood, and fly away before you're noticed and swatted by a big human.
The levels themselves take place in different rooms in the Yamada house. One stage will have you attacking the father while he's watching TV in the living room. Another takes place in the kitchen as mom prepares a meal. And like any Japanese game worth its salt, more than a few levels let you attempt to suck the innocent blood of the teenage daughter Reina.
No, she's not naked, but on one level she's taking a bath. Blue Girl, eat your manga out.
Indeed, the biggest lure of Mister Mosquito is its offbeat humor, mainly accomplished through the great voice acting and wacky sexual overtones. Poking and sucking is sketchy enough, but when Reina starts sighing as you do your thing, you can throw the book of good video game manners out the window.
Through somewhat boring in-engine cutscenes, the family goes through their paces and gets increasingly irritated by the presence of you, the vermin. Mom and dad are classic first-generation Japanese, while the daughter is a spoiled Americanized teen. The dynamics and dialogue are a genuine hoot.
But the gameplay is not. Anyone who's been bitten by a mosquito knows that the pesky buggers always seem to nail you wherever you're uncovered. You could be head to toe in a body wrap and wake up with a welt on your fingertip. Sadly, Mister Mosquito is brutally linear in its gameplay. You cannot land on your victim and just start sucking - you must find the one or two hot spots or it's no go.
To accomplish this, you often must interact with a few elements in the environment, like a remote control to turn off the TV or a light switch to subversively change the lighting. You victim will then go into some predetermined action, which usually results in them changing positions for a bit, allowing you to find the hot spot and dive in for the suck.
Unfortunately, this totally takes away the fun of flying around a mosquito by nipping the creativity in the blood, ER, bud. How about just letting me land anywhere on my victim and go for broke? Once you figure out how to find the hot spots, you just have to go through the motions and suck away.
This is further hampered by the somewhat sluggish control. You can fly around easy enough, but you don't move or turn like a tiny bug should. Slowing down and speeding up is handled by the triggers, but it feels more like you're flying a plane than a nasty little varmint. Once you find a hot spot, you press a button to dive in, followed by R3 to dig your snout into some flesh. Then you must rotate the right stick at a steady pace to keep up with this little blue meter. Eventually you fill up the blood for the level and it ends.
If you're caught - and you will be caught - you get into a battle. Your victim will attempt to swat you, spray you with insecticide or whack you various other anti-mosquito objects. To end the fight, you must hit a few 'relax' areas, presumably functioning as acupuncture points.
The redundancy of the game really comes out after a few levels. There are a couple objects to find, but really it's just you figuring out how to open up the hot spots and then getting to work. The result is amusing for the first few go rounds, but quickly becomes dull.
The delivery is decent enough, though. The framerate is rock solid, the lighting effects are nice and the characters all look pretty smooth. Bright, cheery graphics and an overall playful feel help set the odd mood. The rendered cut-scenes look really bland, however. It's clear that they didn't want to deal with lip-synching, because you never actually see any of the family members' mouths. Maybe they all have bad teeth.
Despite it's problems, Mister Mosquito earns a spot in my gamer's heart - a very, very small spot. Between the great concept and hilarious, tongue-cheek voice acting, it's got great kitsch value.
Unfortunately, it's got little replay value. After you beat the paltry 12 levels, the only reason to play anymore is to unlock more 'colors' for your mosquito or try to beat your battle times. In the meantime, hundreds of other kick ass games are coming out while you're fiddling with your insect. Though the idea is sweet, the gameplay sorta sucks - literally and figuratively.