So, occasionally Japan can be baffling. Even from a gaming point of view, you’d think at this stage that we’d have seen most of the eccentricity on offer from our Eastern cousins, but every now and then something comes along to reset the barometer of confusion and hint at a world of cultural difference that lies just beneath the surface of our leisurely translated big-name releases. Bishi Bashi Special is just that. It’s essentially a set of party games very much akin to Warioware or a western equivalent like Fusion Frenzy or Viva Pinata: Party Animals, but contains such an incredibly wacky design ethos that it almost constantly surprises and delights throughout. It’s one of those games that you might noticed people referencing throughout the years – being as it was initially released over here in 2000 for the PS1 – but as it’s now available on the PSN for a bargain price, it really deserves it’s own spot in the 2008 sun.
Getting the party started
There are a few essential ingredients for any party game to be successful, and thankfully Bishi Bashi manages to nail them all with considerable ease. It’s a title that supports up to eight players with the use of a multitap (or seven with the wireless PS3 controllers), with games containing up to seven rounds of quickfire action each, and leaderboards to determine the winners. Individual tasks are explained clearly before each round is started, with most game types only requiring simplistic input to complete. As a cliché, it really is a title that can be picked up by anybody as long as they can push a button without any problems, opening up the potential audience to the whole family if so desired.
Bishi Bashi ‘special’ contains the original version of the game – which supports up to three simultaneous players, and also the ‘hyper’ version – which includes some slightly better graphical elements but drops the player support to two. Each has their own charms and still caters up to eight players in total, so the choice between the two really comes down to the individual mini-games themselves, and with over 90 to choose from, you’ll be here for a while. Each mini-game takes no longer than a minute or two to complete, keeping the flow fairly fast and frenetic.
Mix and match
So far, so routine then, but Bishi Bashi differentiates itself from the pack with one simple element; it’s quite possibly insane.
These are no ordinary mini-games that you’d see elsewhere, containing some of the most bizarre imagery that we’ve yet to come across in any title. Instead of catching objects falling from the sky for example (in the classic three game-and-watch positions), you’ll be throwing beans into your ‘uncles’ mouth, who happens to be a huge digitised head (no doubt one of the developers), sitting on top of a cartoon body. Another example has you matching beats to a DDR-style rhythm game, with a points system that revolves around increasing the size of your characters’ afro hairdo. Bored of that? Try the ‘Uncle Launcher’ variety, which involves two players attempting to fire the aforementioned family member onto a plate – balanced on the arm of a huge moving statue.
Suffice to say, nearly all of the games follow in the same footsteps, with variations on classic titles like PacMan and Hyper Sports replaced with go-karting and throwing pies at a church congregation. Some of the action will be familiar, but the art style constantly throws up new scenarios and insane situations for you to deal with. Special mention has to go to the activity that sees both players attempting to sneak past a North Korean soldier in nothing but a cardboard box, and the tie-breaks that are decided by whichever player can spin both analogue sticks quicker than the other.
For all the craziness on offer though, Bishi Bashi doesn’t disappoint with the technical aspects (even now in 2008), and almost all of the 90 games on offer manage to play to a decent level. As simple as the mechanics are, the fact that the game doesn’t try to spice anything up with 3D models and protracted animation means that everything clips along at a good pace, essential for any large group of players taking turns with one method of input.
There are a few dud games in the mix, and a couple that you’ll definitely get tired of after a few rounds, but overall, Bishi Bashi Special is one of the best party titles to be released on this side of the pond. Don’t let the fact that it’s a PS1 title put you off, as it’s a game that you’ll come back to time and time again with friends. Especially when there might be a little drinking involved.