Dementium: The Ward hit Japan this year (along with a colorful launch event for the game), yet is now enduring its first public outcry in the country. According to Yahoo! News (and Google's translation tools), the Japanese Association of Psychiatric Hospitals has requested that the title be removed from shops instantly, arguing that the game could instigate "discrimination and prejudice" against sufferers of psychiatric disorders.
Interchannel distributes the game in Japan, and has yet to comment, but Mike Wilson of [U.S. publisher] Gamecock did proffer a view to MTV Multiplayer, stating that the criticism is down to a "lack of understanding or appreciation (and therefore fear of) games outside our little sub-culture." He also confessed to being "thrilled" by the extra attention the game has enjoyed as a result; as the game failed to penetrate the Japanese top 30, we know what he means.
Gamecock graciously sent a preview copy of Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi, allowing me to play it in an environment as non-E3-like as possible: my own home. And now, playing through it again, I've found that the only real problem I had with my initial playthrough isn't actually a problem at all. Which leaves nothing but cool platforming. I played through the initial few levels and found my mushroom hero guy saving the world by, uh, knocking over some cans! And moving a shoe full of mosquitoes! And then a fish got in my way and I couldn't make any more progress. Fish.
What won't come through in screens is just how nice the game looks. The bizarre lighting effects and high framerate lend Mushroom Men an extraordinarily crisp appearance that is especially nice for DS 3D.
I got to look at the DS version of Mushroom Men at the Gamecock EIEIO event in March, but I didn't get to play it. Today, though, I arrived at an odd middle section in one of the demo rotations, and basically ended up being left alone in a room with a DS and the game. Aside from a very weird screen-flipping mechanic, it's a beautiful, inventive 2D platformer.
As a heroic sentient mushroom (a meteor has fallen and made stuff sentient that ought not be) you wander around an environment made up almost exclusively of trash and junk. The first level is a tutorial that leads you through the interactive map (which features red dots that mark waypoints), the weapon system, and combat. The map's dots mark the location of other mushrooms that need to be rescued from bugs or other enemies, much like the rescue-based level design in Drawn to Life.
Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi is on the way in October, and we've got a few new screens in our gallery that show how the game is coming along. The 2.5D platformer uses somewhat simple polygons (a smart decision) but gives off the same kind of atmosphere as the rocking concept art due to very interesting lighting effects!
Mushroom Men on the DS is planned as a prequel to the Wii game -- another smart decision, we think. It helps position the DS game as less of a spinoff item and more a part of the real game series. It would be a shame if a cool sidescroller like this got overlooked because of the 3D game. That is, of course, assuming that the Wii game isn't also overlooked.
We knew that Red Fly hoped to release Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi sometime this year, so we're pleased to hear that the software is on schedule and will be in stores this October.
Red Fly also went into more detail about the storyline of the game in a recent press release, since the DS version is a prequel to the Wii title. Both will cover different parts of the Mushroom Men's history, with Rise of the Fungi detailing a time when they first got their special abilities. The Bolete tribe must stave off attacks from hostile insects and other creatures, until the Amanitas Empire becomes an even bigger threat to their survival. Mushroom Men fighting amongst Mushroom Men ultimately leads to the Spore Wars, which are covered in the Wii game.
We really like the idea of one game's story leading into another's in such a short period of time (as in, you won't have to wait long between releases). While we're still not sure when the Wii game will follow, you can expect it in November or December if Red Fly sticks to the original plan.
Dementium: The Wardlaunches in Japan today, and Japanese publisher Interchannel-Holon could not have found a more perfect venue to promote Renegade Kid's horror title*. "Alcatraz E.R." is a novelty restaurant in Tokyo's Shibuya ward with a mental asylum theme where patrons must announce their blood type before entering. They are then handcuffed by girls dressed as nurses who serve up food in surgical trays and drinks in hospital drips.
In other words, it's a totally amazing and ideal place for a Dementium promotion. Hit the break for more gory pics of the press-only event (our invites must have got lost in the mail).
* Admittedly, they could have used an actual abandoned psychiatric asylum, but that probably comes with its own issues.
Because we didn't. Seriously: we had totally forgotten about Roachy Carruthers and Insecticide even existing. The noirish bug detective title launched in the U.S. over three months ago, and as bloggers' memories are famously only fractionally longer than those of goldfish, there was little chance of ... um. Dang it, happened again.
Anyway, we deemedInsecticide to be a fairly inspired adventure romp that was held back by some tedious platforming sections, but if you're one of those Europe-based folks who enjoy great adventure games with horrible platform bits (a small group, for sure), then you'll be pleased to know that Insecticide is coming to your part of the world in August. Yes, it's five months late. But at least it's coming. Hurray.
Now, the game's Japanese site has launched and it's an incredibly effective platform for advertising the title. Just checking out the site makes you think J-horror, in the likes of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. It's a great way to market the title, we believe, so be sure to hit up the site for the goods.
Insecticide never seemed like a title destined to set the sales charts on fire, so we're not surprised to see retailers already marking down the noir title. Less than two months after Insecticide's release, Amazon, GameStop, and other shops have chopped the half-adventure, half-platforming game down to $19.99, a two-thirds its original price.
And if that's still too much for you, you could buy Nirvana's Incesticide for only $7.97, less than half of Insecticide's price. What's the difference between the two, you ask? Well, it just so happens that we've put together a lovely comparison guide that should help you with that question.
According to the latest 1UP preview, Red Fly Studio's Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi has gone through some tweaks since the last time it was shown -- and those tweaks have made it a better game. Specifically, the map has been made easier to navigate with the addition of objective markers. In addition, platforms have been made to stand out from the background visually. This is often a problem with prerendered 3D environments: it's hard to tell which areas of those environments are interactive.
Unfortunately, the healing system, apparently, could use a bit more time in the oven. You heal automatically for most damage types, but not falling damage, which is frequent. In other words, you basically don't heal automatically.
If, inspired by too many episodes of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, you've yearned to adventure the world as a miniaturized figure, fighting pygmy creatures with Lilliputian weapons, you really should look into Mushroom Men! To assist interested gamers who refuse to put their memories of 80s cartoons behind them, publisher Gamecock has updated its official site for the platformer, providing previews of Mushroom Men's playable characters, jury-rigged arms, and misshapen enemies.
Gamecock has also announced that Primus's Les Claypool is lending his talents to the soundtrack for both the DS and Wii Mushroom Men games. According to the renown bassist, like many parents hoping to win their children's favor, he took on the job at the urging of his fantasy-gaming-obsessed son. You can treat your ears to one of Les's songs for Mushroom Men at the relaunched site right now!
As you may or may not know, I'm a big fan of adventure games. That's one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to play Insecticide -- it looked like it would be one of the best in the genre this year. And the action parts? Those would just be gravy.
Crackpot, the development team behind the game, is mostly made up of people who used to work for LucasArts, and it shows. Insecticide contains the same kind of humor and adventure goodness of games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Yet, this title is not only an adventure game but also an action platformer, and when mixing genres, you have to be careful to do it right -- in a way that makes sense, and in a way that works. Unfortunately, though, Insecticide fails in those aspects.
The Gamecock guys sure know how to go all out in crazy fashion to promote a game. With Insecticide already out on store shelves, however, we're saved that blitz of feathers and capes. Instead, we're presented with a smaller, more intimate behind-the-scenes look at two of the individuals who helped Insecticide become a game. We're talking about Larry Ahern and Mike Levine of Crackpot Entertainment.
Of course, being Gamecock, they had to include some wackiness, though. Hit up the "Read" link below and check out the video.
With three high-profile titles releasing in North America this week, we're having a hard time deciding what game (or games) to pick up for this weekend's promised downtime. Should we go with the tried-and-true formula of shooting everything in sight and get Nanostray 2? Or, should we see about putting on our gumshoes and solving a case or two in Insecticide? Perhaps the more epic quest is in order and we should go with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates? Maybe we should just go with them all?
While we try to decide, tell us what you've got going on in your gaming world this weekend. What will you be playing?
Red Fly Studio has big goals. In the words of the company's CEO, Dan Borth, they want to be "the world's premiere third-party Wii developer." They're aiming high on the DS, as well. It may sound a little presumptuous, but their inaugural effort, Mushroom Men, shows significant promise on both the Wii and DS, with a unique, detailed visual style, bizarre challenges and an expansive junk-based inventory.
At the EIEIO event, I spoke with Chad Barron, external producer for the DS side-scroller, and Dan Borth, CEO and creative director, about both games, as well as the experience of working for a big publisher on a big license.