Middle-aged gamer's collection #20

davyK's picture

Body Special 264 (Sega Saturn)#20 Body Special 264 (Saturn)

I've been a bit middle-of-the-road in my last few posts. Mario Party, Bust-a-Move and Williams Arcade Hits may well have sold loads and given pleasure to millions - but there isn't much to say about them that hasn't already been said by better scribes than I. So I've decided to dip into my obscure games pile for this post and this one is certainly off the beaten track.

Every so often, people talk about games "growing" up and the creation of "mature games". Sometimes folk even mention adult games. But what are adult/mature themed games? To be honest the games industry seems to think that the "adult" gamer wants to play WWII first person shooters or open sandbox style roam-arounds such as Grand Theft Auto. Well for me this couldn't be further from the truth. Responsible adults don't have the time that such games require and to be honest while I'll happily play a bit of Call of Duty from time to time (I have the Wii version which is quite splendid and features some nice online options too) I don't tend to stick at them. Life gets in the way and any mission mode ultimately gets dropped - witness other games I have abandoned - Shenmue (Ryo is still in the first arcade I found!) or GTA Vice City where the novelty of driving around to 80s music running people over lost its sheen quite quickly. I lost interest at the bit where I'm attacked by a bunch of waiters and cooks from a restaurant - quite early on in the game. I keep telling myself I'll go back to these - maybe in my retirement if the hardware lasts.

Some other dev-houses have made attempts at "adult" action - this has happened since the days of Custer's Revenge on the 2600 and modern efforts are as laughable. Teen wet dream imagery isn't really what the mature gamer wants. Right? Maybe when more interesting peripherals appear it will take off but I'm guessing that's the way it will be for the meantime.

To be fair, the whole "casual" gaming scene is where the older gamer might be satisfied. I've still to find out what a casual gamer is though. It may be fine for new gamers of a certain age but what about those who have grown up with games? Games for me at my current time of life have to be quick to pick up yet be sophisticated enough to hold my interest. Many confuse sophistication with novelty. Many mistake novelty for depth. All I want is a mechanic that reveals little subtleties the more it is played. New scenarios, new sights and sounds as the game progresses are nice but novelty is for kids. I don't need to be distracted by new toys or gamestyles to enjoy a game. And please - no attempt at narrative - I'm not interested in story. I'll watch a film or read a book for that. For me its all about the mechanics of the game and finding out nice little quirks in a scoring scheme perhaps, while the game throws in a bit more complexity as I get better. This can happen in any genre really but I particularly like the abstract - hence my love of puzzle games and its a puzzle game that I'm going to talk about now.

Body Special is a quite unique game that has a so-called adult/mature theme. The fact is that it is pure cheesecake - the adult content consisting of images depicting Japanese models in swimsuits draped around various sun-kissed locations. The thing is - this game's developers know that rightly or wrongly, a lot of men are not resistant to looking at pictures of attractive women. It has been going on for a long time and it's harmless, good clean fun as long as its done by consenting adults without demeaning the subjects or the viewers. Now we all have our own standards and ideas about what is decent but these guys have made a game that strikes the right balance while actually being quite an interesting game.

The developers of this have no delusions about creating a sophisticated mature experience. Nevertheless, it's quite a clever game and a sense of humour is apparent throughout all aspects of the game from the high production values of the manual and disc, through to the on-screen colour scheme, sound effects, music and general play experience. In fact its a shame that the content isn't more universally appealing as the game could have done rather well - and a new modern neutral version may still yet be a success.

Body Special is a game based around solving a jigsaw puzzle. However this is no static image - instead you have a short looping video of "Akira", "Hina" or "Senka" doing stuff like hanging around the side of a pool or peeking out from under a cherry blossom tree. The bottom right of the screen shows the frame in full but in miniature and you are presented with a set of pieces to rotate and place into the main frame - each piece showing its part of the animated scene. Its actually quite a clever piece of programming given the shape of the pieces which are typical jigsaw shapes. You have a time meter and mistakes cut your time limit and placing a piece adds a bit to the meter.

There's even a 2 player battle mode and tellingly there's the option for a CPU opponent as inviting a friend for a game may cause blushes and inviting the wife to play may also cause a red face - but as the result of a good slap. It's a gamble I haven't taken as yet. The battle mode is quite interesting with players gaining weapons that cause problems for the opponent. One cute one being a wave weapon that washes a players pieces away that is ridden by a little surf-boarding pixellated representative of one of the models.

There's a traditional static picture mode too that records best times and the images are of a quite decent quality. The Saturn, normally abysmal at video, pushes out decent quality videos in the main game too which really had to be done to the make the project viable. The whole thing has a cheery quality to it with jolly tunes and a bright beach themed look and feel.

The Japanese import scene is a wonderful thing and this is just typical of the totally left-field, oddball stuff you can find if you take a chance. I have to say I recommend this one - it's easy to get hold of and won't cost much either but the fact is that it's a controversial title given the content. But this is no tacky porn game thrown together to cash-in. It's a well presented game that has had some effort and thought put into it. This is gaming's equivalent of an up-market glossy men's lifestyle magazine article on the latest Hollywood squeeze and it's a shame that there isn't more of this type of thing. Maybe when the industry truly does grow up we will see more of it but I'm not holding my breath.