Vib Ripple (PlayStation 2) review
"Pure and utter madness, there's no other way to describe it! You see, there's this wire framed rabbit named Vibri who's currently bouncing all over a picture of my wife. And if that wasn't bad enough, it's also trying to extract a Shitake mushroom from my darling's nose... I mean really, she doesn't even like mushrooms!? *sighs* As strange as all this may sound, experienced importers are sure to recognise the scent of Japanese brand of lunacy when they smell it. A touch of musk, a splash of chea..."
Pure and utter madness, there's no other way to describe it! You see, there's this wire framed rabbit named Vibri who's currently bouncing all over a picture of my wife. And if that wasn't bad enough, it's also trying to extract a Shitake mushroom from my darling's nose... I mean really, she doesn't even like mushrooms!? *sighs* As strange as all this may sound, experienced importers are sure to recognise the scent of Japanese brand of lunacy when they smell it. A touch of musk, a splash of cheap cologne and something that is distinctly reminiscent of sake perhaps... either way, leading this cultural charge into obscurity is SCE's cult developer NaNaOn-Sha who have once more flushed their medication down the toilet in favor of a one way trip to kaakaa-ville. Of course if you don't recognise their great name then fear not, you won't be the only one. Previously responsible for some of gaming's most polished unknown classics, NaNaOn-Sha is about as close to an insanity plea bargain as gaming can get. Don't expect to understand it, don't try to make sense of it, you'll do well just to go with the flow...
A tale of one rabbit and a man named Matsura Masaya
Like most good gaming stories, this one starts back in the glory days of the Playstation1. For it was here that Matsura Masaya, then new kid on the block and fledgling upstart #1, sought to break free from the mainstream in what could still be considered today a balls out display of innovation and daring. With music serving as his inspiration, he set about coding a monochromatic 2d game that for all intents and purposes had nigh on infinite re-playability. By using an Audio CD of the player's choice, this game would generate an obstacle filled wire frame landscape by analyzing the beats and sounds of the music being played. And as such, each game would be as different from the last as it would be the next... so long as players didn't run out of CDs to choose from! All this may be well and good but the game needed a hero. And so it was that Vibri the wire frame rabbit was born. While the game in question, Vib Ribbon, was hardly a financial success, it did go on to become something of a cult classic thereby earning Matsura and his team at NaNaOn-Sha a reputation for... for... well, for something at any rate.
It was then with a sense of not quite knowing what to expect that I booted up Vib Ribbon's spiritual successor, Vib Ripple. Like every other NaNaOn-Sha game before it, I knew it was going to be simple, unique and quite, quite whacked. What I didn't expect however were the myriad niggling problems that ultimately served to make Vib Ripple more an exercise in frustration than the well balanced classic it could have otherwise been. Assuming control of Vibri, players are thusly given a list of color coded objects that they must extract from a series of increasingly elaborate photographs. Say the first picture in question is that of a rather vivacious Japanese woman standing on a picturesque golden beach. And for arguments sake you've been told to extract a small black cat and a large yellow chicken. Where do you start? Much like the surface of a trampoline, each of the photographs is elastic in nature thereby allowing Vibri to bounce around and possibly shake loose the objects of your desire. Of course in keeping with the challenge, that's providing you've chosen the right part of the picture on which to bounce. Confused? Don't be, enlightenment is just around the corner...
Remember the small black cat and large yellow chicken? Well, chances are the cat will be hiding in an area of the photograph that contains the smallest traces of dark color. So try bouncing on the lady's eyes, her hair, or perhaps if you're running out of choices, her nostrils. Consider it an option of last resort if you will. As for the large yellow chicken... my guess is that it's probably going to be found in the background sand somewhere so get over there and do that trampoline thing. And that Ladies & Gentlemen is Vib Ripple in a nut shell. With each successive stage the photographs become more complex and the objects become harder to find. Enemies are introduced, the time limit becomes tighter and you're left to wonder exactly what it was that NaNaOn-Sha have been smoking. Sound like fun? Perhaps to the right type of player it could be, but those of us looking for something a little more dynamic will be left not quite knowing what to think.Even still, Vib Ripple is fun in a repetitive kind of way, and it's certainly without equal. When considering Vib Ripple's future placement in the annals of gaming history though the words ''cult following'' do come to mind...
The proverbial fly in the ointment however can be found in the way Vib Ripple chooses to present your objectives. As each color coded object uses the basic Playstation 2 palette, players are often left confused as to what color they should in fact be bouncing on. Whereby a Playstation yellow is easy enough to distinguish by itself, attempting to match it with the many shades that Mother Nature can produce soon becomes an all too maddening experience. So much so that by the time the object has been extracted, players have been left to wonder if the light orange they were just bouncing on could have indeed been considered a variant of yellow. Bah! How about using something more intuitive next time? Combine this most major of frustrations with an unforgiving game design that forces players to begin the stage again once time has run out and before too long you'll either be looking for medication of your own or going back to something a little more mainstream. Innovation and originality is one thing, but please make sure that your core gameplay is working smoothly before presenting it to the masses.
Even with these problems serving to ground players in reality, some enjoyment can be taken from the fact that Vib Ripple allows users to import their own photographs with which to bounce upon. A PS2 hard drive and an Internet connection is all that's needed for you to get your own pets, loved ones, and obligatory assorted nasties into the game for the whole family to enjoy. It may not sound like much, and indeed it probably isn't. But if the truth be told, a certain kind of perverse satisfaction can be found in pulling a mushroom from your darling's nose. And there's even more potential in creating a strictly Adults Only version of the game... digital cameras on stand-by then. Before you label me a pervert, please remember that this is indeed a Japanese game and as such those freaky little Otaku have probably thought of much, much worse. Still, no matter the reason at least those looking to extend their Vib Ripple experience beyond the 80 odd stages on offer will be able to do so. And that in and of itself is an incredibly cool feature. Now if only the gameplay was up to scratch then perhaps all would have been right with the world.
So there you have it, Vib Ripple in all its tarnished cult following glory. It's simple to play, original in design, and yet incredibly frustrating in execution. If only NaNaOn-Sha had taken their time to tidy up some of the key gameplay elements then much of the pain could have surely been avoided. That however was not to be and as such Vib Ripple comes across as a disappointment of sorts, especially when compared to the elegant simplicity of its predecessor, Vib Ribbon. The soft pastel colors will draw you in, and Vibri's unique child-like charms will hold you captivated, but at the end of the day if all you're doing is swearing at the screen then what use has the whole experience been? While it was certainly nice to see little Vibri-chan again, a small part of me wishes that she hadn't come out of retirement for a game such as this. The memories I have of her climbing and leaping over the rhythm induced landscapes of old were dear to me, but now they've been tainted by images of mushrooms and badly matched colors. And that is perhaps the saddest aspect of it all. Better luck next time Matsura san...
* It's quite unique
* The core gameplay takes on an almost puzzle like quality at times
* Vib Ribbon allows players to upload their own photographs to the Playstation2
* The soft pastel colors are soothing to the eyes
* Vibri is back! She's back I tell you!
* The Playstation's color palette doesn't represent the player's objectives well enough
* Simple gameplay may be too basic for some
* Vib Ribbon is quite repetitive
* The frustration factor can become too much after a while
* Sony's Eye Toy can't be used to take new photos... WTF?!
* Vibri deserved better than this
Community review by midwinter (August 22, 2004)
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