WTF: Work Time Fun (PSP) review
"Baito Hell 2000 on the other hand, wants you bored. It needs your brain on auto pilot, and will pummel it mercilessly with the same event until your eyes glaze over. And therein lies the hook: you're going to love every minute of it. "
In a country where weird has become a daily part of my life, Baito Hell 2000 shouldn't have raised an eyebrow. From a Japanese point of view, Sony's simulation of soul crushing part time work is just a step away from train sims and convenience store games, but to me it seems like an awful stretch. My gaijin brain can only comprehend so much insanity each day, and the thought of picking up a PSP in order to sit on a virtual assembly line is something it could do without. Who in their right mind would volunteer for hard labor at minimum wage? And further still, who wants to be paid in credits that can only be used in toy dispensing gumball machines? That's what I thought too... until I gave it a chance.
1. A Japanese term meaning part time work
2. Sometimes shortened to "baito" (adj) when used to describe a person that frequently goes from one part time job to another
Trying to describe the unique appeal of Sony's Baito Hell 2000 is like trying to determine the exact moment when Japanese gaming went wrong. You can't, so don't waste your time. Instead, I'm going to regale you with anecdotes so bizarre you'll eventually understand the title's appeal, and in the process see how it comes unstuck. Had Sony done their homework, Baito Hell 2000 could have been the most enjoyably irrelevant game ever made, outdoing even the likes of Wario Ware itself. Alas though, that wasn't to be, and the King has lived to fight another day.
It's easy to see how comparisons to Nintendo's party monster might be made, but they're really as different as chalk and tofu. Where both titles present players with an assortment of mini-games, Wario Ware has consistently scored thanks to the way its quick-fire timing limits exposure to each event. Bang, you're stroking a cat. Bang, you're blowing up balloons. Bang, you've got Attention Deficit Disorder... congratulations, you've passed the game. Baito Hell 2000 on the other hand, wants you bored. It needs your brain on auto pilot, and will pummel it mercilessly with the same event until your eyes glaze over. And therein lies the hook: you're going to love every minute of it.
My first Baito Hell 2000 experience was with a game called Ball Pen Koujyou (Ball Pen Factory for the Japanese impaired). Selected from a starting line-up of four events, its simple premise had me working in a Chinese factory assembling a never ending stream of biros. Workers whispered in the background as they carried out their assigned duties, while a counter started at 1 and ran to a possible 36 digit figure...
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,001 - It seems I had some work to do.
Getting down to the job at hand then, I ran my station with the efficiency one would expect of a Chinese, minimum wage worker. Lids were put on backwards, pens were missed, and I'd disappear for a cigarette whenever the mood struck. To say that the full tedium of such an occupation was well simulated would be an understatement, and it wasn't long before I quit the factory in search of something else. Then Baito Hell 2000 clicked. It wanted to pay me for my efforts. The catch was however, the salary I received didn't seem to cover the amount of work I had done, and I was rightly upset because of this.
Nice touch Sony, but that's a little too authentic!
That though, is just the beginning, and Baito Hell 2000's real charm is yet to come. You see, what good is having a part time job if you can't spent the money frivolously? It's with a pocket full of cash then, that players are able to visit the Gumball Machine Arcade where an assortment of random toys and mini-games can be won. From action figures, and water pistols, to waitress simulators, and karate lessons, there's an awesome amount of content waiting to be unlocked.
Maki Wari 2 (Log Cutter 2) How insane can wood chopping get? Maki Wari 2 gives players a strict time limit and a half-blind (possibly senile) old man as an assistant, then proceeds to **** with you as cats, dogs, and dolphins are placed on the chopping block. Of course, the mindless slaughter of furry animals simply isn't right, and swinging your axe at the wrong time ends the game with a brief Buddhist ceremony for the dearly departed. The timing and concentration required in order to hit the logs while avoiding all forms of life is intense, and the hilarity found when inadvertently splitting a dog in half proves as sick as it is enjoyable. Don't say you weren't warned!
Demo Koushin (Demonstration March) Pacman meets political activism in a police state... has it got you intrigued? Assuming the role of a placard carrying student, players must navigate a 2D suburban maze and draw as many people out of their homes and into the street as possible. Along the way however, road blocks and riot police will try to disperse the crowd, and the only way to guarantee their safety is by marching everybody to a local park in time for the next rally. Simple, but fun, this unusual take on Namco's classic comes highly recommended.
Kinoko or Die 2 (Mushroom or Die 2) Picking mushrooms on an expressway? Sounds like Frogger to me! One of four games initially available, Kinoko or Die 2 presents a straight forward challenge with little to no surprise. It's only notable feature then, is an outlandish premise that hints at Baito Hell 2000's eventual descent into madness. The action is neither involving ala Maki Wari 2 or addictive like Demo Koushin, but it does give players a chance to earn income without visiting the Ball Pen Factory. Something you may or may not appreciate.
And that's barely scratching the surface of what Baito Hell 2000 has to offer! There's an incredible variety of action just waiting to be unearthed, and so long as you don't mind working for it, you're going to have a good time. Where the process becomes unstuck however, is the way players are expected to drop their hard earned savings on what is basically a random prize generator. With 1,000 yen in the bank there's no guarantee you'll get another mini-game, and having the gumball machine spit out toy soldier after model car after chunk of quartz soon becomes demoralizing. So much so in fact, that most players will probably give up long before they see everything Baito Hell 2000 has to offer.
A shame then, considering how funny the action can be. Using parody to great effect, Baito Hell 2000 comes chock full of in-jokes and none too subtle digs at Sony's competition. Starting a new event for example, elicits a sound effect similar to the one used at the beginning of Capcom's Resident Evil, while Mario can be seen playing a game of go-kart chicken with a horse and a cliff. I also spotted the Doom guy sitting proudly at the bottom of my screen, but he was only interested in complaining about the traffic.
That's a sentiment likely to sum up the entire Baito Hell 2000 experience. FTW at the way players must unlock new challenges. FTW at a Japanese body builder who passes the time until a cup of Ramen is ready by repeating muscle, muscle over and over again. And FTW at Sony for releasing such a game in the first place. As a concept, Baito Hell 2000 is something only the Japanese could dream of, and to a certain extent I'm horrified by how much I actually enjoyed it. If you're willing to live with the frustrations of the Gumball Machine Arcade, then there's a good chance you're also willing to put in the work necessary to see everything Baito Hell 2000's got. And if that's the case, you're exactly the type of person everyone else should be avoiding. That is, until you move to Japan. Here the locals would love you...
* Baito Hell 2000 can be laugh out loud funny
* Many of the mini-games show extreme levels of insanity
* There are 40 mini-games to unlock, plus a range of useful tools
* Ad-hoc mode allows you to swap items with other Baito Hell players
* The controls always feel spot-on
* Its visual presentation is as varied as its challenges
* You're not going to find another game like it
* Unlocking new mini-games can be very frustrating
* Cash rewards can sometimes be too stingy
* Baito Hell 2000 definitely isn't for everyone
Staff review by Michael Scott (January 22, 2006)
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