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Yo! Noid (NES) artwork

Yo! Noid (NES) review


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The mammal Gynomus dominae, referred to in American vernacular as a "Noid", dwells underground in densely populated urban areas and can be considered humanoid without sharing any genetic traits with the Homo sapien. Omnivorous, the Noid has a fondness for greasy, cancerous substances and a nearly bottomless appetite. Noids are not aggressive towards humans, but they leave a pestilential trail of hazardous viruses and mutant diseases wherever they travel. Noids can live their entire lives without bathing or grooming themselves; like insects they have a kind of exoskeleton and no visible hair. A Noid resembles a dwarf with a misshapen skull stuffed into a monochromatic bunny suit, but a full-grown Noid can barely surpass two feet in height. If provoked, Noids can deploy a strange finger extension, resembling a yo-yo, that rapidly strikes at an enemy and retracts just as rapidly. Nonetheless, Noids are not coordinated enough to perform complex tricks with their extensions, instead preferring to congregate in small groups behind fast food restaurants and pizza parlors, distinguished only by color.

During the mid-1980s, the Domino's Pizza chain was plagued by Noid infestations, particularly in central New York City, which caused several heath code scares and almost forced the chain out of business. In a brilliant marketing move, the company exploited the downsides of using carcinogenic pizza ingredients and made a small red Noid into their mascot in a series of television commercials. Red was presented as a kind of pizza gremlin, and somehow Domino's pizza was Noid-proof; a weak metaphor for disease, for sure, but they get an A for effort.

Noids are repulsive by definition, so this short-lived fad would fizzle out quickly and reach its nadir with the publication of Capcom's Yo! Noid at the dawn of the 90s. The game design is derived from Masked Ninja Hanamaru, one of the literally trillions of ninja platformers available on the NES in Japan. Hanamaru would roam the countryside, disposing of foes with his trusty falcon companion, and battle a master at the end of every level. The catch was that the boss battles were in fact card games; three different attacks are available in a simple rock-paper-scissors setup, and the higher the number on the card, the more damage dealt. Not terribly exciting, but at least MNH had personality to spare and a scrappy charm. There was also a fair amount of strategy to the card games.

For obese American children, Hanamaru was retooled to star their favorite lagomorphic vermin from their favorite pizza commercials. Some revisions were necessary. The erstwhile falcon companion has been replaced by a Noid finger extension, thus the nonsensical "hip" title can relate to the odd nature of the Noid defense mechanism. Alas, this is the only clever stroke made by the localization team, although the graphics have been rehauled and New York is rendered accurately for the time. Of course, there are scenic harbors and warehouses full of crates. Red bounces along, his antennae jiggling merrily, his face forever leering bug-eyed from the lower right corner as if commenting on his own game. If the Noid touches water or even another organism, he dies from shock, flying off the screen with tongue out in hysteria, all extremities spasming. Yes, it is a typical unforgiving "kid's game". The blue-suited sailor wielding a harpoon poised to skewer poor Red instead met with the blunt edge of a Noid finger extension and sailed off the screen at a 45 degree angle and possibly broke through Earth's atmosphere. Grating music clashes with hyperenthusiastic sound effects. Put on your own soundtrack.

Then comes the Pizza-Eating contest. It's the card game from Hanamaru only with 1000% more nausea. The designated Head Glutton from each subterranean Noid tunnel system comes to meet Red behind the local Domino's to determine whose gag reflex resolve is stronger. As depicted in-game, the setting is a generic pizza parlor; it's like Capcom forgot to add product placement. There is no strategy here, instead one only needs to focus on lasting long enough so the opposing Noid runs out of cards and loses by default. Powerups attained during the jolly side-scrolling segments can be used to multiply the amount of greasy goods Red consumes, or add hot sauce or pepper to sabotage the evil Noid (not to mention lay waste to his hardy digestive system).

This oscillating cycle continues for 14 levels. There are bonus areas that can be reached only by accident via invisible entrance portals. By "areas" I mean "secret whack-a-mole game that kills you if you don't reach the ridiculous quota". Mostly the designers are content to show off their hard work replicating greater New York. Greater as in the places you don't see in Woody Allen movies. No Central Park, no skyline. According to the greatly informative intro, the "Mayer" of this metropolis has dispatched Red to deal with his mutant brother who we'll call Green. Logically, you'd need a badass Noid to track down a badass Noid. The underground complexes of the city lead you to the world-famous "platforms made out of ice" and what I can only call "the unseen outdoor wing of Bazooko Circus". You're slaying mutant orange horses with springs for legs, blue cowboys and homicidal followers of Pogo The Clown. Disturbing, difficult, demented, dastardly difficult, damningly despicable design doth drench these levels, dealing deathtraps deathly direct to poor Red. In a word, Dumb.

Does Red triumph over his darker half? Can you eat enough pizza to gain your one screen-clearing special attack that never goes off when you want it to? What exactly does the "Mayer" of a city do? How can you eat so much mouthwatering Domino's pizza without requiring triple bypass surgery? You know as well as I do.

Rating: 3/10

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Community review by johnny_cairo (December 21, 2007)

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