Japanese video games are known to be well-made. They tend to be long, challenging, and bug-free. They also tend to be more creative than their western counterparts. They may not be as flashy as some of the latter, but only true gamers understands the beauty hidden deep inside. In this series, I’ll be featuring Japanese video games of the modern era (1995+) that I’ve personally played and that caught my attention as truly creative pieces of programming.
UFO – A Day in the Life
This could be the most obscure game in my list, but it’s probably the most creative of them. Developed by a now-defunct small company named Love-de-lic in 1999 for the Playstation console, it featured an incredibly unique premise.
50 aliens are lost on Earth. Specifically in a building which has 8 rooms. It’s your job to go find them. But there’s a problem. The aliens are invisible . You can’t see them. To overcome this, you carry a sensitive camera above your head called COSMIC. By photographing those invisible aliens, you can go back to the UFO and analyze those pictures with the help of a mysterious figure known as MOTHER. If the pictures show positive data, you can eventually capture the aliens and bring them back to the UFO.
In order to be successful, you need to observe the environment very carefully. A cat on the roof is walking quietly, and then suddenly it screams (in a cat-like way of course), and runs away. What could’ve scared it? Most likely an alien which you can’t see. It’s that critical moment at which you need to take a photo at that certain spot where you think the alien is. The list goes on forever; an artist looking at his just-created painting, he looks away for a moment to find out that numerous random strokes have ruined his painting. Cat food is vanishing. Whiskey bottle is found to be empty just after opening it. And so on.
Sometimes MOTHER demands more than one photo for a single alien in action. For example, in one room, a seemingly alcoholic alien drinks from the man’s whiskey bottle, and then drifts away and lies drunk and flushed nearby. You need to take shots of the two actions; when he’s drinking and when he’s lying exhausted. Remember that you do NOT see the alien. You just guess where it could be.
Although it’s all about observation and guessing, and although you will need to observe a room again and again, and often take photos which do not happen to have positive data, there’s a very addictive flavor about it which will keep you coming. And there’s an immense feeling of satisfaction when you’ve discovered a new alien. The time you are to stay at any room is limited at 3 minutes, and the maximum number of photographs that can be taken is 10. This makes it ideal for short gaming sessions and for analyzing the photos you’ve taken before advancing with photographing. This helps you recognize your mistakes or get a glimpse of something important.
The gameplay is very coherent and intersected, which adds a unique real-time feeling. You can visit the rooms at anytime from 12 am to 11 pm. There’s a continuation that the characters go through, and is evident in all rooms. For example, if you get on the roof at 12 am, and see the artist going from room 203 to 105, then if you visited room 105 at 12 am, you’ll find the artist coming into the room in this very hour. Also, a captured alien which used to prevent a character from doing a certain action no longer causes trouble to that character, and so a new set of actions takes place.
The graphics of the game consists of static hand-drawn backgrounds with 2D characters. The graphics are very stylized and look very unique. The music, though infrequent and short, is fitting really well with its orchestral flavor.
The game also doesn’t forget humor. Examples include the artist who picks up a few flowers and throw them on the floor so as to be a decent grave for himself, and the weird-looking alcoholic man who needs to drink a full bottle of whiskey before sleeping.
Neatly created, creative, unique, and with many rooms to observe, UFO – A Day in the Life is like a rare genuine gem. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten the success it deserves. It was only released in Japan as well.
I’m playing this video game at present. I haven’t finished it yet. I might put up a short guide or something about it in the future. There’s almost none available on the web.
Thanks to Hardcore Gaming 101 for the screenshots.
Other games in this series:
Katamari line of games
Exit and its sequel
Yuusha No Kuse Ni Namaikida