It’s a curious mix of nostalgic elements that drives the impenetrably titled rhacp by the prolific Japanese indie developer Crostar. It’s the sort of game that seems to put a new spin on an old game, but it’s almost impossible to put a finger on just what old game it’s updating.
Right off the bat, it feels a bit like Pac-Man. You’re a polygonal creature going around and eating up these little pellets while these other polygonal creatures chase you around the board. Since I can’t read Japanese, it took a while to figure out that these other things weren’t trying to eat my polygonal thing, rather, mine was trying to eat them. Knowing this fairly crucial fact makes playing the game much, much easier, as you can’t progress to the next level without eating a certain number of these other things as a counter counts down in the corner of the screen.
A particularly long snake works through a pile of mines
That’s not to say you don’t want to try and avoid those other little buggers; if they hit you in anything other than the head, a mine (a little round obstacle that immediately ends your game if hit) comes out your tail. This gets particularly problematic when the result of eating so many of the little polygons is that your polygon gets longer. This, of course, evokes the Snake game from many a Flash PC window and graphing calculator. The game has four levels, with a fifth “challenge” level tacked on to the end whose sole purpose is to rack up as high a score as possible. The level design is fantastic, with different wall configurations, cute (if simplistic) music, and beautifully colored backgrounds allowing for a diverse play experience despite the limited mechanics.
Still, the fact that a game like this feels as fun as it does might speak to a lowering of gamer standards, spurred by a glut of casual games and collections. The Wii has cemented the prominence of the casual game in the modern consciousness via titles like WarioWare: Smooth Moves and Wii Sports, in part conditioning gamers to enjoy their games in short, mind-numbing bursts. Still, there’s something to be said for appropriating classic gameplay elements for the sake of creating new games out of them — there’s a reason the classics are the classics, so why not borrow from them a bit?
rhacp will never set the world on fire. Even so, it’s a hell of a way to spend 10 minutes.