Everyone has explored a dungeon. Whether it was in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Legend of Zelda, or Dragon Quest, most gamers would be lying if they said they've never delved into a cave. There are usually some traps, a gaggle of enemies, and a few rooms full of difficult foes in desperate need of slaying. In Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This?, players assume the role of the God of Destruction, tasked with creating said dungeons. With an obnoxiously long name and a pocket full of sarcasm, Nippon Ichi Software's latest PSP title might be one of the most unique games to come out this year.
Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the role reversal works well, drawing obvious inspiration from classic JRPGs and adventure titles. It's easiest to think of the game as a dungeon creation tool. In order to protect the evil Overlord, the God of Destruction needs to dig into the earth (using a limited number of Dig Power) with a pick-axe to create tunnels through which would-be heroes need to travel. But just creating tunnels isn't enough to thwart adventurers. No, it takes monsters, and creating and placing them is the real focus of the game. By digging out green blocks, Slimemoss are created. They're mindless creatures that wander around, absorbing energy from other green blocks and transporting them to the next closest one. Once a block has enough energy it turns white, and can be cracked open to create an Omnon. If it absorbs even more energy it can create Lizardmen, who lay eggs to reproduce themselves after eating an Omnon. Other creatures, like Wookiemen, Dragons, and Liliths can also be summoned, but it's much more complicated than simply choosing from a menu. At the end of each level, unspent Dig Power can buy upgrades, creating more powerful guards to protect the dungeon.
Since no creatures can be directly controlled, the dungeon's layout is important for a number of reasons. It's obviously vital to know which way the Slimemoss are going to travel to make sure they create more powerful beings, but, like I said earlier, the game is a dungeon creation tool. When Lizardmen eat Omnons they create a nest and lay eggs, continuing their life cycle. Because it requires more space, carving out an entire room for some Lizardmen nests isn't a bad idea. However, to make sure Heroes travel through the areas where enemies can attack them, linking these larger rooms together with small corridors is a good idea. Slowly, and completely naturally, the best course of action is to create something that doesn't look unlike a dungeon from an RPG. Adventurers wander through hallways fighting enemies, occasionally coming to a larger room filled with more powerful foes, and hope to find themselves dragging the enemy Overlord out of his dungeon before being slain.
This might sound complex, and that's because it is. Even with the game's tutorials and different challenge maps, expect to lose. A lot. In the game's story mode there are no check points, no save spots, just one ride to the end of the game's 11 levels. If you lose, which you will, it's back to square one. Creature AI is also a bit hard to keep track of, and they'll often wander in patterns that seem hard to predict, leading to adventurers having an easier time kidnapping the Overlord than they should. Needless to say, it can be frustrating and overly punishing. It's also impossible to put down. Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! is simply captivating, and the difficulty does little more than feed the addiction. Hours will be spent refining the dungeon layout, finding new ways to lead adventurers to their deaths. Halfway through a game you might think of a new layout, a new experiment. If it succeeds, it's added to your arsenal. If it fails, then you try again. As time goes on, the dungeon will start to look like it would fit in Diablo II or Final Fantasy. If nothing else, the very fact that NIS was able to capture that feel is worth applauding.
It's a rare occurrence for fun to beat out frustration as easily as it does in Badman. At times it feels utterly futile, as if it's completely impossible to beat an level. Winning can seem like a fluke more than a showing of true skill, and there is so much going on that it can be extremely difficult to ever be completely in control. Even so, putting the game down proves just as hard. This can be attributed to several different parts of the game, from the personality to the presentation. It doesn't take itself seriously, with the Overlord quipping about Japanese RPGs and the heroes being given silly, inside jokes as names. Charming music and retro visuals add to the tone, creating an absurd experience unmatched by most games on the platform.
Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? isn't for everyone - it's in a genre of its own, halfway in-between an RPG, a simulation, and a tower defense. In the end, the main faults lie in the unpredictable AI, and not being able to control or accurately guide the dungeon dwellers' movements. It can be cheap, something that works against so much of the games' successes, and something that it can be hard to get over. Even so, it's a $20 downloadable game on a platform with few-and-far-between releases. Buy it, and hope that a sequel or expansion gives a little more mind to the minions.