What is it to be bad? Is it because you do bad things? Do you have to intend to do bad? Is one only bad because they find themselves at ends with good? Is bad only just a constructed concept to begin with? NIS America brings you the tale of a frustrated bad guy, whose private life is in constant barrage of pesky noblemen sneaking into his dungeon. He comes to you, the player, to help him design a lair with solid enough foundations to put an end to his unusual pest problem. Through playing this title the player will discover a new sort of cruelty. It brings into question who is truly the villain. Could it be the bad guy, the hero, their politics, or the sadists who created this game?
The Playstation Portable seems to be the new ark for quirky Japanese titles. While I eagerly await my purchase of Half-Minute Hero, I am glad to see that Badman can satisfy my hunger in the meantime. The presentation is adowable. The dialogue charming. The Badman rambles on about your greatness, even when your decisions make him a little uneasy. The heroes all chant their battle cry before stepping into the fray, each being progressively weirder than the last. All is sprite rendered. The frantic, flute based soundtrack will keep you humming with a smirk. It’s not all original per se, but the overall effect feels cozy. Which is good, seeing as the game has you dealing with a lot of cramped spaces. Your evil monsters, all as itty-bitty sprites, live, die, and reproduce in the ant-farm-like environment you build for them. You need to create a layout that functions on two levels: One, complex and winding enough to busy and disorient the meddling heroes hunting for your Badman; and two, they also must be competent and structured in order to support the ecosystem of all the deadly monsters within. It’s not the first evil-dungeon sim by a long shot, but it’s definitely unlike any of the others that came before it.
Badman is more of an arcade experience. You won’t be meditating and polishing your lair over time, you’ll be rapidly making tweaks before the next hero enters. There aren’t many heroes, beginning to end it’s not very long. The title is more hopeful that you’ll replay the same campaign to buffer up your score. If the brevity is a huge turn off for you, don’t worry, you won’t see the end of this game. It’s hard. It’s really hard folks. It’s not that the mechanics are hard to grasp, the tutorial does a really good job teaching you the function of each creature and their creation cycle. What is hard is recreating these conditions in the main game. The tutorial has you practice techniques in all too clean scenarios, scenarios you will never come across again in the scramble of the main campaign. The creatures in their ecosystem can be uncannily unpredictable. You can clean your hands of one area, move on to start a new one, only later to find that something went out of whack and everything you put your sweat into has turned to dust. Getting your monsters to co-operate can feel like an uphill battle, and nothing is more soul crushing than to see them all fall, your Badman captured and then feebly going at the hero’s sprite with an ineffective pickaxe.
Many hard games are put down, never to be touched again by stubborn hands. Badman isn’t like that, difficult as it is. Its difficulty by no means makes it unplayable, you can still have a fun time while getting your ass utilized to clean a rancid floor. You’ll always want to beat your score. You’ll always want to “get it right”. You’ll always want to get to the ending, because the ending will be just that much more satisfying. You’ll be very good at being bad, in hopes of one day being better.