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Your Weekly Kusoge

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Virtual Lab - Virtual Boy (1995)

by John Szczepaniak - August 12, 2012

Cover

The Virtual Boy is well known as one of Nintendo's more prominent failures; it was a failure internationally, compared to something such as the 64DD which was released only in Japan. Only 22 games were released in the VB's short life, and several were real stinkers (such as Waterworld). Of its back catalogue, Virtual Lab is by far the worst offender, failing on a technical, graphical, audio, mechanical and even packaging level. Everything about it is broken. Given that it's a puzzle game where you join up piece of what appears to be colon segments in a state of peristalsis, its entry as Kusoge is wholly appropriate.

Starting the game you're presented with speeds for Low, Med and Hi, except they're all pretty much the same slow speed and - thanks to a coding error - the medium speed is faster than the high speed option. Playing the game you're presented with a screen containing random bowel pieces, the task being to remove all of them - think Tetris meets Pipedream. Further pieces fall from the sky and need to be placed alongside others. They come in five varieties: a phallic-shaped end piece; a straight piece with two openings; an L-shaped piece with two openings; a T-shaped piece; and a cross-shaped piece with four openings. Segments disappear when you create a whole intestine with no openings. If an opening is pressed against the edge of the screen it counts as closed, but it's still "open" if it folds in on itself.

The entire premise is flawed, because success isn't based on clearing a certain number of segments, but rather removing all of them before the next piece arrives. It's quite possible to drop pieces in such a way that they turn into themselves, thereby making it impossible to remove that segment. A good puzzle game should allow you to recover from a mistake or two, and still succeed. In Virtual Lab one mistake means Game Over, or it would had the developers not implemented a crude workaround. If you clear a segment 10+ pieces long, or set-up a chain which clears 10+ pieces, an angel appears on the bottom of the screen, pausing the action to fly along removing the lower line of pieces. It doesn't always fix the problem, but if you do screw up it is sort of possible to recover. Annoyingly, even if you have no other pieces on the screen, thereby clearing the level, the angel will still appear and perform her long-winded animation.

Whatever way you cut it the basic gameplay is poorly designed and illogical. The game doesn't speed up and there's little differentiation between the levels, which carry on up to level 100 before it loops. The controls are over-sensitive and it's only possible to rotate the puzzle piece clockwise, not anti-clockwise. The graphics are basic, the backgrounds repetitive, and there's barely any 3D - only some of the parallax scrolling and the female character's boobs use it (according to Nintendo Life). There were three other puzzlers for the VB, Panic Bomber, plus two variations of Tetris, and all are infinitely more enjoyable and considerably cheaper than this poor offering.

Bizarrely, after completing a level, you're given a 7-digit number, which appears totally unrelated to the 6-digit score in the upper right corner. Websites such as PlanetVB say it's a password, but also explain there's no password screen to input it, thereby making them totally useless. This seems like a mistake on the part of various websites, since there's almost no differentiation between levels. Why would the developer have considered a password function? The more likely answer is that it's some kind of strange secondary scoring system... Maybe. Whatever your preferred explanation, neither makes any sense!

By far our favourite blunder though is the misspelling of Nintendo as "Nintenndo" on the box and as "Ninntenndo" on the cartridge, showing that not only did they not care, but they couldn't even be consistent. Released at the end of the VB's life, and only in Japan, Nintendo Life claims it was rushed out by developer J-Wing after they discovered Nintendo was abandoning the hardware. It doesn't sound far fetched!

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • J-Wing

Publisher:

  • J-Wing

Designer:

  • Steve Chaplin

Genre:

Themes:


Virtual Lab

Virtual Lab

Virtual Lab

Cartridge spelling mistake


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