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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: Yo, Noid!

In all the years that I have been a gamer, there are three things that I have noticed about video games that are based off of Saturday morning cartoons, movies, and other pop culture references.

1.  In 95% of all of these video game releases, the gameplay stinks.
2.  The video game sprites often look nothing like the characters that are actually in the movie.
3.  The game usually takes less than 90 minutes to complete.

Playing video games that were based on movies and cartoon games, I can definitely agree with this.  If you have ever played the NES versions of 'Back To The Future', 'Home Alone', or 'Ghostbusters', you know exactly what I mean.  The games are pointless, hard to control, and by the end of it, you'd rather have all of your teeth pulled out than replay the game ever again.  And, we won't even begin to talk about the travesty of the infamous E.T. video game, where that game was blamed as one of the factors for the video game crash of 1983.

There were some notable exceptions to this though.  The Looney Tunes video games were pretty fun to play (specifically pointing out Bugs Bunny's Crazy Castle as being one game that was challenging, but entertaining).  Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a surprisingly fun game to play, considering that the company that made it also gave us 'Back To The Future', easily the worst video game I've ever played.  Even 'The Simpsons Hit & Run' was an adventure to play from start to finish.

And then there are video games that seem more like you're playing a live action, interactive television commercial for the product that the character mascot.

It seems hard to believe, but a lot of corporations felt the need to market their product to children and teenagers by every means possible.  This included taking popular mascots and having them star in their own video game.  These games were released on a variety of consoles over the years.  Atari, Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation, XBOX console was immune to these 'television commercial games'.

Over the years, such sponsors of these video games have been Cheetos, McDonald's, Burger King, M & M's, 7-UP, Coca-Cola, and even Purina Dog Food!  Most of them have been forgettable, but a couple were decent enough.  I've played a couple of them, and wasn't overly impressed, but then again, it did serve a purpose in mind, and they were fun enough, I guess.

There is one company that I have left out though, mainly because it's the subject for today's blog.  And it stars  No, wait...ah, hell, let's just show it.

This little guy is what one calls a Noid.  For many years, he was the claymation mascot of Domino's Pizza.  You may remember him in various commercials that aired over the years, such as this one.

So, I suppose you're wondering why the company would have a mascot that seems hell bent on destroying the very pizzas that Domino's was hoping to sell to consumers all over the world?  Maybe it was to prove that Domino's pizza was so delicious and tasty that it deserved to be enjoyed, and not destroyed.  Or, maybe we just got satisfaction over seeing the Noid get thwarted yet again.  The formula worked before as thousands of heartless kids prevented the Trix rabbit from getting his paws the disgustingly phoney-tasting Trix cereal, so I guess Domino's wanted to capitalize on the same success in humiliating and demoralizing its mascot as well.

Just for the record, I'd have just given the rabbit his stupid Trix.  And, while I don't mind Domino's Pizza on the occasion, there are other pizza places that I find much better.  If the Noid wanted to destroy the pizza, no skin off of my nose.

Anyways, the Noid actually ended up starring in two different video games.  The first one came out in 1989, and it was simply called 'Avoid The Noid', much like the slogan that Domino's used in its commercials for years.  The object was to deliver pizzas in a Noid infested building in '30 minutes or less'.  Unfortunately, I've never played that game, so I can't really determine whether it was worth playing or not.

I have played the second game, released in 1990.

In 1990, the video game 'Yo, Noid!' was released in North America.  It was classic promotion by Domino's Pizza.  The weapons used in the game strongly resembled some of the weapons the Noid used in the television commercials.  There were plenty of pizza references throughout the game, and the instruction booklet included coupons for a one dollar discount from the next pizza ordered from Domino's. 

If this sounded like a marketing plan by Domino's to get more kids eating their product...well...that's because it was.

But here's the kicker.  Having played Yo, Noid years ago, and remembering the gameplay and the challenge level that the game boasted, I admit that the game was a lot more challenging and much more fun than I initially believed that it was.

Above is a screenshot of the very first level of the game.  As you can see, the graphics were pretty advanced for a 1990 video game.  Of course, this was before the days of the Super Nintendo, and when the Sega Genesis was still brand new on the market.  The video game company that made the game was Capcom, a video game company which had a previous reputation for coming up with video games that had fantastic graphics and believable sound effects.  Notice how lifelike the Noid character actually looks here.  No longer were commercial themed characters made to look like a whole bunch of computer pixels.  Instead, you had an actual lifelike representation.

The levels were a lot more challenging than it was made to let on.  In my previous experience with games that have marketing mascots as stars, the various levels were dull, unchallenging, or incredibly difficult to gain much control with.  Not really so, as this video will show some of the gameplay.

It may look simple and easy, and not very challenging.  Consider the following.

Each of these levels have a time limit.  Sometimes the time limit is generous, other times, not so much.  You run out of time, you have to start again, minus one life.  You also do not have such a thing as a life meter, so you really have to be careful where you jump or how close you get to enemies, because if you so much as lay one inch of the Noid's ears on an enemy, or fall into a pit, well, it's your funeral.

Fear not though.  Magic scrolls are littered all over the landscape, so you can use magic skills to kill off the enemies.  As well, you're armed with your trusty yo-yo to kill enemies off.  Later levels will allow you to employ such devices as the pizza crusher pogo stick, a gyrocopter, and a skateboard.  And in case you need them, you can get an extra life for every 20,000 points you score, and given the mechanics of the game, scoring 20,000 points can be done as early as the first couple of levels.

You might also notice that there are little cards with bottles and roman numerals stamped on them.  You'll want to get these cards in your journey.  For after every odd level (Level 1, 3, 5, etc), you'll have to take part in a little card game that doubles as eating contest?!?

Now, wait just a minute...isn't the Noid supposed to HATE pizza?  I mean, he spends so much time trying to ruin or sabotage Domino's Pizza that for him to suddenly take part in eating the very things that he just doesn't make sense.

But it will if I tell you that Yo, Noid was a completely different video game release in Japan.  Don't believe me?  Now, here's the proof.  Take a look at the pizza eating segment in the Japanese version...

Looks a bit different, eh?  Instead of pizzas, you had weapons and other things.  They both worked the same way.  You had to score a higher score than your opponent to win the level.  If you didn't win, you had to start over again from the beginning, though I don't quite remember whether you lose a life or not as a result.  It's been years since I played the game, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.  The pizza eating mini-game wasn't all that difficult, and it was fairly easy to win.  You could also sabotage your opponents by doubling the pizzas that you could eat with the roman numeral cards, or using the bottle cards to spice up your opponent's pizzas to the point where they became inedible.

But the original name of the game was Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru (loosely translated, it means Masked Ninja Hanamaru), and it was a totally different game from Yo Noid.  The mechanics were kept the same, and the music was more or less unchanged, but the design of the levels, and the storyline were tweaked.  The game's object in Yo Noid became one where you battled against the Noid's evil twin Mr. Green through the streets of New York City.

As a result of this change in story, there did become some parts of the game that made no sense, such as the Noid's sudden craving for pizza.  It was somewhat loosely explained that the Noid was eating the pizza as the main reason for trying to get Mr. Green out of town.  I might believe it if the motivation behind it was for the Noid to get the main baddie out of the way so that he along could destroy Domino's Pizza from the inside out, but that never came to be.  This prevented the game from being as good as it could have been.

Nevertheless, the Yo, Noid game was a fun distraction.  It almost made me forget that the video game was more or less a commercial for Domino's Pizza, because of the skill level and the patience needed to fully beat the game.  I have a confession to make here.  There's fourteen stages in the game, and I only managed to make it to level eleven.  It was really tough.  I imagine that if I played it now, I could win, but as a nine-year-old, it was frustrating, as most games by Capcom tended to be.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to leave...I think I hear the pizza delivery boy now...

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