Incredible Crisis

   When debating how to rate Incredible Crisis, the GIA considered creating a brand-new "?" rating just for the game. Ultimately, we decided against creating exceptions to our rating system, but Incredible Crisis was the first game to raise such a question. (Except, we suppose, Nich's demands for a "0" rating for Legend of Dragoon.) It's a weirdly original, bizarrely fun game that defies easy description.

 Oh Rik please come here quick.
Blown away

   Best to start with the storyline and get all the uncomfortable drug references out of the way. Kids: drugs are bad, m'kay? Just say no! But developer Polygon Magic has got to have something more than dihydrogen monoxide in their water, if you catch our drift. Vib Ribbon may have been crack-inspired, but Incredible Crisis implies something akin to Madame Psychosis, the fictional designer drug of David Foster Wallace. "Envision acid," writes Wallace, "that has itself dropped acid." The story is a magical surrealistic blend of Japanese domestic drama and pop culture movie spoofs. Publisher Titus has thankfully done nothing to undermine the Japanese quirkiness, choosing instead to run with it. You can barely see the mainstream from where Incredible Crisis stands.

Red means "stop," Taneo.
Lady in red

   The game follows four members of a typical Japanese family through the worst day of their entire lives as they struggle to get home in time for the grandmother's birthday. Taneo, a middle-aged salaryman, feels stifled by his job and daydreams of a flirtatious affair with a sultry coworker. Etsuko, a housewife, is just trying to buy groceries and get home in time for dinner. Tsuyoshi, a nine-year-old boy, is playing outside when disaster strikes. And high-school daughter Ririka just wants to cut class and catch the latest cosmetics sale. Things don't go exactly as planned, though; Taneo is chased through the hallways of his office by a runaway construction ball, Etsuko walks in on a bank-robbery and is taken hostage, Tsuyoshi has a chance encounter that rather changes his perspective, and Ririka's professor isn't above busting the head of any student that tries to escape his classroom. From here, things take a turn for the surreal, as the day snowballs into a disaster beyond imagination. Taneo alone is blown up a half-dozen times. The quirkiness of the tale is one of the game's strongest assets, so it wouldn't do to say much more.

 Takes her down to Chinatown.
Rikika's teacher takes a student down.

   The gameplay itself is a series of twenty-four minigames--well, twenty-three minigames and a shopping trip. Each minigame has a "stress meter" that fills as you make mistakes. Mess up too many times and your character will go postal, forcing you to start over. These minigames range from dance and rhythm games and careful timing exercises to button-mashing frenzies. Some of the more original games include a game where Etsuko matches the weight of a gold idol using groceries from her bag, a sliding-puzzle variation that uses students' desks, and the best version of hot/cold ever seen in a videogame: finding the "pleasure points" for a sensual massage. Some of the minigames fare better than others, but with such a variety of play types, everyone is sure to find something to enjoy. Completed minigames can be selected from a menu and replayed.

   Graphics are mediocre but get the job done nicely. Given the wackiness of the title, the simplicity could almost be seen as endearing; it's like you're playing a homebrewed game that got an inexplicable publishing deal. The soundtrack is performed entirely by the "Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra." It's catchy and adds to the over all frenzied mania of the title. Sound effects are servicable and the voice acting is mostly limited to screams.

Etsuko is a good snowboarder.

   The game's major flaw is its painfully short length. Dangers of carpal tunnel syndrome not withstanding, the game can be easily finished in the space of a few hours, and once you've mastered a mini-game's gameplay mechanic and patterns, most of the challenge is gone. And while some of the minigames can be enjoyed time and time again, most of the button-mashers do not lend themselves to repeated play.

   Nevertheless, Incredible Crisis comes strongly recommended. The off-the-wall story, amusing characters, and rapidly changing gameplay provide enough momentum to keep you playing to the end. Titus has also intelligently priced Incredible Crisis at only $19.99. It's a lot easier to justify a short, quirky, enjoyable game when it doesn't cost you as much as a 40-hour RPG. Incredible Crisis is incredible fun, if only for a little while.

Review by Andrew Vestal, GIA.
Incredible Crisis
Developer Polygon Magic
Publisher Titus
Genre Mini-game Adventure
Medium CD (1)
Platform PlayStation
Release Date  11.21.00
98 story and mini-game screenshots
10 pieces of character artwork
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