It's morning. The sun is looking down curiously on the world, friendly people are out and about on the streets, and, yawning, you leave your house. Then, you eat one of the friendly people. Followed by a tire, an apple and a soccer ball. You realise that your little body cannot digest so much food without immediately pooping, so you start walking one way, while your butt walks the other way. Slowly but surely, your midsection begins to stretch into a long string of rainbow colours, and you continue eating everything you see, while pooping with the force of a naval cannon. Eventually, you stretch so far, your head falls off one end of the planet, while your butt falls off the other, and you snap in half. After falling to your demise, you re-emerge at your house, safe and sound, but in two halves. Now, it's time to eat your own butt.
If that small sampling of a day in the life of Noby Noby Boy had you rubbing your hands with glee at the possibilities, then it's possible that you share a common sense of humour with its creator, Keita Takahashi, the man responsible for the wacky Katamari Damacy series. In creating Noby Noby Boy, he's produced a game with no objectives. Well, that's not entirely true, there is an objective, but it's so hideously vague and poorly-explained that you're unlikely to understand it or care. Your goal is to make the caterpiller-gumball-thing Noby Noby Boy stretch as far as he can, in any or all of the game's randomly generated levels. The more you stretch (and the rest of the world, but more on this later), the more the giant 'Girl' stretches, into the cosmos, wrapping around planets and making friends and unlocking new levels for you to play with. You 'report' your stretched length to Girl whenever you feel like it, which is followed by an animation showing her eating love. This is the most sense we could make out of the 'story', and we still had to work at it.
So, Noby Noby Boy is all about stretching. The left analogue stick controls his head, while the right controls his rear end. Pulling in opposite directions will allow you to stretch, and eating objects (and passing them) will allow you to stretch further. This part of the gameplay works fine. However, there are two problems with the controls, the first being that too many functions are mapped to the L2 button. The same button is used for eating, jumping, flying/floating and holding Noby Noby Boy's front end down in place. This can make things extremely difficult at times, as you'll want to eat a delicious looking soccer player, but instead take off into the skies. The second problem is the camera, which can be rotated to fixed positions via the L1 and R1, or its angle can be changed by holding them down and using the SIXAXIS' motion control. This system is just clunky and at times aggravating, as it chooses to focus on the middle of Noby Noby Boy, rather than his head or rear end, and persistent fiddling is needed to get the desired results.
You're given an unlimited number of randomly generated fields to stretch in, allowing you to switch to a new one simply by entering your house. They're all fairly small, and only some have interesting things to wrap yourselves around, such as windmills and buildings. You can also select what planet to play on from the menu, although these are not all available at the start. Instead, they are unlocked via cumulative online play. Essentially, the total cumulative amount of stretching by everyone playing the game in the world contributes to Girl's length in space. So, the only way to unlock more content is to play as much as everyone else is playing. At times this method of advancement gives a strong community feel to the game, although this is lessened by the fact that you'll never encounter any of the other players stretching in the game, making it more nebulous. Another community-minded aspect is the ability to take movies whenever you want in the game, save them on the hard drive or upload them to YouTube. This is an unprecedented move for a console game, although it has to be said that watching Noby Noby Boy isn't as fun as experiencing it.
This review may seem negative so far, but that's because we haven't got to the simple delights of playing Noby Noby Boy. Having no real objective or challenge means that you can do whatever you want. Instead of providing a challenge, Keita Takahashi has provided a virtual playground. And for some reason, we keep coming back to it. In all honesty, there probably isn't a whole heap you can do in Noby Noby Boy, but the game somehow gives the impression that there is. You keep loading the game up to see what happens if you twirl yourself around a playground. You want to see if you can anchor down clouds, or wrap yourself around the world, or eat an apple and a human and poop a humapple. The game predominantly capitalises on feelings of discovery and the concept of being just 'at play'. The fact that your rear end and pooping is also a major part of the gameplay harkens back to the toilet humour of schoolyard days gone past. Like the gameplay, the simple graphics and music eventually become repetitive, but never annoying.
There really isn't anything else like Noby Noby Boy. No doubt, there will be players who load up the game and delete it off their hard-drives within minutes. The game is definitely not for everybody. But as much as the weird (or just poorly thought-out) controls and camera can get in the way of the experience, they never ruin it. Even if you think you've discovered everything to do in the game, you'll still find yourself playing it to wind down, or maybe to try out a new idea you just had. We know we just had the idea of trying to eat something as it launches from out of our butt (we haven't been able to get that working just yet). The community aspects of the game neither help nor hinder it, although they do make the game unique in many ways. But the real draw of Noby Noby Boy is that it's a game that isn't a game. You can't actually lose in the game. Likewise, there's no way to win. Like life, you just find yourself doing whatever seems to entertain you the most, and usually it involves toilet humour. And we can't fault it for that.