Nikujin (にくじん) - Windows (2005)
Ikiki is quite an enigma. He (she?) is a little known Japanese freeware developer who creates enticingly crude products. They're not crude by gameplay standards, only in themes are they in any way harmful. Baiting (or 'bating, teehee) explosive naked ninja into walls to blow themselves up for leverage is not a commonly touched upon topic. Creating games famous among freeware geeks and creating one particularly famous game called Nikujin (translating to Meat Man) which is about a naked ninja infiltrating a base full of...other naked ninja! They're are not only ninja games though. Ikiki has also made games about elite army guys, knights with maces, and... more ninja. Within his many creations, there are games about spreading fecal matter around Mario's house, doctors flinging patients off cliffs, and slapping curry on the right side of food. Awesome? Hell yes. Odd? OH YEAH. Hardcore? Definitely.
All of his games are developed on the Multimedia Fusion engine and have a particularly simplistic and semi-stylized look. To be honest, the player should probably be thankful for the lack of detail. Nobody I know wants to see 8-bit cock slamming about, now do they? For the most part, the soundtracks are taken from various Japanese music composers, in what seems to be public domain (I've heard some pieces on Silver Knights for example), although it is all very good across the board.
One odd part of what gives Ikiki's games character is the use of male nudity. No, you don't see wangs swinging about, or asses sagging off the legs, but you do see skin. And lots of it. It may be off putting for some, but it keeps up with the random and violent feel of his games. The manliness you feel ripping enemies apart with no protection but your skin AND YOUR SOUL is one of the best experiences you'll get while playing a game. That and the brutal difficulty give the game a certain animosity that you don't often experience.
Nikujin is the first game by Ikiki that I played, and that was probably a good thing. It covers everything you'd see in his games and does it well (although, not much is covered in his games, y'dig?). Its also easily the most iconic of the bunch. The game is a 2D platformer, that requires stealth, and extreme reaction time. Pixel perfect jumps are everywhere, and without a formal tutorial (the time trial mini game guides you with vague signs for the first couple screens and then leaves you to the wolves) it can be damn tough until you figure your moves out. With or without control know-how, it is quite brutal. I could guarantee during the later stages you will die multiple times, and that is just how the game is set up. Complete trial and error.
Each stage consists of reaching a goal. Said goal is represented by a little green arrow, which, when found, will send you into a little animation and bringing you to the next stage. For example, at the end of one level you jump off into a pit and the next stage begins with you falling straight towards a shocking landing, but you can insta-kill this poor chump of a guard, and continue unscathed. It's little touches like this that make the game even more worthwhile. Another example would be when you meet your first boss, he crosses his arms and talks trash to you. Right away, he charges straight towards you with little warning, so you're put into a troublesome position straight away. The problem here is that the strategy of the stages transposes across to the boss battles, so you'll die a lot until you figure it all out. Thankfully there are only four bosses, although you fight three in a row at the last level. It's this on-your-feet gameplay that gives it a youthful/ancient kind of contradictory energy, and the feel of one of the old arcade-to-NES-ports/adaptations that we all love (Bionic Commando anyone?).
Seeing as the game is very vague on giving the player instructions the controls will be given a rundown. If you don't like "gameplay spoilers", or would rather figure it out for yourself (which can be a fun part of the game on its own) stay away.
There are a couple of acrobatics you can do too. You can grab the ceiling by jumping and pressing up. You can also stick to walls, run across them, and jump off them. You can also roll by pressing down at the moment of landing from a fall to avoid sustaining damage. Finally, there's an insta-kill move, where you jump directly above an enemy, and press down and attack to kill. Upon killing them you can launch yourself to higher heights.
Overall, this game is pretty great. I'm lucky enough to have found it before all of its publicity on the indie gaming scene. I thought the game was awesome, and loved showing it off to people. It covers five levels, with ten different tilesets. Tasty indeed. There are only four real enemy types, but they're places in such a way that it creates one of the best freeware experiences around. It also really works as an ice breaker. I can imagine it going something like this. Y'see, Billy likes this girl, and knows she digs games. Well, when he shows her the game a strange and terrible fate bestows him.
"Hey, I got this cool game I wanna show ya."
"Oh yeah, what is it like?"
"Crazy. Naked. NINJAS!"
"Uhm... I don't play those types of games..."
"No, really! It isn't like that!"
...And that was when Billy ruined his destiny with the most beautiful girl in the world. He later shot himself, dressed (or undressed?) as a naked ninja. Nobody came to his funeral, because he was labelled as a creepy fetishist.
If you are interested in any crazy Japanese crude humour, retro style gameplay, and action-puzzles this is a sweet game to check out. Props go out to Derek Yu for offering screenshots, VysetheBold for initial editing, and Ikiki for making this awesome game.