Innsmouth no Yakata
  • Genre:
    • FPS
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Be Top
  • Publisher:
    • I'Max
  • Released:
    • JP 10/13/1995
Score: 45%

This review was published on 07/08/2016.

Innsmouth no Yakata, which is Japanese for The Mansion of Innsmouth, is a first-person shooter video game published by I'Max and developed by Be Top for the Virtual Boy. It was exclusively released in Japan on October 13, 1995. Acclaim Entertainment was localizing the game for a North American release, but it was canceled, though a prototype does exist. The game is based on a 1992 Japanese television series by Chiaki J. Konaka called Insmus wo Oou Kage, which itself is based on a horror novel written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1931 titled The Shadow over Innsmouth. In other words, it's a game based on a TV show based on a book. Since the source material is horror in nature, that means that, yes, this is technically a survival horror game. However, due to the primitive technology of the Virtual Boy, it's not very scary. It's also not very good. The Virtual Boy's library of games is lacking to say the least, and this game exemplifies that quite well.

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While the Virtual Boy itself is capable of stereoscopic 3-D achieved through the use of parallax, the graphics in this game are still 2-D images. Despite this, the game opts to go with a first-person perspective, which generally doesn't mesh too well with 2-D visuals. As a result of that, this game looks like one of those old role-playing games with first-person dungeon crawling, like Might and Magic. Like many of those games, you can't smoothly move around, as there's a small screen transition during movement. This is because what you're looking at is a mostly static image, and the game has to swap that background image whenever you move around or face different directions. Beyond that, the graphics are very plain and lacking in detail, as you're going to be staring at empty walls for the most of the game. It also doesn't help that every level looks exactly the same, featuring identical tile sets. For late 1995, this is pretty archaic, even by the Virtual Boy's visual standards. Also, the music is awful.

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Controlling this game is fairly awkward, as it's one of the few titles on the Virtual Boy that actually makes full use of both d-pads on the controller. The left d-pad is for character movement; left and right will change which way you're facing, and up and down will make you move forwards and backwards. Meanwhile, the right d-pad is used to aim your gun, and you fire bullets by pressing the R button. When you're out of ammo, you simply press the L button to reload, provided you have more in stock. Pressing select will bring up the map, which is of the utmost importance in this game, since it's easy to get lost. In a way, the controls for this game are ahead of their time, because they mimic the dual analog stick control scheme most modern first-person shooters use. Unfortunately, the controls in this game aren't anywhere near as good as a modern shooter. The big issue is that aiming the reticule takes forever, leaving you wide open to enemy attacks. Further, you can't take cover or anything, so taking damage is often unavoidable during enemy confrontations.

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The whole game takes place within a haunted mansion, presumably Innsmouth, and it's crawling with monsters. Each stage is comprised of a single floor, and the goal is to find the key and unlock the door to the next floor. Every floor is a confusing maze of narrow hallways, so finding the key and door takes time. Time is something you don't have, however, as there's a tight time limit to finish each floor. If you fail to complete the floor within the time limit, then you die. This is a huge problem, because many of the maps are simply too big to explore in their entirety, so you either have to make some lucky guesses or memorize each layout after dying a few times. The monsters also excel at killing you, being that they will often block your path and attack when they're close. Even if you kill them, they come back to life after a while, which is annoying. Besides the different map layouts, there isn't much to separate one floor from the next, leading to a highly repetitive experience.

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There are a couple of helpful items you can pick up while exploring each floor. Obviously, the most important one is the key, which is mandatory for every floor, but there are others. The second most important items are the orbs. In addition to the key, every floor will have exactly one black orb and one white orb. The black orb shows the locations of all the other items on the map, while the white orb fully uncovers the whole map. While the orbs can potentially speed up maze exploration, they don't carry over from one floor to another, meaning you have to waste precious time collecting them on every floor. Item locations are also randomized, preventing you from memorizing them like you can with floor layouts. Additionally, there are hearts you can find to restore your health, and spare bullets for your gun. However, ammo is scarce, and you're completely defenseless if you run out. If this happens, you'll probably die, either from being mauled by a monster or by running out of time while looking for ammo. Either way, it's incredibly frustrating.

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Surprisingly, there are a whopping 45 floors to this massive mansion. However, you can only do 13 of those floors per play through of the game. After you complete each floor, you'll be shown a chart with countless dots that are connected together via lines, kind of like a constellation. Each dot on the chart represents a floor, and the lines represent branching paths. Depending on how fast you complete a given floor, you may end up taking a different route on the chart. Generally, most floors branch out to two other floors, and the higher paths require that you get better times. The end result is that the game has four endings based on the path you took. Basically, you'll have to beat the game four times to get all the endings and see all the floors. Considering this game isn't even worth beating once, it certainly isn't worth beating four times. Nobody should have to suffer through 45 floors of this trash.

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Between the poor graphics, bad controls, and multitudes of identical looking maze-like levels, this game just isn't fun to play. The tight time limits, ammo scarcity, and randomized item locations further dampen the already mediocre experience. It's not even scary. There really aren't any redeeming qualities to this game. This is one of the worst games on the Virtual Boy without question.

Word Count: 1,135

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