Virtual Lab
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • J-Wing
  • Publisher:
    • J-Wing
  • Released:
    • JP 12/08/1995
Score: 35%

This review was published on 06/26/2016.

Virtual Lab is a puzzle video game developed and published by J-Wing for the Virtual Boy. It was originally released in Japan on December 8, 1995, but hasn't made its way to any other regions. The game also went by the working title of Chiki Chiki Labo, which is a cheeky name. There's a perfectly good reason why this game wasn't released outside of Japan: it's horrible. Well, maybe its exclusivity had more to do with the Virtual Boy's poor sales, but still, this is a bad game. Like, it's really, really bad. The Virtual Boy is home to many mediocre titles, but Virtual Lab is by far one of the worst. The only reason I played it is to write this review. Read on to find out why this game is a huge steaming pile of donkey dung. It's going to take one massive dung beetle to clean up this stinky mess.

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An indicator of this game's quality can be seen right on the box and on the cartridge label, both of which have typos. In particular, they misspelled Nintendo a few times, once as "Nintenndo" and another as "Ninntenndo." They were a little too trigger happy with those N's. As if the spelling errors on the box and cart weren't bad enough, there's another mistake within the game itself. You can change the game's speed on the title screen between "Low," "Mid," and "Hi," but strangely, the "Mid" setting is the fastest, even faster than "Hi." Were they high when making this game? You can tell how much effort was put into this game when they couldn't even properly implement such a basic feature. It's like they wanted to get this thing out as fast as possible, so they didn't bother to proofread or double check anything. I can see why: nobody wants to waste time on such a shoddy product.

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On top of the Virtual Boy's garish red and black color scheme, the production values of this game are practically nonexistent. Basically, this game barely has any graphics and music. The only real visuals are the moving stars in the background and the ugly borders of the box-like play area; pretty much everything else consists of black screens and text. Speaking of the text, the font is downright awful. The game doesn't make much use of the Virtual Boy's stereoscopic 3-D effect, either. Also, to the right side of the screen is an animated sprite of a rather well endowed girl. She'll dance around as you clear pieces, and oddly, it appears her boobs have jiggle physics. Aside from the bouncing breasts, her sprite lacks detail, making her resemble something out of an NES title. Sadly, this gal is the best looking thing in the game, mostly due to the fact that there's not much else to look at.

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The game is like a combination of Tetris and Pipe Dream. Pieces resembling undulating intestines will fall from the top of the screen and you move them to the left and right during their descent using either the left or right d-pad, plus you can rotate them with the A and R buttons. The B button can be used to switch the order of the pieces when there's more than one falling at a time. Once a piece lands, it'll remain there and your control will go to the next piece in line. Each piece has one or more openings and you can connect one to another by sticking the openings adjacent to each other. Your goal is to vanquish these pieces by connecting them together in a way that would leave behind no openings. Predictably, you lose if the screen gets stacked with too many pieces. The main issue here is that the controls are very twitchy, making it extremely difficult to maneuver the pieces. I can't tell whether this was deliberately done to increase challenge or if it was the result of poor programming. My money's on the latter.

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Pieces can also be closed by placing their openings adjacent to the ceiling, floor, and walls of the play area. They cannot, however, be closed by placing a piece's open side next to the closed side of another piece. If you get too many pieces arranged like this in the same row, you won't be able to clear them out. Not without the help of a magical fairy, anyway. Clearing ten or more pieces at a time will cause an excitable fairy to appear, and she'll use a pickaxe to completely clear out the bottom row of pieces for you regardless of how they're positioned. If the pieces on top of the cleared ones fall down in the correct spots, you may get a chain clear that could potentially lead to more fairies. This is essentially just a way to clean up your mistakes, though. As far as depth goes, this is all the game's got.

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Every time you clear all the pieces from the play area, you'll move on to the next level. Unfortunately, the levels are all mostly the same. There aren't even any background or music changes to break up the monotony. To add insult to injury, there is no proper end to the game. There are 99 levels total, and if you somehow have the sanity to reach the final one, you'll be stuck there forever. No matter how many times you beat the last level, you'll remain there for all eternity. It's like they were too lazy to program an ending to the game. There also appears to be passwords given after every level, but they're useless because there isn't anywhere in the game that lets you enter them. Knowing this game, I wouldn't be surprised if they forgot or didn't have time to fully implement the password system.

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This game doesn't feel like a finished product. The game play is shallow, the controls are insanely fidgety, the graphics and music hardly exist, and things like the password system don't even work. This is honestly one of the worst games on the Virtual Boy. Considering how bad the Virtual Boy's library is, that's saying a lot. Nobody should ever play this for any reason. I'm ashamed I did.

Word Count: 1,048

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