Seeing Stars: Another Trip To Nekogames

By John Walker on October 19th, 2009 at 10:55 pm.

He does seem to like stars.

Every few months I sit up with a start and think to myself, “I haven’t checked Nekogames for ages!” The obscure Japanese site, in a muddle of Japanese and English, is most known for the splendid Cursor*10 – a puzzle game that has inspired many others since. Then there’s my absolute favourites, the Hoshi Saga games asking you to hunt down a star in dozens of smart and entertaining levels. So what’s been happening since the last time I had a look? Well, a much smarter site design and a couple of new games to check out.

I should say before I go on, it’s always worth giving the Hoshi Saga games another go if you’ve played them before, as you’re bound to have forgotten most of the solutions by now. And if you’ve not played them before, then please go an experience these magical ten second puzzles. 1, 2 and 3.

Also it’s definitely worth pointing out a new Sugarcubes animation on the site. Yoshio Ishii’s super-simplistic art style translates beautifully to these studies of movement, the original here, and the new collection of mini-ideas here.

In terms of games there was one I played back in the summer but appear to have completely failed to post here, because I’m a colossal idiot. It’s called, brilliantly, CAT GETS 100 STARS, and is a one-level micro-platform game that will take you a surprising amount of time to finish. You play a cat, jumping around the blocks, collecting stars – shockingly enough. However, not only are most of the stars seemingly out of reach, but there aren’t nearly 100 of them on screen. Which is the challenge. It’s a really smart exercise in packing in many recognisable 2D platform tricks and hidden extras into a very confined space, and should drive you crazy as you attempt to find those final five.

More recent is Colour Or Shape, a massively deceptively simple looking puzzle game, in which you’re asked to clear the screen by clicking on coloured shapes in sequence. You can either follow your previous selection with the same shape, or the same colour, but you can’t pick the same colour three times in a row. It’s peculiar how tricky this is – my brain, at least, became constantly confused, trapping myself in stupid corners.

Ishii has an incredible mind for wittling complex ideas down to their absolute rawest form. Underworld Trip was another great example of this, playing with the ideas of platforming that forces you to learn the route through failure, reducing the graphics down to the fewest pixels imaginable yet still creating evocative details and an entertaining challenge. As well as a plot that mystifies me, and an ending to match. I’m just hoping there’s to be another Hoshi Saga chapter soon, as I feel compelled to collect more stars.

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21 Comments »

  1. Radiant says:

    No mention of Rose and Camilla?
    I’ve no intention of ever slapping a demonic granny but it’s good to know I’ve got some practice in.

  2. Railick says:

    Cat gets 100 Stars would make an awesome reality show.
    Get some crazy over the top Japanese game show host who speaks perfect broken English to give narration. "GO CAT! GET STARS! You silly cat, stupid cat find yarn! You never find 100 stars in time KAATT!"

    Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

  3. Taillefer says:

    The cat got 100 stars! Yay!

  4. PleasingFungus says:

    From a link to the Japanese wikipedia at the bottom of the page, Underworld Trip seems to be about the Buddhist underworld? Maybe. I’m not sure.

    I ended up in some sort of… violent afterlife? With people who have swords? I don’t even know. Chose the top-right gate.

    The bit with the fireballs was the toughest by far, for me. But it was a pretty reasonable game otherwise, for its genre.

  5. TCM says:

    The ending of Underworld Escape seems to be based on a combination of how many times you die, and what gate you enter.

    According to what I can make out of the spoiler page, anyhow. No idea what it all means.

    Pretty fun, though.

  6. cuc says:

    Underworld Trip is based on the Chinese/Japanese Taoist/Buddhist/folk religion version of Underworld, a place where sinners are punished and then sent back into Samsara (the circle of life, death and rebirth).
    The different endings have the player reborn into the Six Realms of Buddhist cosmology.
    A translation of the ending spoiler page:
    No death, enter any gate: Realm of Gods, Realm of Deva
    5 or less deaths, any gate: Realm of Humans
    More than 5 deaths:
    Gate 1: Realm of Hell (Hatred)
    Gate 2: Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Realm of Preta (Greed)
    Gate 3: Realm of Animals (Ignorance)
    Gate 4: Realm of Titans, Realm of Asura (Strife)
    Gate 5 and 6: Random
    EDIT:
    In original Buddhist concepts, Asura shouldn't be considered worse than humans, but I suppose the word "Shura" is a common word for the Japanese, synonymous with murder and massacre, so they are used to think of Asura as bad.

  7. DMcCool says:

    There is something depressing about seeing a series of geometric shapes from a japanese puzzle game as the newest story on RPS.

    • MadMatty says:

      I guess Asian Minimalist Interactive Artwork/Games aren´t everybodys cup o tea ;)

      I quite liked the Underworld one with the zany electronic music… and the pixel styles kindof funky…other than that, i think my time with 2d platformers that dont add any new twists to the formula, are over.

    • DMcCool says:

      I think its just the artwork. Looks like something my mum would play on her iPhone.

      Its abit like the Bargin Bin actually. Does anyone else find that bit of graphic design somehow disheartening? I even like the Bargin Bin and find it often informs my purchases.

      Sorry if this all seems a little moany, guess I just don’t have much to comment on right now =/

    • El Stevo says:

      Geometric shapes with gradients on them.

    • LewieP says:

      Need more bloom.

      Also, the cat got 100 stars. I was expecting it to be a little harder than it was.

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    drewski says:

    My cat only managed 90 stars, so I had him put down.

  9. Irish Al says:

    I hope The Vortex makes a return in this …

  10. Nemolom says:

    I love Nekogames. It should be compulsory for any game designer to play the Hoshi Sagas.

    • Nemolom says:

      Maybe they’re game designer kind of games. In any case I find them awesome.

  11. Railick says:

    super happy fun cat collects 100 fantastic spinning star of ninja doom.

  12. kukuruza says:

    I’ve no intention of ever slapping a demonic granny but it’s good to know I’ve got some practice in.

  13. Kua says:

    I so love the internet:

    “Wow!!! super mario rip! my golly.. “