Review by Smirnoff

"Bizarrely, Pete doesn't even use a Polaroid"

Nobody does quirky, weird and unique better than the Japanese. From underpants thieving monkeys and rapping dogs to tube trains simulations and limb-flinging dancing games, they love to replicate everyday interests in their own inimitable style. But there's still one area of Japanese passion that remains strangely absent from their videogaming repertoire. Until now.
Any New Yorker, Londoner or Amsterdammer who hasn't been asked by a friendly Japanese man to take a picture of him and his family standing in front of the Statue of liberty, Big Ben or hookers with the world's smallest, lightest, gadget laden cameras isn't a true inhabitant of named cities. Floorboards across Japan must be permanently bowed under the weight of videotapes and photo albums.
So it was only a matter of time before the PS2 hosted its very own snap 'em up.

Polaroid Pete is a game based around photographing a multitude of weird scenes, and it's crammed with craziness and typical Japanese gaming eccentricity. Before you start getting thoughts of pouting super models and women in their underwear, this is unashamedly aimed at the younger gamer. Not that that stopped me having fun with this childishly entertaining slice of unique gaming enjoyment. But perhaps a slightly more adult sub-game might have been a nice addition to the package...

You get to don the canvas slacks and reassuringly expensive shoulder straps of one Pete Goldman. As a reporter for the Planet Times, you're after the Pulitzer Prize and your editor has some interesting jobs for you to undertake on your way to the top. Hey, don't blame me if you're feeling a bit embarrassed reading this silliness, I'm only here to give you the facts. If I didn't it'd be like telling you that Metal Gear Solid is about a bloke who likes to crawl about a lot.
Anyway, the game features intrepid Pete strolling slowly through an eclectic variety of weird areas including bustling cities, ghostly graveyards and sport arenas. They're all crammed with various strange things going on in the background, but viewed from a pretty simplistic two-dimensional angle. They don't really caress the eyes. There's a real whiff of fromage about the visuals. In fact, PP would look dated on PSone. Admittedly it adds to the quirky style of the game but that never stopped Parappa from looking rather appealing in its own unique way.

So what have we got: uninspiring visuals, and a preposterous juvenile storyline. It doesn't look too promising so far does it? Fortunately PP is one of those games that doesn't flatter, but does deceive with some strangely addictive camera snappery.
Initially it almost feels too simple. Target any incidents of interest and click away. Having to collect films and be a little sparing with your picture taking adds some depth and there are also objects that you need to hop over or duck under to avoid missing out on that prize-winning shot.
And that's pretty much it. It's actually capturing that fleeting moment in the center of your viewfinder that entices you to return to this game to capture every incident and perfect your bulging photo album.
Your first few forays through each area will probably result in numerous missed opportunities and poorly framed shots. But repeated attempts reap much higher scores for perfectly framed shots, expertly timed dodges and leaps, and careful usage of your films. At the end of each area, bonuses are awarded for impressively taken pictures and spare films left, and an overall score needs to be met to progress. There's also a particular event in each area that needs to be captured to please your editor. It's a novel addition that requires a bit of thought to work out exactly what needs to be shot. A hint from your editor gives a clue before each round, but only if you can decipher the poorly translated text. Even that doesn't seriously blight this game. It actually just adds to the outlandishness and charm of it.

Not much of a looker, lacks depth, is childishly ridiculous and is amateurishly present in places....And yet I couldn't help buy enjoy myself. Capturing the high scoring events and gaining access to the later levels on three difficulty levels is surprisingly compelling and quite challenging at times. The cheaper price seems somewhat fairer for such a simple game and although it won't last too long, repeat plays are still enjoyable.

A game that initially seemed like perfect fodder for a good old hammering ended up entertaining me in its own charming way. It also forced me to do a lot of explaining to each friend and family member who walked by while I was playing it. Expecting their incredulous ''What's that for stuff?'' to be met with an explosion of bile, there was much surprise and astonishment with the reply, ''Actually, it's quite alright.''
It won't go down as a classic, but shooting photos makes a change from shooting zombies. Give it a try if you fancy something different.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/30/02, Updated 11/30/02


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