The GoodKenichi Nishi is one of my favorite video game designers. He is an under-appreciated master whose ideas challenge our definitions of genres, and whose artistic imagination is so generous that many games begin to seem ordinary and formulaic after you've been exposed to his works. He led Love-de-lic (and later its successor Skip) to create some of the weirdest masterpieces of all times, opening with the incomparable Moon, a game that turned the RPG genre upside-down, forcing the player to gain "love points" for liberating souls of monsters instead of experience points for killing them. And what other game puts the player in control of a tiny alien creature who has to grow up?..
Incredible Crisis strongly deviates from Nishi's predominantly adventure- and RPG-oriented design philosophy; but that is the power of a truly great designer: his talent and his personality will put an indelible mark of quality on anything he produces. Even though Incredible Crisis is nothing like Moon or any other of his games, it is still clearly his creation: it's weird, it's wacky, it's original, and it's unlike anything else out there.
To describe this game as just a collection of mini-games would be very misleading. Incredible Crisis is, above all, an experiment in story-telling and gameplay design: both are deliberately composed out of short segments that parody every action movie cliche imaginable. Each mini-game is so tightly connected to whatever happens during the cutscenes that we don't feel that the game has no homogeneous gameplay. Each cutscene, with its own twisted logic, smoothly leads to a mini-game that prompts the player to experience the action-loaded events on his own, with nerve-wrecking button mashing that perfectly conveys the feeling of being in an over-the-top action comedy.
The story is delightful, crazy nonsense. The game opens with an intro that explains the objective: help four members of a completely ordinary Japanese middle-class family get home to celebrate the grandmother's birthday. This most trivial, most mundane premise imaginable develops into its polar opposite: each family member gets involved in a series of events that include everything you've seen in action and sci-fi movies: destruction and explosions, shoot-outs and chases, giant monsters decimating the city, sexy female spy planting bombs, bank robbery, and what not - typically of its creator, who loves mixing the cozy and the bizarre, family values with insanity.
Each event leads to a mini-game, all of which are united by the overarching story. To fully appreciate this game, you'll have to enjoy both the cutscenes and the gameplay; they are two aspects of the same thing. The greatness of Incredible Crisis is not its concept of a game entirely made out of mini-games; it's the way it connects story and gameplay, making them equally important participants of the experience.
The mini-games themselves are mostly action-oriented, with the exception of a couple of silly timed quiz-like exercises. Everything else revolves around action, with quick-time events, racing, shooting, sneaking, etc. I wouldn't call these games revolutionary. I wouldn't even call them great if they were torn out of the story context. But since they always logically follow cutscenes, they become more fun to play, because they become funny. There is nothing new in a mini-game that involves pressing directional buttons in an on-rails sequence, avoiding upcoming traffic; but when your protagonist is a middle-aged Japanese office worker riding an ambulance stretcher after having been persecuted by a giant Earth globe, this becomes hilarious and much more entertaining.
Nearly every mini-game is different; you never know what to expect, in what other amusingly inappropriate situation the game will put you. You think you've seen them all when your protagonist suddenly shrinks in size and has to run away from antlions and spiders. The game keeps entertaining you: you feel compelled to press forward, see what the next mini-game would be like, watch yet another cutscene, wondering at the author's crazy leaps of logic. If I could sum up Incredible Crisis in one phrase, I'd say: "never a dull moment".
Oh, and I almost forgot the cool ska music and the funny sound effects. I'll never get tired of hearing Taneo should "Yiwei!.." every time something goes wrong.
The BadThere are only mini-games in Incredible Crisis. It has no other purely gameplay-related concept; if you are not interested in the game's unorthodox story and are unaffected by its weird humor, all you are left with is a bunch of admittedly fun, but rather basic mini-games. To me, this game's value was equally distributed between its general concept, its colorful execution, and its gameplay; if you don't care for the first two, I doubt the last one alone will be enough to satisfy you.
Most mini-games here are different, but there is one that repeats itself three times: the water-drawing "Titanic" mission. Hardly the most amusing activity in the game, it got chosen as the one mini-game that must repeat itself for an unknown reason. It's a real pity that the effect of constant novelty, each new game segment being unlike the previous one, was marred by this unfortunate choice.
The game's biggest problem is its length. There are only twenty-four mini-games here; even if you have to replay each several times, you'll get to the end long before you feel satiated by this onslaught of wacky action. It's just over much too quickly. When you become adept at the mini-games, you'll be able to finish the whole thing in a couple of hours.
The Bottom LineIncredible Crisis is yet another testament to Kenichi Nishi's creativity. Each one of his games is unlike the other, and unlike anything else we've ever seen. While today the idea of a game composed entirely out of mini-games seems ordinary enough, the concept of telling a coherent (in its own wacky way) story connected by mini-games is original and highly refreshing. None of the mini-games themselves will blow you away, but the general weirdness and artistic edge of Incredible Crisis guarantee non-stop fun from the beginning to the end.