Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! Preview: Badman Does Good Things

Aside from having the wackiest titles ever, Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman does interesting things with the strategy game genre on the PlayStation Portable.

The plot of the game is about you – the disembodied God of Destruction – protecting an evil overlord character from marauding hero characters by digging him a vast underground dungeon. Digging up soil unearths tons of under-worldly creatures like slimes, lizard men, evil spirits and demos that form a natural ecosystem of the overlord's lair. The strategy element of the game is where the player has to balance and expand the ecosystem with the right kind of monsters to protect the overlord from heroes stupid brave enough to enter the dungeon.

Sound weird enough for you? Try saying the game's full title aloud: Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This?

What Is It?
Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman is a strategy game for the PSP. Players control the game via the D-Pad and face buttons, digging up squares of soil out of a grid to unearth monsters and provide places for your overlord to hide from heroes that come to capture him.

What We Saw
I spent almost an hour going through the first five missions – all of which turned out to be tutorials.

How Far Along Is It?
Late beta or early release candidate – the game is due out in July.

What Should Change?
Can't See The Soil For The Dirt: A major part of balancing the ecosystem of monsters in the dungeon is knowing which kinds come from which squares of soil; but it can be really hard to see the subtle changes in patches of soil as the ecosystem evolves. For example, one of the tutorial missions was to grow seven lizard men in a set amount of time. Lizard men come from pale white squares of nutrient-rich soil and the only way to enrich soil is to populate the dungeon with the most basic dungeon monster: slimes. Slimes are dug up from green-veined squares and as they inch and squinch through the dungeon, they eat up other green-veined squares and eventually enrich them, turning them gray and later white. I blew this mission twice because I couldn't tell when a square was white enough to spawn a lizard man – and cracking open a less-than-white square spawns an omnom – white creatures that eat the slimes and generally unbalance the food chain.

Steep Learning Curve: Badman is one game you cannot pick up and play easily. Many tried only to run out of dig power or fail a mission when time ran out because they weren't sure which monster type they were supposed to be digging up. But even going through the myriad tutorial missions step-by-step didn't feel like enough preparation for the actual game where the ecosystem is running and the heroes are encroaching and the overlord is yelling at you for help. Unless something in the tutorial were to change like adding a flashing "goal" icon to the squares you're supposed to dig up, players are just going to have to sit with the game ‘til they get the hang of it; which is par for strategy gamers, but sort of frustrating for everybody else.

What Should Stay The Same?
The Humor: Besides the title, Badman has a lot of campy jokes that poke fun at old school dungeon crawler RPGs – right down to the pixilated pictures of the heroes. It's endearing as much as it is entertaining.

The Interface: The game mechanics might be a little hard to figure out, but the controls certainly aren't. Once you figure out the dig button and how to change the view from zoomed-in to full-map, you're pretty much set.

The Challenge: It's tough to balance an entire ecosystem, especially while multitasking so your overlord doesn't get grabbed. I don't think hardcore strategy gamers are going to be bored with Badman.

Final Thoughts
I'm not sure how well Badman lends itself to the portable experience but I was okay with the game. In the hour I spent fiddling with the game, repeating missions and squinting at little demon sprites, I did get a little frustrated when I could only get four out of seven lizard men to spawn.