Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Welcome to WonderSwan World: Engacho!

In a way, it's too bad Engacho! for WonderSwan is so childishly gross.

Look past the boogers and butts and spit and sweat--all of which are present in both this portable release and its console counterpart (check out my Engacho! for PlayStation review if you want to learn more about that version of the game)--and you'll see one of the best WonderSwan puzzlers around.

Not that turning a blind eye to the more disgusting aspects of Engacho! is a requirement, mind you. I personally love the spritework showcased in this WonderSwan cartridge. I know not everyone will feel the same way when they're first introduced to it, though.

Still, the WonderSwan iteration of Engacho!--developed and published, in 1999, by NAC Geographic Products Inc.--is well worth a try no matter what you think of its aesthetic. That's because its gameplay is quite unlike anything I've experienced in a puzzle game.

Here's my attempt to explain why that is as succinctly as possible: to begin with, your goal, as Sunzuki-kun (he's the pie-faced kid in the middle of the screenshot above), is to make your way from each stage's entrance to its exit. As is so often true with such things, that's easier said than done--thanks to the members of the colorfully named "Oops FIVE" (the foul quintet that flanks our intrepid protagonist on the game's title screen), in this case.

Sunzuki-kun shares space on each board with one or more of the above-mentioned characters and must avoid colliding with them as he creeps toward the finish line. The penalty for failing to stay out of their way? See the screenshot below.

If you're wondering where the "puzzle" aspect of Engacho! comes into play, that would be in how the "Oops FIVE" baddies move. The one that's little more than a giant, slobbering tongue--with Mickey Mouse ears--mirrors your steps. (If you walk to the left, so does he--or she.) The flying butt, on the other hand, does the opposite of whatever you do. The other two--one looks like a weightlifter with really hairy armpits, and the other looks like Mr. Potato with a runny nose--head 90 degrees perpendicular (left or right, respectively) to wherever you move.

Also worth noting here: Engacho! progresses similarly to a roguelike, with Sunzuki-kun taking just a single step, followed by the game's freakish monstrosities taking a step of their own.

Plop a small handful of the "Oops FIVE" onto a single stage and it should be easy to see how successfully advancing to its exit can become complicated.

Sounds pretty interesting, right? Making Engacho! even more so is that it offers up hundreds of levels over its four modes of play.

Those modes, by the way, are called "training," "puzzle," "vs.com" and "battle." The first teaches you the game's basics, the second is its main mode, the third pits you against Sunzuki-kun's father and the fourth lets you compete against another human player (via the WonderSwan link cable).

In the end, yes, playing Engacho! may make you a bit squeamish, but if you can choke down your disgust you'll find a content-rich puzzler that works your brain in way that most such games don't.

Curious to know what "engacho!" means, or why it doubles as this WonderSwan cart's title? Check out my post (the comments section, especially), "What in the hell does 'Engacho!' mean, anyway?" Another option: read through the first section of this Engacho! walkthrough.

If that's not enough, ogle photos of Engacho! WonderSwan's outer box and cartridge, or virtually flip through its instruction manual. And if you're looking for snapshots of the PlayStation version's packaging, here you go.

See also: previously published 'Welcome to WonderSwan World' posts about Clock Tower, Rainbow Islands: Putty's Party and the WonderSwan Color hardware

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