How is it going, everyone. Welcome back to Watching Outside Your Xbox Window While You Rant at Night. I’m your host, TatsMojo, and today, we’ll be taking a look at the strangest video games that you have never heard of. Number 10: Katamari Damacy. This strange little gem was made on the weird side of the world, Japan. You’ve probably never heard of this (What the fuck am I doing?)
In all seriousness, when I hear about these weird games and the whole, “What were these developers doing? Snorting LSD and drinking PSP and doing funny weed?” is a mindset that just screams that you really don’t care and try to evaluate the property you’re looking at. Even the weirdest kinds of games out there, like Katamari Damacy, Killer7, and others of the same category of fucking nuts have a reason to the madness, a sort of point to the insanity. Be it to build the world, be it to make a point in a sort of exaggerated manner, or just to create a unique world that has some method to the madness. Unless you make something for the sake of showing off insane visuals for the sake of insane visuals, there’s usually more to something than just the creators being on all the drugs. I think any fan of rock music from the 70s and 80s knows how annoying it can be. And today's game is no exception to the crazy, wacky, nutso world of Chulip. There is a point to this oddity, and I want to show it to you all. But this game is a game that has driven me and may drive many others to the brink of madness, and not because of the weird concept. We’ll get into why down the road.
Chulip was a strange little game made by the now defunct Punchline, made up of staff from the also now defunct Love-de-Lic Inc.. Love-de-Lic was known mostly for the game Moon: RPG Remix, a game that was Japanese exclusive for a long time before recently getting an English port to the Switch. It was mostly known here as being one of the earliest of the more meta narrative JRPG games and was one of the inspirations for the game Undertale. They also made games like UFO: A Day in the Life and LOL: Lack of Love. However, the studio would disband in 2000 and split into three other studios. Those being Skip Ltd., responsible for the Chibi-Robo games on Gamecube. Vanpool Inc., who work on Nintendo games, the most recent one being Kirby Fighters 2, also responsible for those fucking weird Japan only Tingle games. And last, Punchline, with only two games under their belt. Today's game, Chulip. And the forever illusive horror game, Rule of Rose. Aside from Rule of Rose being banned in Europe for the extreme graphic material that it had, Chulip didn’t exactly get much chance either. The game spent four years in delay for it’s American release. Chulip released in Japan on October 3rd, 2002. But it didn’t come out in America until February 13th, 2007. And not only that, it was a Gamestop Exclusive game. Oooh, you were just destined to die. Along with it being extremely Japanese in an American market, along with being met with scathing reviews from critics on release, this game stood no chance. It’s no wonder why of the three studios mentioned, Skip, Vanpool, and Punchline, the only one to perish was Punchline. If not thanks for Natsume, the team behind the Harvest Moon games, I don’t think Chulip would ever come out at all. And was the wait worth it. Yes!... No… Maybe… I honestly don’t know. And by the end, I hope, you will also not know.
The game takes place in a fictional Japanese countryside town called Long Life Town. You play as a young boy, not cannonly name, so for the sake of convenience, let’s name him Shu. So Shu moves into this town with his single dad into a poverty ridden house at the back end of the town, and is already hit with judgemental eyes from the neighbors for being so goddamn poor. But our young boy Shu gets a dream of a girl in it, his very own dream babe. And turns out, the babe in his dream is an actual real life resident of the town. But Shu is a coward and hasn’t the heart to kiss her. But with the help of an actual goblin that lives underground, Shu is on a mission to get to the girls heart by gaining confidence by kissing other residents of the town and getting the experience he needs to woo her. Complete with all the fun things like zombie lolita girls, a prison factory, dumpster diving, alcoolism, police committing hate crimes, and more. It’s not all fun and games here in Long Life Town. Immediately, I was sucked into the weirdness of this game the second I started. All the characters have these exaggerated expressions that give them a sort of muppet style to them. It’s simplistic, but it gives them this sort of play doll look and I find their exaggerated designs really charming. I love this big mouth on our boy Shu here. He looks so shocked at just every minor thing and seeing his reactions of joy to just fishing potatoes out of the fucking trash can for food is quite charming. I approve of this as a fellow potato fucker. There’s more strange designs to be found throughout. The Policeman having this giant, almost robotic head that moves back and forth like some machine. The teachers being disguised as oil barrels, stop signs, and telephone poles having to maneuver in such a way of their, for lack of a better term, disability. I really like the shopkeeper outside the store. He has this spinning head that has two expressions, a grump cigarette and book seller outside, but when you go into the train, he rushes from the stand to the ticket booth and turns into a more charming demeanor. I wish more games had this sort of charm with their merchants nowadays. I guess with Undetale having so many fun shopkeepers, it keeps that spirit alive. Toby Fox really was inspired by Yoshiro Kimura, it seems (That’s the creator of the game, by the way). Another thing I find really charming is the settings of the place. The area is located near a country side, so you gotta take trains from place to place, which is really atmospheric (At first, but we’ll get to that in a bit). You have a set number of places to go to. Worldly Desire Temple, a graveyard with an old temple at the top, and a cave in the back of it. Scarecrow Field, which is this farm land with a field to plant seeds in. And Funny Bone Factory, which is… just…. Great (Again, we’ll get to that later). All these places have a distinct feature to them, all with their own set of characters and settings. Like I really enjoy going to the shopping district of Long Life Town and checking out the married couple that runs the bar, or seeing the slacker musician playing for money. I really like seeing the Monk go back to the temple after a day of asking for donations to the temple. And I liked seeing the workers go to and from the factory and go straight home robotically every day (Until I didn’t, but again, we’ll get there).
The thing that really adds to the atmosphere of this game is the soundtrack. Done by the composer, Hirofumi Taniguchi, who I can’t find much on, but it seems they also did the soundtrack for Moon, along with redoing it for the re-release on Switch. That’s good to know they are still working on these niche titles. But the music is something really special. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard before. With all sorts of soft music, the countryside has this jazz drum with humming. The town theme has this mumbling lyrics mixed with kazoo that just kind of works to give it that laid back, lazy feeling of going around town as a kid. And I love hearing the music of the town drown out when you go into the bar and play this lyrical music, as lyrical as you can get when characters speak in Animal Crossing language. But when it turns night, the music fades, and it’s just the sound of the ambience. The train going through the town making its last stops, dogs barking in the distance, the sound of crickets and frogs in the lake. All while you sit at the train stop, waiting for the last train home with only the warm glow from the lamp above illuminating the darkness. This shit is really chill and I enjoy it. That being said, it doesn’t motivate me to explore this game. While I do enjoy finding the residents and kissing them to get the satisfaction, as well as learning about them in the photo album, seeing the letters they send and how they feel about the interaction, and just seeing the strange design they have, what I don’t enjoy is basic exploring. Because just the act of examining could spell your death.
That’s right. Chulip, this time management game about kissing people, has a health bar. And it has game overs. And if you game over, it’s back to your last save. And that could mean going all the way back into town if you are out of town and having to set everything back. Just the act of looking at stuff can get you killed. Look at a globe in the park, it spins and kills you at a low level. Ride the slide? You trip and get hurt. Ride the swing? You jump off and it… heals you. Well then what the hell am I supposed to do? Not look at stuff? Even the act of looking in the trash for goodies could net you shit. Like, no joke, literal shit as an item you carry. And it hurts you. But sometimes you need to do it. Oh, sure, sometimes you can avoid the damage, but the game won’t tell you that. At the factory, you can press the buttons, X, Triangle, Circle, X, and not only avoid the embarrassment of not knowing the factory’s stretches, but also get a potato. But the game doesn’t tell you that, so you could play this game, get hurt every time, and just assume that it’s going to happen every time, unless you by chance start pushing buttons and learn, or just look up a guide. After a while, I just decided to use the guide, because I was scared something would just kill me. How am I supposed to know that just the act of talking to a friendly NPC and having him call me stinky would get me hurt? That’s not fair. But, whatever, you live, or you die, but you reload your save, you learn, you go on with the game and wait for something else to fuck you. Like mayhaps video game stuff that is unavoidable, like getting hit by lightning when you solve the grave puzzle. Okay, well, fuck you for that one game. So yeah, you better be kissing people. A lot of people. Which thankfully, I did. Because man, do I love these characters.
There are two groups of people in this game. The Underground Resident, and the Above Residents. And while the underground residents are made up of all sorts of strange enigmas, like a music box player, a boxer, a man with an assault rifle, a spider with lips on it’s asshole, a walking puzzle, a man who swims in concrete, a wizard, an angry voodoo doll, and an actual gimp, they seem to be less insane than the resident that occupy your town. They live underground, get no pay, and no thanks, despite keeping the town's water and electricity running, but they seem to be happy in their mad underground world, where the people above ground, they’re depressed and they’re crazy. Like I genuinely came to love most of these characters for their strange behavior and their outlooks on life. There’s the local doctor, Dr. Dandy, who is all about health that he helps people for free, yet he falls asleep all the time at work and can’t even cure his own sickness that he’s suffering from. There’s the married couple who are the parents of Shu’s dream girl, Julie and Goro, who live in a miserable life, the wife having to run the bar and make due despite her lost singing career while her failed director husband fails to sell potatoes, and only goes home to get drunk as he complains about his directing days. One of my favorites is Batayan, a slacker who just wants to make music, but also needs money to survive. And when you get him a job at the factory, he is ecstatic. But slowly, he becomes tired, exhausted. He has to travel out of town by two trains to get to the factory, works there from 8:30 AM to 4 in the evening, then gets on the train, taking him hours just to get home, where he goes to sleep for four hours before doing it all again tomorrow. The dude’s fucking miserable and just wants to sing, but needs money. It isn’t until you fire him after becoming the president of the factory (Long story), then talking to him where he realizes he is fine being poor. He would rather be poor, doing what he loves, then to be rich and miserable. This game has all sorts of depression humor like that, all mixed with how characters feel like society does not care about them and how they struggle just to get by. This game is the perfect millennium game, feeling exhausted from work to work on your passions, feeling that you’d be better off dead than working for a minimum wage check every day, hating everyone and drinking your troubles away, counting down the last days of your life until your death. This game has all sorts of wacky cartoon antics and oddness to it, but it hides all the more depression, more serious topics behind the scenes. Stuff like being accused of crimes because you live in poverty by police, domestic abuse and alcoholism, depression, feeling trapped in your job, dealing with loss. The game is all kinds of sad. The game is charming and funny, but really sad. This game can make you glad, and this game can make you sad. But this game can also make you really, really fucking mad.
While I’ve been singing this game's praises, I have to admit, this game can have me invested one moment, but it can drive me to the brink of rage the next, especially from the abundance of annoying, unfair deaths, cryptic ass puzzles, and waiting. So much waiting. If you play Chulip, please, I implore you, do not go for every kiss. You don’t have to get every kiss. You can get a lot, and I really do recommend getting all the above ground kisses, but anything else will just frustrate you. Aside from the fact that underground residents have a point when you can kiss them, it’s randomized. You can’t just go to their spot at night and kiss them, of course not. You gotta wait for a specific moment. Sure, some of them have puzzle solving. Eggplant Boy wants you to eat an Eggplant in front of him to get a kiss. Jamtrack wants you to stand on the parts of the sand that he calls out. Jigsaw wants you to find the puzzle piece that matches his face. But most of them only want you to let them walk around and wait until they just become happy to kiss them. And it could be random when they do this. Sometimes they do it often. But other times, they could just… not. They can also run into you and knock you down, and while you’re getting up, they can get happy, but stop as soon as you’re on your feet again. If you kiss them before the moment, they will hit you and it may even kill you. Regardless, if you wait too long, they will leave and you have no chance of getting them until you either reload your save, or go do something else or sleep or read a book at the train station to pass time until the time comes for them to emerge again. And there are fifty kissable characters, only thirteen of them are above ground residents with their own stories. I’m not saying I want more, because what I got was great, but do they really gotta randomize the moment they can be kissed and put it on strict time limits? I love time management games. Some of my favorite games ever, being Persona 4, Animal Crossing, and Majora’s Mask, are all about managing your time. But when most of my time is spent waiting twelve in game hours reading a book, then spending some time standing at the spot because I’m scared I’ll skip the meeting otherwise does not feel remotely fun. It feels like I’m just waiting around and the charm of the night setting really starts to turn from something charming into something frustrating. I said we’d get to Funny Bone Factory, so here we go.
This is a scenario that I got to. So to get one piece of the love letter set needed to beat the game, you gotta go into the factory and become the president. After suggesting Batayan to work there, the factory thanks you by making you a manager card to come in and look around. You ride the tram into the factory, and do the exercise like I mentioned before. Do it right or get hurt and risk death. But I assume you survived. So you have to talk to the workers to find which one has a lazy guard. One of the four areas has this. After that, hide, and wait for the guard to leave. Then input the code you got from the old manager into the tram numbers and you will open the safe on the roof, and congrats. You’re the boss of the company. It’s weird, but the puzzles give you hints and it has a funny pay off. And you complete your goal. Not bad… But if you want to get all the kissable residents inside the factory, get fucking ready. So you get to Funny Bone Factory and start reading your book at the train station. You arrived after every other worker was going in, so you can’t go in. No, you can’t go in at any point. You go in while everyone else is going in, or you’re not going in until tomorrow. So after you wait, and I’ll assume you kissed the resident outside the factory and got the save room for this area. So you save outside the factory, 8:30 rolls around, and you get to go in. You do your stretches, get hurt again because fuck you, and you have to get to the two people inside the factory during the day. Being Batayan for his kiss later, and the Plow Driver in the fourth area. You can NOT go to these areas how you want. You have to go to them on a set order at a set time. You leave when the game says you can leave. Batayan is in the second of the four areas, while the Plow Driver is in the fourth. But remember that lazy security guard? Well he could be in any one of the four areas. You have to ask the employees in each area if it’s him. Thankfully, you don’t gotta ask every employee. It’s always the same one in all four areas. But if the security guard isn’t the one in the fourth area, you have no way of getting to the plow driver without not getting the underground residents at night. So let’s say, by some miracle, you get the security guard to be in the fourth area. You hide and wait for night and now you have twelve in game hours before the guards come back and toss your ass. There are now five underground residents. You need to remember the codes to get to each of the five spots. The first site, Factory Under Construction. Site 2, Operating Factory. Then Factory Under Construction, then New Factory Site, then the roof. Each has a different code to put on the tram to send you there. One is on the roof at 8PM to 11PM, and he is random when he will be kissable, and can knock into you and waste time. After that, there’s one in the second area, that is very sporadic with his movements and could not be kissable if you aren’t ready. Then go to the fourth area to find one that wants you to find the other half of his face in a pile of other faces. Thankfully, it’s easier than it sounds, as his face is different looking than the others in your inventory, but he leaves in an hour. Then it’s back to the second area to kiss one guy who could not be kissable at all. He could just show up then fuck off without giving you a chance. Then you gotta go to the third area and let the guy there scream two times without letting him follow you, then you can kiss him. After that, you gotta leave the factory before night. And no, being the president doesn’t mean you can explore the factory on your own or at night. If you miss one, you gotta do the fucking tour again, the stretching, the hiding, and running around for a chance to kiss them, and can still mess up because it’s random. And if you’re thinking, “Nik, what the fuck were you even saying in this entire paragraph!? You’re not making any fucking sense!?” EXACTLY! When I have to redo all of this shit over and over again just to kiss one person who may not even activate, I get really, really mad, and I feel I just wasted my time and now I have to go back and waste more of my time just to kiss them. But when the game isn’t frustrating you with giving it to you straight but not actually letting you have it, it’s cryptic as all hell.
The game is usually fair in the first 2/3rds of the game. The puzzles are weird, and a lot of the bullshit deaths can be forgiven. But it’s when we get to Scarecrow Field and have to get a kiss from the alien does the game become really cryptic. Throughout the game, as you kiss certain people, they may drop for you an Alien Dictionary, which allows you to read on the aliens language. Which is a nice way to help you figure out what he needs. A Computer, a Refrigerator, and a Frying Pan. But wait, we’re not done yet. After he makes his computer, he needs to figure out what else he needs. He turns a building nearby into a giant music box… um, okay… And then after that, you have to go and find the right notes to the music box. But the game doesn’t tell you that you need to find a set of Star Seeds in the field nearby and plant them in the nearby garden. Like, how was anyone gonna know that. But, look, fine. You could come to that by exploring this part at random and finding the seeds. Seeds go into the dirt. There’s only one spot for plantable dirt, and the one side won’t take vegetable seeds. So you put it there and get the notes. But when you get the notes, you can’t put it into the machine, because it’s missing something. What is it? What can you put onto the computer, increase inside, and put into the giant music box to play the notes? Well duh, dumbass. Funny Cola. A drink from the vending machine in Long Life Town. I… have no idea what that means. In the aliens language, Soccer means Canned Juice. But there’s no sign of Soccer on there, and that could mean anything. There’s no soccer ball on the vending machine that produces the Funny Cola. I’m looking at this flabbergasted. Like there’s no fucking way anyone was going to know that without either forcing everything in the entire game into the goddamn computer. Apparently, the solution was simple in Japanese but the solution got lost in translation, but good god, that is frustrating. And this is a mandatory puzzle to solve in order to beat the game. Like you need to kiss this alien to prove you had contacts with aliens to impress the alien obsessed teacher so she’ll give you the piece of the Love Letter Set. This game can have some of the highest highs and the lowest fucking lows. But I don’t want to end this review on huge negativity, so let’s talk about the ending, something I’m sure few Americans have seen. And if you want to play this game, skip this next paragraph to avoid spoilers
(!!!!!!!!!!SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF CHULIP AHEAD!!!!!!!!!)
So after getting the full letter set and making the letter, the mailbox in the town stops working, and you are left with no choice but to explore the town. Eventually finding the telephone wire resident having dug a hole deep into the sand in the park. And also your dad was the president of the school, is also a weirdo goblin, and this was all an elaborate method to strengthen Shu’s heart in order to be better with women. But there is one final test, and it’s at the bottom of the hole. Falling down puts you into some… fucking weird place. You are now having to test your logic of what you learned about the town, the residents, and having to reach the bottom of the dream girls heart, figuratively and maybe literally. First test, picking the real head of her father, Goro. It’s easy if you just pick the right one. But after that, it’s a real challenge. Her mother, Julie, is on trial of the chickens for cooking them for food in her bar, and you have to choose the witnesses from the town and decide which ones are the ones who like her chicken. A lot of people in town don’t, but with the testimony of those that love her cooking, you pass and can move onto the last trial, and it’s honestly intimidating. You meet with the dream girls’ pet cat, the one who knows her the best, and it pins you against answering twenty questions about the town. A lot of them are so damn vague like the number for the hospital or the number of drinks Policeman drinks. But if you have explored the town enough, and gotten to know these characters, you can prevail. It all comes down to hoping you can survive the cats onslaught of questions, and attacks if you get them wrong, by testing how much you invested in this town. And since I actually came to enjoy a lot of these characters, I found myself really enjoying them. I was glad I got to know them, got to help out their problems, and see them for the better. Batayan, the slacker, is poor, but he’s playing music, and it makes him happy. Julie and Goro, despite living in a crappy bar with their dreams lost, they have each other and are able to handle that. Michelle is able to cut out her alcoholism and go to eating Eggplants to keep herself calm. Dr. Dandy is able to go back to working and helping patients now that his sickness is gone. Mika is able to pass on in peace after seeing her high school lover enjoy the tea she had made before her death. And much more. It’s just nice to see that this game has a message to it. That no matter how bad things get, no matter how miserable you think you are, having someone show genuine kindness to you, to help you out just because they want to, and show that you care, it really gives this game a hopeful message in sight of all the cynicism and I think that’s really nice… It’s just a shame I hate playing this game.
(!!!!!END OF SPOILERS!!!!!)
Man, this is a damn shame. Chulip is a game that has so much meta commentary, a dark sense of humor that was way ahead of its time, and some charming characters, music, and settings that will stick with me for a long time, all wrapped up in a game I despise. I love this game so much and know it will stick with me hours after I play it, but the tedium, the insanity that bleeds out into the gameplay in the worst ways, the constant frustration, makes me so angry, that I never want to play this game ever again. I would love to see Chulip get revived as a sort of manga comic or a cartoon of sorts or something. I think that this setting is something fascinating and I admire the work that the team put into this game. But no, I can’t play this game again. It was torture to play. Tedious, frustrating, dull torture. Chulip would go on to pretty much gain cult status in America, but nothing more. It was ported to the PS3 as a PS2 classic, which… Really? This game? I mean, it’s definitely unique and has good parts of it, and I would much prefer spending $10 to the usual $150 for a physical copy, but really? Of all the games? Oh well. The creator of this game, Yoshiro Kimura would produce and design other games later on, including being the producer of the No More Heroes games, and would go on to work for Marvelous Entertainment and work as combat designer for Romancing SaGa 3, released in 2019. I hope that this man can find work as a director again. He’s talented. Chulip was a frustrating game, but I won’t lie and say that it’s a charming little game that definitely shows the talent of the team behind it. I hope they can get another chance to make something great.
Award: Endurance Test. Endurance of the highest caliber. Do not go for 100% on this game if you can help it. And for the love of god, play it with a walkthrough. I won’t tell you if you should play this game or not, because this is one of those weird titles that kind of needed to be played to form your own opinion on, but it’s not without its good moments. Moments of fun, of charm, and of genuine joy. Just be ready for some really annoying mechanics.