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Over the years, the Japanese have developed a reputation in the western hemisphere for being crazy bastards, a feat achieved through various forms of comics, animations, games, hentai, and wacky little toys from pink-themed gift shops.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Wonder Kitchen, a promotional SNES game for Ajinomoto Mayonnaise. Why the hell Ajinomoto decided that the best way to market their product was to aim it at ten-year-old game-enthusiasts is anybody's guess. Wonder Kitchen is the most insane, illogical, surreal, and above all, mayonnaise-themed game ever. The entire thing is in Japanese, which makes it even more confusing for us English-speakers, and the chances of there being a translation patch out there are extremely slim. But frankly I don't care; I don't WANT to know what's being said. While it's undoubtable that I would be able to navigate through this game more easily, not to mention that I would learn much valuable information on the history and nutritional value of mayonnaise, something would be lost if it suddenly started using words I could understand, and Wonder Kitchen would no longer occupy that very special place in my heart.
It opens with a small, doll-like girl with an apron, a gargantuan bow, and highly disconcerting eyebrows. It is assumed that she is "Motokochan" from the title screen. Beside her is a waist-high squeezebottle of mayonnaise, along with a picture of Ajinomoto Mayonnaise packaging, which you'll be seeing a LOT of, assuming you play this game to the end, which you won't. The mayonnaise bottle is sentient, with arms, feet, and a vacantly friendly face. After Motokochan twitters incomprehensibly for a minute or two to the accompanyment of a high tootling sound which could concievably be meant to sound like a very high-pitched voice, the mayonnaise bottle retracts its limbs and takes off like a rocket (as they do), transporting you to a kitchen.
Now, if you were tempted into thinking that this was the Wonder Kitchen itself, you'd be wrong. While this kitchen is pretty fucked up in a way that I suppose you could call "wondrous" if you wanted, you won't be doing any of the cooking here. Instead, you'll be doing... well, pretty much anything you want. This game was obviously intended to market for quite young children, because almost anything you click on will do something weird and/or stupid. You can spend hours (minutes) in this screen watching chairs that snuggle up to each other, clock-hands that fly away out the window, a freezer that plays music when opened, and the poor distressed kettle leaping back and forth between the stove hotplates. There is also an entire bedroom inside the sink cupboard containing a sleeping witch, whom you can wake up to play a game of Go.
That's pretty much how this whole "game" (and I use the term loosely) is "played" (ditto). you click on things randomly until you either grow bored and turn off the emulator (I seriously doubt you'd be able to find the cartridge), or until you accidentally click on the correct object which will send you onto the next screen. You do get a toolbar to mess around with, but its sole purpose is to remind you which ingredients you still have to collect. You know, in case you can't find them. Although anyone who misses them is either under the age of six or a moron. Or possibly just couldn't be arsed. There is also a broom and a lamp you can collect in various weird places which then appear in your toolbar, but they seem to have no purpose whatsoever.
The purpose of this not-Wonder kitchen is to, er, recruit the help a blue birdy, a teeny pink elephant, and one of those freaky cursed monkeys with the cymbals. Whichever one of these creatures you choose first will spit out a MEMO with a seperate list of ingredients, do a little dance, transform into a star, and then dive headlong into either the sink, the freezer, or the oven (which then turns itself on). The "real" game will then begin, and the animal you chose will each lead you along a different path for the purpose of collecting food to cook with. Unfortunately, since all the food has escaped from the kitchen, having been kidnapped by gnomes, hatched into fairy princesses and so forth, it has to be tracked down and recovered in from some rather unlikely places. And when I say "unlikely", I mean... ah shit, there's just no way to describe how mind-boggling batshit insanely random these locations are. These include, but are not limited to, a cloud castle, a fairytale cottage, a circus, the African plains, a fairground, and a treasure cave. Each one of these locations is linked to the one before and after it in ways like "you're in Africa, and the lion in Africa ate the pink elephant, and then the lion was taken to a circus, and now you're at the circus". Or maybe "you're in a fairground, and the monkey got in a hot air balloon and floated away and then the balloon turned into an apple, and fell into the sea, so now you're in the sea."
To add to the fun, every object in every location can be messed with like in the not-Wonder kitchen, and the food ingredients themselves are collected in ways that show just how far the imagination can be stretched. For example, along the bird's path, the food is collected in a pirate ship that seems to be having a jumble sale. The tomato is on a bush growing out the back of the ship, the mushroom is enjoying its new life swimming happily with the jellyfish, the lettuce is fired out of a cannon, and the corn... er, you get the corn by clicking on a striped beach umbrella, which then folds itself up and whizzes around the screen before transforming into a corn cob. Cos, you know, the umbrella was, er, vaguely corn-shaped. Sort of. Along the elephant's path, the kiwi fruit parades about in front of you around a circus ring on little legs accompanied by some dance music, and the pineapple is riding around in a roller-coaster.
Once this confusing but thankfully mayonnaise-free hunt draws to an end, Ajinomoto apparently decide that they haven't been rubbing their product into your face often enough, so you are rewarded by a lecture from a badly-dressed gnome on the historical, social, and nutritional values of... mayonnaise. These lectures last roughly seven minutes each, and there's no way to skip them.
When this freak figures he's boomed bass notes at you for long enough, he grins cheesily, and warps out. In his place then appears... the Wonder Kitchen! Although, compared to the original kitchen from the beginning, it isn't all that wondrous. Nor is it, strictly speaking, a kitchen. Basically it's just a normal kitchen bench with some utensils and food on it. Now, you remember how, in the title screen, we were told we'd "ENJOY COOKING WITH MOTOKOCHAN IN WONDER KITCHEN"? Well, Motokochan, the flaky bitch, decides to let you do all the cooking while she chirrups orders at you. Unfortunately, she speaks Japanese, so unless you understand the language (and if you're reading this website, chances are that you don't), it's pretty much down to guesswork as to whether she wants you to chop the tomato, fry the onion, drain the lettuce, or cook the elephant. Basically, this section of the game boils down to picking up random utensils and combining them with the ingredients until something happens, at which point the message changes and you do it all again. All of the actions must be performed in exactly the right order, and there's a surprisingly large number of kitchen tools and implements on the table, half of which you won't even end up using, so the guessing game can take quite a long time.
Soon it becomes apparent that "COOKING WITH MOTOKOCHAN IN WONDER KITCHEN" is just another opportunity for Ajinomoto to promote their product in the most hidously blatant way, as you will be required to add mayonnaise to the concoction a total of far too many times. It sits up the top of the screen in its colourful packaging, and when you open the bottle, a fanfare plays. I shit you not. The bottle then up-ends itself over whatever you were cooking with, splurting a liberal amount of yellow goo over the food. You will be required to do this again and again. And again and again and again. The amount of mayonnaise you will have to add is frankly just disgusting, and would warrant the food tasting of nothing but. And it isn't just in the main course or the entree that gets the mayonnaise treatment. You need to subject the dessert to this as well.
Sooner or later you end up with a finished meal. After a grisly close-up of the mess you created, splattered as it is with mayonnaise like a food-fetishist's bukkake site, Motokochan appears next to a food-laden table which appears to have been turned onto it's side and glued by its legs to the wall. Either that or she's lying flat on her back on the ground. You then get another lecture on mayonnaise-oriented treats, which is also unskippable.
To complete the game, you go through all of this three times.
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As mentioned last week, I'm reviewing Jason movies. Which Jason movies? Only every last single motherfucking Jason movie I haven't reviewed yet! Please try your best to enjoy my round-up of Friday the 13th parts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
You know, it must be tricky for Jason to schedule all his resurrections so the subsequent killing sprees can all happen on Friday 13ths. I hope he keeps a year planner at the bottom of that lake.
If you were at Alton Towers on Friday the 13th of June between the hours of 11am and 5pm, then you may well have seen me. I was the very tall bloke in the purple polo shirt, enormous clown boots and slightly effeminate hairdo.
Yes, to celebrate my birthday nearly a month after the actual date, my parents took me to Alton Towers. Wanted to go sky diving, but this was a compromise. Don't know what my mum's problem was. If something went wrong I'd be the one plummeting at ten million miles an hour into solid ground and exploding into twelve separate piles of splintered bone and cartilage, not her. Oh well.
If you're unfamiliar with Alton Towers, it's a theme park. One of the more famous ones in England. And they're very concerned about secrecy. It's impossible to see the place on the way up 'cos it's surrounded by trees and twisty turny hill roads; you can only really see it once you're past the ticket counter, and not much even then. I suppose they don't want freeloaders sitting on nearby hills watching other people having a good time.
Anyway, roller coasters. That was the reason I went there, to go on roller coasters, in order to simulate a thrill comparable to leaping out of a plane. Trouble was, when I actually see the roller coasters in question, I suddenly realise that the main difference between them and sky diving is that sky diving doesn't leave you with the feeling that you left your stomach behind. And there aren't people screaming in your ear and holding their arms aloft as if to say "I worship the wind gods, and have carpal tunnel syndrome!"
I didn't go on many roller coasters, after all that. We figured the place wouldn't be too crowded on a weekday during school term time. Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone else in the western spiral arm of the galaxy had exactly the same idea. There was a seventy minute wait to get on the newest ride, the one I had my heart set on, so, in so many words, I said "bollocks to that". I wasn't going to stand around like a lemon for an hour and a bit for a two-minute thrill.
I've been to Alton Towers on only one other occasion, many years ago, when I recall being completely shit scared of the ghost train. So, perhaps to prove something to myself, I went on it again. I really can't imagine what my problem was. the shock of zombies suddenly appearing around corners is lessened somewhat by the loud hydraulic hiss their mechanisms make and the way they wobble into place like they died during a bout of Parkinson's Disease.
They've got this new thing going on in the ghost train where they give you a green jelly mould-like laser gun and you have to shoot targets. I honestly felt I'd do really well on that, 'cos everyone knows playing Half-Life for years makes you an expert marksman. As it turned out, I did only slightly better than the chair.
I remember going on the haunted house ride in Disneyland once, and the thing broke down while I was on it. Then a voice said "The spirits of the dead are interfering with this carriage! Please wait!". Not particularly relevant, but I thought that was a really nice touch.
Another ride I went on was something called the 'Black Hole'. I kind of misjudged the queue and found myself waiting for forty minutes, but I didn't think that would matter if the ride was exciting as the name implied! As it turned out, I'd been on the ride before. Not in the same theme park. It's called "Space Mountain" elsewhere. A roller coaster taking place in total blackness, so you don't know whether you've been turned upside-down or not (SPOILER: not).
I must say, it's a lot easier to queue-jump in today's tolerant British society. A quartet of young boys managed to get as far as just in front of me in the queue for the runaway train by the simple expedient of pointing at some random point ahead and saying "Where is he? There he is!". Of course, they couldn't decide on who, exactly, 'he' was. Being British, however, we didn't let them irritate us. In fact, we all found it rather amusing. "Don't try too hard, lads, someone might rumble you," said someone. To this, the boys replied "He's over there!". A good time was had by all.
So, if you really do find something alluring about the prospect of standing in line for an hour so you can have your spectacles rammed into your face for three minutes, then I'd heartily recommend Alton Towers to anyone. Personally, I'm holding out for the sky diving next time.
Coming this summer...
FUCKING HOT WEATHER!
...the long-anticipated sequel to the Christmas blockbuster "OH GOD IT'S FUCKING FREEZING"...
...and the surprise hit of Spring, "WHY DOESN'T THIS RAIN EVER FUCKING STOP?"
Yes, Summer is icumen in, and the weather's already giving us a taste of things to come. It's been so hot over the last few days that, if one were to crack an egg onto the pavement, it would evaporate before it had a chance to cook. And I spent a goodly portion of this time in a baking hot office trying to concentrate on a computer screen through a curtain of sweat pouring from below my hairline. My boss had to buy everyone ice cream to stop productivity dipping. Bet you wish you worked here, now.
We had blinds installed the other day, but that didn't help much. It just gave the office the air of a bar in Morocco, except with computers. And wallpaper. And filing cabinets. So not that much like a bar in Morocco, then.
I hate it when the weather goes all hot and sticky. I get the weirdest looks when I go out in my trenchcoat. But I have to wear that thing. If I'm not suitably covered all over, my fair complexion would cause me to burst into flames, vampire-like. I suppose I could wear sunscreen, but let's not forget that I can't be arsed.
Sweat, as is quite commonly known, is the human body's internal coolant system. When we're hot, we automatically produce evil-smelling warm water which dribbles all over our bodies and makes our clothes horrible and sticky. Couldn't evolution have made this process a little more pleasant and a little bit more effective? Couldn't we have found a way to make our sweat smell a little bit nicer? I mean, there are things in the human body that smell nice, like... like...
...Actually, thinking about it, there isn't a single organ, fluid or emission occurring naturally in the human body that smells nice. And that's weird, y'know. Are we that way for a purpose? Was smelling nasty supposed to be some kind of defense mechanism? Actually, considering that we piss ourselves when frightened, that could well be the case. Once again, however, the lack of evolution in the human race has left us with useless abilities. When was the last time a bank raider was disarmed by a hostage industriously pissing themselves? When was the last time the audience at a school play has been scared off by a spreading damp patch on the trousers of a mortified six-year-old actor? At best you get laughed at. At worst you then have to spend the rest of the day wearing your P.E. shorts.
thing reminds me of this time in German class when a
friend of mine was about to partake in an oral exam with
our pretty young German teacher. Feel free to use the
following space to write your own joke about that:
We're not friends any more, by the way.
Sorry, I was talking about the hot weather. You know what the good thing is about hot weather, besides women wearing progressively less clothing or your boss buying you ice creams? Well, it's... actually, I think that about sums up the good things about hot weather.
So, in summary, I wish it was winter. Cold weather you can deal with. You just wear a million layers of clothing and you're lovely and snug. With hot weather, on the other hand, the most you can do is take all your clothes off, and when you do that, you burn to a crisp and get arrested.
Have you seen the Daily Mail lately? Probably not if you're not reading from Britain, but if you have, you'll no doubt have noticed the 'National Referendum' they've been screaming about for the last christ-knows-how-many days. Apparently they're a bit pissed off that our government is not having a proper referendum to decide on our entry into Europe, so the Daily Mail are making do with a pretend one. It's kind of like playing Doctors and Nurses, only they're holding it in the middle of Wembley Stadium and shouting that anyone who doesn't join in is a wanker.
God, I don't know... there's always someone determined to spoil my fun. This no-referendum thing is just about the only thing Blair's done that I'm in favour of. We all know that the British people would never vote 'yes' to joining the EU, regardless of the economic advantages therein, because of the xenophobic fuckwits who make up a disconcertingly vast slice of the population. I'm talking about people who paint crosses of St. George on their face and respond to football matches by destroying cities and going "BLOOOOOOOOOOOOO! BLAAAAAAAAARRG!!" into TV news cameras. Keep the important decisions to the people with all their faculties intact and leave the drool parade to their Big Brother and their Carling Black Label.
Britain can't afford to not be part of a new international superpower, and the Daily Mail's "vote for whoever you want as long as it's Britain" attitude isn't helping matters. Can't they see that our glory days are behind us? Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride. There's a truckload of good reasons to join Europe, and I'm just going to go and think of one while I read this week's Private Eye.
Right, got one. If we join Europe, the heavyweights of international culture will have combined into an unstoppable colossus with a monopoly over all forms of art.
What am I drivelling about now? Well, I have this theory that every country in Europe is famous for a different kind of artistic expression. France can boast to have produced the greatest painters in the world. Germany, the greatest composers. Britain, the greatest writers. Switzerland, the greatest... erm... chocolate. And cuckoo clocks. Anyway, if we all band together, no other nation on this Earth can match us culturally. We can become the biggest snobs ever! Like the way all the Power Rangers would combine to make Megazoid, Europe combined will generate some kind of culture snob vortex in which all other international art is destroyed like so many handkerchiefs in a nuclear furnace. That's our destiny, man: to be the invincible behemoth of unnecessary decoration!
But none of this means a thing to the aforementioned lager generation, whose idea of 'culture' is throwing up on the street Ballykissangel was filmed on.
The answer is to take down the figurehead. The monarchy. For some reason, having a monarchy makes the owner think they're somehow superior to those who don't (in this respect not unlike religious belief). Disband it, and bingo, national pride goes in the bin and we can enjoy humble pie with our European cousins. But, if you'll pardon the rhetoric, how? The Royal Family will never be brought down by grass-roots political methods, not anytime soon. We need some sudden, drastic event.
I suppose I could try and blow them all up in one fell swoop. But that would mean making them some kind of martyrs; remember the Diana rigmarole. No, I have to discredit them.
Most of the Royals have done enough discrediting on their own, what with shagging who they shouldn't and wiping their immaculate bums with great handfuls of taxpayer's dosh. Most of them are universally despised. Only two members of the current setup retain public sympathy; the Queen herself, and Prince William, whose 21st birthday is coming up soon. I have a solution that will see both these two removed while utterly destroying the monarchy's foundations.
Ladies and gentlemen: FRAME PRINCE WILLIAM FOR THE QUEEN'S MURDER.
The Queen's sympathy rating will skyrocket, but that's acceptable as she'll be too dead to be a threat. The heir to the throne revealed as a psychotic homicidal loon will end the public notion that the royals are somehow a higher class of being. The Prince will be locked safely away, and after the Queen is six feet under and the initial shock dies down, the first few newspaper columns will roll in ... articles in a "Does England still need a monarch" vein ... public unrest ... paparazzi character assassination ... after that, it's only a matter of time.
Holy shit. I know I gave up on this idea, but I'm starting to think that maybe I SHOULD rule the world.
You know what Angular Mike has needed all this time? A love interest.
material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw