Turn on, tune in... trip over
It must be 1am. I mean, I know it's 1am somewhere, but it's only at that time of night that you stumble into the strange section of the TV scheduling, or follow a trail of hyperlinks too far into the internet and find yourself looking at random objects that look like gaming executives. But you've fallen down the rabbit hole so you may as well look at the weird vector rabbit.
PlayStation has seen more than its fair share of strange games. Most of them actually seemed perfectly logical at the time, but looking back, we were living in strange days indeed. And the chances are you never played them. Good job, really. Few that did survived with their sanity intact...
Vib Ribbon (PSone, 1999)
The first PlayStation was like the Wild West of games consoles. Even though games were stumbling through the 2D door into 3D polygon land, it still didn't cost that much to make a game. You could still do something small, simple and brilliant with the hardware. Vib Ribbon is the perfect example of that.
You load up the game, then take the game disc out of the PlayStation. Like a Spectrum or a Commodore 64, all the game data is stored in the system's RAM. You then put in a CD of music any music and the soundwaves of the song itself are translated into level data. That is brilliant. Good news is, Vib Ribbon is coming back. We need more games with this level of invention.
No-one Can Stop Mr Domino (PSone, 1998)
This is amazing. Mr Domino is an anthropomorphised domino (as his name would admittedly suggest), who runs around a naturalistic tabletop circuit in a style reminiscent of Micro Machines V3. But it's more than that. It's got 'endless runner' DNA in it.
OK, so each level does end eventually, but before it does, you're forced to run laps of the track, trying to collect tiles and create domino combos in your wake. The physics are remarkable for a PSone game (they're probably canned animations, but hey-ho), the graphics are lovely and the rendered intro is clearly the result of someone who really cared about the idea of a Domino running around stuff.
Stretch Panic/Freak Out (PS2, 2001)
This game is made by Treasure, that incredibly talented team that made such classics as Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga. In those games, the screen is full of bullets and explosions. But in this game, you have a possessed scarf that tweaks the nipples of massively oversized breasts. I swear I'm not making this up.
The nipple tweaking is only a weak, 'blue' level attack. You actually want to get round the back of these demon women and pull their ponytail with your scarf. The resulting snap-back does red damage. Oh, and those massively oversized breasts can act as helicopter blades to propel the demons to safety. If it sounds sordid, I *think* it's actually meant to be a social commentary on our obsession with vanity. No, really.
Pinobee (PSone, 2002)
Sonic the Hedgehog's designer, Naoto Oshima is one of several former Sega employees to break away and start up a (now sadly defunct) studio, Artoon. And Artoon made Pinobee for PSone. So this is almost a Sonic Team game. And you know what? It looks like it too. Pinobee is a smooth, tightly-controlled 2D platformer, which lets you zoom about above the ground whenever you like, boosting around freely in the air and collecting flower icons.
The idea of an unfinished robot bee trying to rescue its kidnapped master is the sort of weird developers have forgotten how to come up with these days. So it's sad to say after a Japan-only GBA sequel, Pinobee disappeared. Mind you, even the original didn't get released in the US, instead hitting Japan and the UK. Maybe the US wasn't ready to accept an unfinished robot bee.
Clone (Net Yaroze PlayStation, circa 1998)
I wrote an article (and made a lovely video) about the best Net Yaroze games that were developed by PSone's burgeoning indie community, but Clone stands out as being one of the weirdest games I've ever seen. It's a 'Doom clone', as every first-person shooter was dubbed at the time, which is probably what gave it its name. That, and the horrifying army of clone enemies.
These things are revolting. They have transparent flesh and missing bones. And googly eyes. Oh god, they won't stop coming! Worst of all, if you get to the end of all the levels programmed into the game, it just loops round to the first level. THE. NIGHTMARE. NEVER. ENDS.
Mr Mosquito (PS2, 2001)
Ah, Mr Mosquito. He's a mosquito, don't you know? And mosquitoes like to suck the blood of unsuspecting mammals. Of course, any mammal that finds out their blood is in the process of being sucked out of them will likely swat said mosquito to its death. Sounds like a video game, doesn't it? No? Well, tough it is one.
So, playing as an actual mosquito, you must fly around rooms in the Yamada family's house, waiting for an opportune moment to home in on their exposed flesh and suck yourself silly. There is actually a sequel where you can target any area of the body, whereas in the original here there are designated areas. And yes, this is getting very weird. Let's move on
Bishi Bashi Special (PSone, 1998)
Before WarioWare was a thing, Bishi Bashi Special had already perfected the formula. Fast-paced, batshit-insane microgames are thrown at you as you try to figure out what you're supposed to be doing before the timer runs out and you're deemed a failure because you didn't eat enough ramen.
Best of all, there's a competitive element, as a second player can join in. Playing it now, it's full of all kinds of things that push my video game happy buttons. The pixelly resolution of the low-colour images, the flaky scaling effects and the hand-drawn art. It's a lovely thing and the world is better for its existence. Or is it? Mash X to decide! MASH IT. Sorry, too late - you failed. Onto the next slide! Ready?
Gregory Horror Show (PS2, 2003)
I was about to say 'this is a strange one', but then I remembered that's what this feature is all about. So this is one. Yes. Anyway, it scored very highly on the WTF scale when put in front of our panel. They were weirded out by the Spongebob-shaped character heads, the weird eponymous Gregory mouse thing oh yes, and the 'Nekozombie' cat that has all its holes sewn shut. Meeouch.
If you're wondering why it's called the Gregory Horror Show, it's because there's a cartoon called the Gregory Horror Show, from which this game is a spin-off. Makes perfect sense. As does having to stealthily sneak around the hotel's guests so you can steal their souls. Which are kept in jars. What do you mean, yours isn't? Didn't you realise? I stole it from you while you were reading slide 2! Mwahahahaha...
Seen any more?
That was not an exhaustive list. I mean, have you heard about that game where loads of men run around on a field, deliberately crashing into each other and trying to move an odd-shaped ball from one end to the other? Some of these concepts are so far-fetched, you'd only find them in games. Yep.
And if you're looking for more, check out The weirdest spin-offs in gaming history and The strangest things to fall from the sky in video games.