I have no career in waste management

So, I had a friend come over yesterday for the sole purpose of wasting our entire evening away, controllers in hand.

Usually this is when I pull out some FPS or another that is too hard for me in single player and we burn through it in co-op mode.  I’m not too proud to admit that.

This time, though, I didn’t have any FPSes on the “to play” stack, so I was at something of a loss.

What I wound up doing, on something of a whim, was downloading a game called “gomi bako” from the Japanese PSN, with the idea being that I’d heard good things about it and that it would probably keep us entertained for a couple of hours – and by then, maybe we’d have an idea for something else to play.

Then we spent the next six hours playing nothing but gomi bako, until we managed to clear the single-player mode.

On easy “Sweets” difficulty, I will admit.

It’s a bizarre game on a couple of counts.  It’s fundamentally a dropping-things puzzle game, but it owes a hefty chunk of its lineage to Katamari Damacy.  The playfield is a trash can, of steadily increasing size – the first level puts you in a trash can underneath a desk in an office, the next level is a dumpster at the same office, the level after that puts you on the street outside and so on – into which things fall.

The idea is to, as things drop in, hit fragile things with less fragile things, breaking the more fragile thing into smaller pieces, and then pound the bigger, less fragile objects with things until IT breaks, and so on, reducing the volume of trash in the can and hopefully making it so you can get all the trash from the level to fit.

This sounds a little dull, but – like Katamari – the objects you have to deal with tend to be a little weird.  Pummeling a swan boat with old televisions to break it has a certain charm.

You lose when three things can’t fit in the trash can.

Periodically – if you’re playing on normal difficulty – you get something big and quite difficult to break dropped in, and then you have 10 seconds to break it or you get penalty objects dropped on you.  There are also things which shouldn’t be thrown away, and you have to gently put them within reach of a helper who will take them out of the trash.

Where it gets really fun is when it adds fire and explosives.

See, it’s hard to break EVERYTHING – some things are tremendously resiliant – and the trash can fills up pretty quickly.  This is why the game occasionally gives you things like lighted cigarettes, which you can drop on to burnable trash to light your can on fire.  This clears out trash nice and quick like, and if you drop something into the whole mess like, say, a propane tank, it will clear out your entire can while also flattening nearby buildings.

This is glorious fun.

The downside is, burning trash generates CO2, which is shown in the background of the level as increasingly bad weather conditions, and which counts against you at the end of the level.  So, it’s easier to win if you sacrifice the environment, which is I guess kind of the message here.  It’s a subtle and insidious way to point out that the best way to deal with trash is not to generate it in the first place.

Leaving aside the Real Message of the game, it is well worth playing.  The stuff you drop in to your bin is brightly colored and generally weird, you are cheered on and mocked by a cadre of small alien creatures in hard hats, and the music is upbeat and catchy.

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