Japan is weird. I honestly don’t care if you’re from the island nation or not, it’s kind of just a known fact that the country produces some incredibly bizarre stuff. And one of those things I’d heard about for a long time was a PS2 game called “Mister Mosquito”.
The game was released way back when in 2002 over here in the States, under Eidos’ “Fresh Games” label, to signify that it’s a much different game than normal. (I can only think of two other games to be released under the label, and those include the generic-looking RPG “Legend of Legaia 2”, and the quirky orchestral rhythm game “Mad Maestro!”.) Let’s just say that Mister Mosquito lives up to its weird label, and it manages to do this before you even get to the title screen.
And it just keeps getting more bizarre. After pressing start, you’re presented with a nearly-two-minute-long (sometimes un-skippable) monologue by the game’s female narrator, which sounds more like an anti-mosquito violence PSA than anything. It really seems like the whole point of this game is to try and show you that mosquitos aren’t as bad as society makes them out to be… like a less charming “Ratatouille”.
So the idea of the game is you’re playing as the eponymous character, who is spending his summer in the Yamada residence, sucking their blood in hopes of living through the winter. Natrually, the family doesn’t notice you at first, but as you continue through the game, they become increasingly aware, setting up more and more lethal (and sometimes batshit insane) ways of making sure you don’t make it through the summer alive.
You’d think this is some sort of cartoony platformer because of the box art, but it’s actually a flight sim of sorts. (Technically it’s a “mosquito-action simulator”, but for the sake of simplification… yeah.) You fly around whatever room your current target is in, exploring to find Heart Rings which eventually give you more life points, or to find Extra Tanks to fill up with blood so you can survive the winter ahead. However, your biggest priority is to suck blood from your victim efficiently without being seen or swatted.
As the humans move through their looping cycle of animations, sometimes designated points on their bodies will be highlighted by a red box (or sometimes you have to tamper with objects in the room to reveal these spots). When these show up, it’s your chance to fly in and auto-target the nearest spot, then to press Circle to quickly dash in and land on the skin. This is where a good bit of the challenge comes in: on the skin, you press R3 (clicking the right thumbstick in) to puncture, and then it’s a matter of rotating the right analog stick so that a white circle stays inside the blue area of a bar. The more you stay in the blue “comfort” area, the less aware the human is of you, and the longer you can suck undetected. A heart monitor shows you how at ease the human is, and if it starts to turn red, beware! If you’re slapped while sucking, it’s an instant-death.
Of course, you can be seen and attacked when flying around, and this is another weird gameplay mechanic. If a human gets too annoyed with you after being spotted (aka, you stay in their line of sight for too long), you’ll enter “Battle Mode”, where you have to home in and hit the humans’ “Relax Spots” in order to get them to calm down. It can be as easy as one Relax Point on their stomach, or as hard as three points, spread all over the body. You need to watch your flying when being chased in this manner, as being swatted will take off some of your hit points.
And I don’t really want to spoil how crazy the family’s attempts to kill you get, because that’s one of the funnier parts of the game. Let’s just say it starts off very “down-to-earth” and by the end, the battles get a little “out-there”. Also, to see the family get more and more frustrated with your successful harvests (in weird huddle-cam cutscenes) is great, as the voice-acting is in the “so-bad-it’s-good” territory. I mean, I know it’s a Japanese family, but I’m pretty sure no Japanese teenage girl would ever be caught saying “Oh no! My grasses!”
The controls are alright, I suppose, but they take some getting used to. It’s not strictly flight-sim stuff, but it works in the context of the game. R1 accelerates and L1 slows you down, and allows you to go in reverse if you’re not moving. The left stick steers you while the right stick sort of makes you strafe. The circle button is pretty much the only face button you’ll use while flying, (to home in on “hot spots” you can interact with), and the bloodsucking controls are pretty damn good and fun to use. The addition of L2 as a rear-view and R2 as a quick 180 turn button are helpful as well.
The graphics can be kind of bad. I mean, the game came out in 2001 in Japan, so it’s excusable that a game coming out here in 2002 might look this bad. Some of the human models (such as the daughter’s friend with the glasses) have weird shoulders or other features, and the items you can collect (especially the almost-essential Heart Rings) are REALLY damn small and hard to make out from a distance. Honestly, you’d be better looking up an FAQ if you’re trying to get as many Heart Rings as you can.
The music is strange, too. Some stages opt for a dramatic “you’re in danger” suspense track done in orchestral style, while some other levels just use weird-ass music. Yeah, when the daughter is practicing her punches and kicks in her room, the mock-Rocky theme is cute, but she also tends to listen to a lot of progressive jazz. As stated before, the voice acting is bad to the point that it’s often unintentionally hilarious, but since each stage only has a few lines that loop over and over every 20 seconds or so, (and many stages including a variation on “It’s hot” or “I’m bored”), it can get annoying at times. ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to fly around the room in search of treasures… expect to hear lines over and over again.
Mister Mosquito is a game completely deserving of the “Fresh Games” label, seeing as how Eidos created that label to publish odd Japanese games that may have never gotten a chance in the US. The game might not have been worth it back in the day (as it’s 2 hours long if you’re trying to speed through the game, and maybe 5 hours max if you’re trying to find all the items), but in this day and age where it can be found used for $2, it’s worth it for a laugh. Plus, it’s not even half-bad, there’s just some very “early-PS2” design decisions that make it just not-as-good as the games we have today. I can at least tell you there’s a level where you suck blood from the daughter while she’s in the bath, so pervs (or at least Matt) will play it.