Ka: Yamada-ke No Natsu was released by Sony late last year in Japan. And despite everything we thought we knew about big publishers' localization practices, a US version is imminent. This is thanks to Eidos' new Fresh Games label--a boutique imprint of sorts--apparently dedicated to bringing these types of things to North American audiences. Previously familiar only to gamers equipped with an import connection and a suitably enabled PS2, games like Ka will presumably begin to work their way into our game libraries. Suitably localized, of course.
In the US, Ka is referred to as Mister Mosquito. The object of the game is to infiltrate a human household, as the titular insect, and nourish yourself with the household's blood. The family in question is the Yamadas, from Japan, whose unit is composed of a father, mother, and daughter. You'll normally deal with each family member individually, being the proverbial fly on the wall as they do their thing and waiting for them to expose the right spots. But you'll be dealing with a human-sized environment, and since you're the size of a mosquito, this can be quite hazardous; all kinds of obstacles stand in your way, everything from soapy bath bubbles to poisonous mosquito repellent. Not to mention the humans themselves--once they become wary of your assault on their comfort, they'll do everything in their considerable power to swat you into nonexistence. The way of the parasite is subtle indeed, so your success depends solely on precision and patience.
As you've no doubt imagined, you'll be doing a good bit of flying around. This works much like it would in certain plane-based flight games. The left stick controls your pitch and your roll if you pretend you're controlling an airplane instead of a mosquito. The shoulder buttons control acceleration and deceleration. All things considered, you'll find that you can speed up and slow down very effectively. Finally, you'll find that the R2 and circle buttons have some auxiliary functions--a quick 180 degree turnaround and an "attack" button. The latter is what you use to interact with everything in the game's environment; you'll use it to land on an exposed piece of flesh or hit the "on" switch on a radio.
The game's "levels" take the form of rooms within the Yamada residence. You'll find yourself in their basements, bedrooms, and bathrooms as you study their behaviors and feast on their vital fluids. From a flying insect's point of view, these mundane environments are enormous and daunting. You're able to fly in between valleys of furniture and hide under many gigantic structures, such as space heaters and stereos. As you'd expect from a Japanese dwelling, each room is actually quite compact, but they're also quite dense with objects. You'll have plenty of places to stake out as a result--the levels seem to have been designed around this sort of thing. Each individual level effectively pits you against a particular member of the Yamada family, and, as they become aware of (and eventually quite terrorized by) your presence, you'll find that the levels become much more hazardous. Early on, you'll encounter easy pickings--for instance, in an early stage, the teenage daughter is loafing in bed--but things get comparatively more complicated. Before you know it, the Yamadas are rigging their rooms with poisonous mosquito repellent and carrying deadly insecticide.
Ultimately, the point of each stage is to drain a certain amount of blood from the host in question. Vital to doing so successfully is learning your target's behavioral patterns and figuring out how best to attack them once they're exposed. The game mechanics that govern the act of bloodsucking are pretty interesting. First, you have to catch sight of a potential spot to attack. These are highlighted by squares on the Yamadas' bodies, whose colors change from green to red when you're able "target" them. Once you're locked on, you press the circle button to zoom in for the kill. Once on the victim's body, you simply hit the R3 button to insert your needle and begin to suck. The sucking mechanic is very amusing. Once your needle is in, you have to rotate the right analog stick to keep the flow of blood steady. There's a meter that you have to watch as you do this, though, which informs you as to your ideal suck rate by means of a moving "hot spot." If you suck too quickly or slowly, you'll move outside of the spot, which will either cause you to lose contact or alert your host of your presence. The latter, as you'd expect, results in instant death more often than not. It pays to keep an eye on your victims as well, though, as they'll often instinctually swat you regardless of how steady your needle is. The game's viewpoint changes when you're in drain mode, luckily, allowing you to see your spot on their body in a zoomed-in view, complete with the proper meters.
In any event, you'll have to drain a given number of "tanks" from your host to complete a level. If you're not careful as you buzz about, though, you'll be spotted. If you are spotted and allow yourself to remain under extended human scrutiny, you'll likely get attacked. When this happens, you'll enter battle mode, in which you have to contend with a human who's wary--and likely very angry--about your particular brand of pestilence. What results is a minisequence within a stage in which you'll have to defuse the situation. Basically, the humans start to swat at you, and you must dodge their attacks while aiming for their "relax points"--designated spots on their bodies which, when hit, cause them to forget about your presence. These relax points are marked with glowing red wisps on their bodies, so you'll have no trouble figuring out where to point your nose. Attacking them is identical to interacting with any object in the game's world: you simply target it and zoom into it with the circle button. Battles are easier to avoid in certain levels, though they seem quite impossible to avoid in others.
Mister Mosquito is no doubt a very amusing game. The whole matter is very lighthearted, and some of the scenarios are quite clever. You'll often find the members of the Yamada family in some very compromising positions, to put it lightly. As the game was released in Japan a few months ago, the version we received was essentially complete, except for some minor localization work still to be done. Graphically, the game is pretty simple, but everything moves at a nice, brisk rate, and the Yamadas' individual models are detailed enough, if sort of disturbingly human at times. If you're interested in seeing some of the more whimsical products of the games industry, you should definitely keep an eye out for this one.