best indie game out there. very original.
NNB is a sandbox game where you.... have this kind of stretchy snake thing with a little cute/scary face that just sort of exists.. and there are many things you can do with, or using, BOY. he is basically a sort of 'extendable digestive system'. BOY processes stuff.. cats, cars, mushrooms, houses, dogs, octopuses, octodogs, etc. he can gobble anything up, and then 'eject' it out the other end. the more you make BOY eat, the larger he gets. growth isn't just about size and mass though, it's also about length. instead of making BOY fat and big, you can make him long and thin. whatever you do with him/to him, it has different gameplay effects and results, or else opens up gameplay opportunities.
there is a larger, over-arching goal though, but it's a collective one. NNB is an online game, so there is a server that holds every players' information and how much they've stretched their BOYs. following this binary logic, there is a GIRL, but only one big, massive worm girl. GIRL grows as BOY grows, and GIRL is in outer space..and she searches out new planets. it might not make much sense, but basically, the more players grow their BOYS and report the daily length to the server, the more extra planets (levels) GIRL can access for everyone. it's a really unique use of online, and beautifully utopian in its ideals.. but it relys on the community. the community for the game is basically dying/dead. but anyway, i don't want to really talk about the 'meta-game' of NNB in this blog. the over-arching goal is not very important (it doesn't strike me as 'the point' of the game, and it isn't built as such...each planet is more or less, very similar gameplay-wise.
NNB is as sandbox as they come; go anywhere, do anything. it's really a game about playing. play takes over, and the only rigid rule structure is the physical rules that bind the world together. it's the first game i've played that i can call 'interactive art'.
most people of course grow BOY as long as they can. NNB being so free-form and open as it is, caters both to 'hardcore' players willing to spend half the day stretching to ridiculous, gravity-defying lengths, and to players who just want to 'trip out' after a long day. the many varied, and randomly generated levels each have their own vibe, and ambience - each one offering new possibilities for play.
there is a consistant problem with this 'ambition' though... there is this explorative journey that you go on to realize what you're playing, and what it is you're doing. after the initial few days of fun (after which most give up, claiming 'no point' to the game) and after the bizzare nature of the worlds and characters, i began thinking 'seriously' again... about what it was i was doing, and what i was going to do next.
i never played many of these open-world/sandbox games before. i played 'GTA' but i didn't really like it; not because i didn't understand it, but perhaps because i was overwhelmed with what could be done. i didn't like 'Oblivion' because i found it vacuously pretty, and then very boring. too much choice can put people off.
with NNB, because i had played 'Katamari Damacy', and because i liked the look of the graphics and the characters, i warmed to it even though it was bizzare and had no 'main'/unifying goal, or strict rule structure. i also liked the fact that BOY had such physically elastic properties (you can curl, and loop around stuff, and things move and shift and bounce when touched). 'GTA' was too gritty, too messy for my tastes back then.. 'Oblivion' too detailed.. too real.
there is a strong sense of impotence in NNB... and a huge sense of 'lack'. most games start you off as 'weak' and you progress to a 'strong' state over the course of the journey, but most games do that on more of a pragmatic level. NNB deals with ideas such as growth and consumption on a conceptual level. you do consume an elixir in FFXII, but the game is hardly based on consumption - what you're doing in FFXII is flicking the d-pad in the direction of an option, and pressing a button. in NNB, you're gorging on physical objects, in one visible arena.
NNB is very fun and always ridiculous, but you get to know it on a deeper level by using this "gamers' ambition" to push it. you feel you need to be longer or bigger, and to an extent you do. growth opens up more opportunities, but the game plays with you; undermines your progressive, ambitious streak. it's like the cops in GTA that come after you if you get too cocky. you'l have an idea and people will innocently just sort of jump on you, or unwittingly stall your progress by forming spectator groups or human barriers; it's almost an attack on the idea of linear progression, or of a world where everything can be logically and cleanly achieved, or won. of course.. this is NNB; it's more of a playful disruption, than an attack. BOY is a symbol of love, a kind of 'glue' that connects disperate objects. i'm using the term 'love' as in harmony, or 'togetherness', not so much the sentimental meaning of the word. BOY just wants you inside him; he wants to eat, to feel connected to the world. the world is nihilistic though, and morally blank...it is totally up to interpretation.
love makes things mushy.. it congeals and brings together. NNB is about a playfully disruptive, creative love.
i think it's pretty important that in an age of trophies and achievements, one game has the guts to actually be about playing, and not about collecting, or aquiring. NNB is nonsensical, but far from pointless. it is somewhat nihilistic, but doesn't completely abandon the players' desire to progress or succeed.
there are of course 'bad' points to the game.the camera takes getting used to, and never seems completely natural, and the game seems under-developed in some areas, but for £3, i can hardly argue. it's just a shame the community has almost completely dried up. i suppose its not all their fault - the game hasn't had that many updates since it came out this feburary. it's just a shame that this creative playing & sharing idea has been left untapped, or at least forgotton, in favour of new games. and like pac-man before it, it's with this very idea that NNB concerns itself with.
only in a video game...