Japanese artist ryokuchamichi, also known as Green Tea Area, leads a double life.
Not only do they draw rather lovely ecchi art with a particular focus on squishy plump girls and silky sheer hosiery (see their somewhat NSFW Twitter), they also have a talent for paying homage to the classic 8-bit home console era with their own original games.
At the time of writing, we’ve already seen the SameGame-inspired endless puzzler Dig Dig Mine; now, get ready for DEPA★PAKU, a platformer that feels even more like a lost NES title.
Green Tea Area, as we shall refer to the creator hereafter, describes DEPA★PAKU as a “dot-eating” game. This might conjure up images of top-down maze games such as Pac-Man, but in fact what we have here is a side-on slightly-more-than-single-screen platformer where you have to collect specific items rather than following a continuous trails of dots.
In DEPA★PAKU, whose name stems from the Japanese words depaato (department store) and paku (onomatopoeia for eating — the same origin as Pac-Man’s name), you take on the role of a girl named Kaede who, apparently, is extremely hungry. And the only things that will sate her hunger are the bananas, cheese, fish and carrots that have been carelessly left lying around the various floors of a series of rather labyrinthine department stores.
Kaede moves continuously left or right; it’s impossible to stop her, and if she runs into a solid wall, she’ll immediately turn around. You can, however, make her jump by pressing the appropriate button, and she is also able to climb up or down staircases, stand on escalators (which only ascend) and make use of elevators. You’ll need to use all of these methods to navigate the increasingly complex levels and locate all the food items in order to proceed.
This wouldn’t be a “dot-eater” without some sort of opposition, however, and here it comes in the form of four animals that correspond to the four types of food. Monkeys like bananas, mice like cheese, cats like fish and rabbits like carrots.
These enemy animals appear from the sides of the screen and wander around the department store; they’re immediately fatal if Kaede touches them and they’re too tall to jump over, so you’ll have to find ways around them. To make matters worse, the aroma of the last thing Kaede ate attracts the relevant type of animal; this becomes particularly troublesome when passing staircases, as your foes can easily leap up or down them before you can react, so it’s always best to give them as wide a berth as possible.
Kaede isn’t completely defenceless, though. Scarfing down three food items causes her to start flashing, at which point she is able to shoot out a musical note in the direction she’s facing, which will move slowly across the floor she’s on, taking out any enemies in its path until it reaches the edge of the level. Much like with Pac-Man’s power pills, the more enemies you defeat in a single attack, the more points you’ll score, so mastering the art of manipulating the enemies using aromas — or at the very least trying to time your shots so you bag two or more at a time — is essential to obtaining high scores.
In the vein of the early NES games, DEPA★PAKU offers a “GAME A” and a “GAME B”, with the latter being more challenging but otherwise identical in mechanics. Scores for both modes are tracked independently of one another, too, allowing you the opportunity to see how your skills are developing in both game variations separately.
The audio-visual aesthetic perfectly captures the characteristic look and feel of classic NES games; from the slightly “off-square” aspect ratio to the chunky, all-caps fonts and the limited colour palette, the overall appearance of the game is distinctive and memorable, and some catchy — if somewhat deliberately discordant — chiptunes complement the on-screen action well.
It plays well, too; the controls are responsive and the mechanics are straightforward to understand. Mastering them is another matter, of course — but it was ever thus for classic 8-bit games; the best games of this era were easy to learn but hard to excel at.
Pleasingly, the perpetual movement of Kaede provides an interesting twist on the usual platform game formula, giving DEPA★PAKU the distinct feeling that it is trying to be its own unique thing rather than just aping a classic title from the ’80s; at the same time, the overall feel of the experience is one of loving homage and authenticity. The best of both worlds, for sure.
If there’s a nitpick to be made it’s that the collision detection between Kaede and her foes is perhaps a little too enthusiastic at times. When suffering a defeat on a stairwell, for example, it’s not uncommon to see a couple of pixels’ clearance between the two sprites, which can sometimes feel a little unfair.
That said, this harshness does encourage you to play a little differently after you suffer it a few times; in contrast to Dig Dig Mine’s strong emphasis on risk versus reward, DEPA★PAKU feels much more like it rewards quick thinking and forward planning rather than just charging in and hoping for the best. While I’d hesitate to call it “cerebral” — it’s still very much an arcade-style game at its core — it’s definitely less of a frantic affair than its stablemate, and more one where you can — and should — take the time to plan your routes a bit more carefully.
DEPA★PAKU is further proof that Green Tea Area not only knows and respects the classic 8-bit console era, they truly understand what made the games of that time period so enjoyable and addictive. This is one of those games that you can quite easily sit down for a quick play on before bed, only to look up and discover a couple of hours have passed in the never-ending pursuit of the perfect high score.
If you’re in the mood for some quick-hit, arcadey fun, be sure to check out DEPA★PAKU on Green Tea Area’s Booth store, where you can pick it up for the princely sum of just ¥200 (about $2). And not an ad or microtransaction in sight — which these days is cause for celebration!
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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