05/04/2011

DANCING EYES

Dancing Eyes? Aww, that sounds nice, right? WRONG. Oh, to be as young and innocent as you are. I'm not young and innocent though, and that's because I've played Dancing Eyes.

Bear with me as I go off on a tangent. This is Qix:

You might well have played Qix, but if not, the basic concept is that you control a little cursor who moves around, drawing a line behind him. If you make a rectangle with your line, the rectangle gets filled in. Fill in a certain percentage of the play area and you win, let your line get touched by an enemy and you die. A simple concept that you're probably familiar with from one game or another. The reason I mention it is that Dancing Eyes is a lot like Qix, in that you have to draw a line to make rectangles that then disappear.
It's not that simple, though. Over in Glorious Japan, someone took a look at the Qix formula and decided, in their infinite wisdom, that something was missing. That something was creepy, voyeuristic sex appeal.

Any game that prompts you to select a girl at the beginning should worry you. I guess "You have the power, like a depraved and lustful god, to undress these girls and leer at their badly-animated polygonal forms from your unassailable throne in a dingy arcade. Select a girl to be your target!" was too long to fit on the screen.
Okay, here we go, girl selected.

For some unfathomable reason, she's a military officer standing in a car park full of tanks. I'm going to called her Corporal Susan. Corporal Susan here has some problems. One is that her uniform has been marked with a grid pattern, something which will surely incur the wrath of her superiors should they see it. Secondly, and most worrying, she has a tiny monkey crawling all over her.
The monkey is you: you can see said monkey in the bottom left of the screenshot above. As this lecherous monkey, your goal is to make this poor soldier's clothes fall off by drawing a line around the rectangles marked on said clothes. Surround a panel with your monkey trail, and that panel falls away, revealing the tender flesh beneath.

Get down from there, monkey! Once you've removed all the panels, the girls is left in her skivvies, shamed and tormented by a monkey with no reason to exist other than to humiliate army officers. Then you're "treated" to a "show time" mode, where you can move the camera around and zoom in on the girl. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

I know what you're thinking: she looks like she belongs in an early Playstation game. That's because Dancing Eyes runs on Namco's System 11 hardware, which is based on the Playstation and also brought to life such (significantly less rubbish) titles as Tekken and Soul Blade. The more you know, and all that. So, Dancing Eyes is was made by Namco. That's Namco who are now Namco Bandai, makers of toys for such innocent fare as Teen Titans and Ben 10. It's a bit like finding out Tomy once made novelty sex toys.

"No Touch", huh? Seems appropriate. And that's all there is to Dancing Eyes, really: fill in all the squares and move on to the next stage. It's not quite that simple, as there are enemies and power-ups to complicate matters, but really it's just you and a whole bunch of targets to pick from. There are three choices in each stage and about twelve stages, and you can get knotted if you think I'm going through all those. Instead, here's a selection of the most interesting one, and don't worry - it's not all lechery and a hollow feeling of shame.

Here's a rocker-type girl. Most importantly of all, she's wearing a Soul Edge/Blade shirt. Soul Blade was released in the same year as Dancing Eyes (1996). I would unironically like to own that t-shirt. Well, not that exact one, it's had a monkey ripping holes in it. In that shot, you can also see some of the enemies that will kill you if they touch you. One the left there's a white rabbit, the natural predator of monkeys in the wild. Up on the top right is a small green mouse. Screw you, mouse.

Ignore the girl, the background is much more interesting here. It's a poster with a picture what I assume is the development team above the phrase "The Innocent Darkside", which is a nickname for schizophrenic knight Siegfried from the Soul Blade series. Above that is what looks like Greek but is actually the word "PHELIOS" written in the Symbol font (here's an article about a secret message in Silent Hill 2 that uses the same system). Phelios is the name of an arcade shooter developed by, you guessed it, Namco. A sad fact but a true one: the backgrounds in Dancing Eyes are more interesting that the actual game.

Stage three, and what the hell is that?

"Get me the fuck out of here, you clown!"

Oh, Alice in Wonderland was trapped in a pile of leaves. Well, that makes sense. As you can see, not every stage in the game is a flimsy excuse to see a girl in their pants, and it's these slightly more bizarre stages that save Dancing Eyes from being a complete bust. And speaking of bizarre...

MILK POWER. It's an abbreviation, the full sentence reads "You just drank some MILK laced with POWERful hallucinogens."

Here is a mermaid who seems pretty relaxed about being eaten by a giant fish. She's made her peace with the world.

Just look at that snake's face. He's so pleased about eating a barbarian he just can't contain himself. He's imagining the looks on the faces of his freinds down at the snake pub when he tells them about the size of the barbarian he just ate. Barry Adder is going to be so jealous!

One for the ladies as the barbarian breaks free of his serpentine prison and, judging by his facial expression, stubs his toe on a rock.

Creepy twins trapped in a tree stump. What is it with blonde kids getting trapped in foliage in this game?

What the hell is that thing?

Oh no, it's seen us!

OH JESUS FUCK.

AARRRGGHHHHH.

Another one for the ladies, although his waistline might cause some envy. Look at that hourglass figure! Dita von Teese would be proud of that. And then you look closer and realise he's wearing a nappy.

Sure, it's a girl in her underwear, but look in the background: there's a picture of Taki from Soul Edge. Note to games developers: don't put things in the background of your game that makes people wish they were playing a different game.

Now we find the nest of the lesser-known Wasp Woman. Her life cycle is curious - she grows to maturity in a a hollow shell shaped like a wasp larva until she is ready to hatch, when a tiiiiiny monkey sneaks into the nest and slowly eats away at the shell.

The monkey's reward for performing this task? Not being stung to death by a giant Wasp Lady and a ten-pound Waterstones gift voucher.

Sticking with the creepy-crawly theme, a sexy slug girl. I sure hope the internet doesn't find out about this... what? They already have? Oh. Oh dear.

And here's what I can only describe as hardcore alien-on-human sex. Well. Honestly, I'm stumped. What can you say about this situation except what the fuck, man?

At least she seems to be enjoying herself. Of course, these aliens probably have acess to sophisticated mind-control devices, so I wouldn't put too much store in her facial expressions.

Here's another alien. That's not his head: that's his helmet that lets him breathe Earth's atmosphere. Your task is to remove said helmet, exposing him to conditions that prove fatal to members of his race.

Explosive decompression has never been so portrayed so disturbingly. You're one sick little monkey bastard.

The final stage is a man with a pineapple for a head, which just about sums everything up nicely.
And that's Dancing Eyes, or at least as much of it as I can bring myself to play through and discuss. Gameplay-wise, it's on the poor side of average; the mechnics of the game have been done better before, but if you try and avoid the "undress a girl" stages in favour of the weirder ones, it's just about tolerable.

The thing that baffles me about Dancing Eyes is the purpose of the "sexy" elements. As you can clearly see, the graphics fall a long way short of erotic. They're not even the slightest bit titillating, so why would you include them? Dancing Eyes would be a perfectly respectable game without the creepyness, so why not just stick with the wacky stages? Maybe I'm overestimating the kind of person who would choose to sit down in an arcade and put money into this machine, all for a brief glimpse of some badly-rendered polygons that may or may not represent breasts. As an arcade owner, why would you even have pornographic games in your arcade? Surely the sight (however uncommon it may be) of a salaryman furiously abusing himself while hunched over a Strip Mahjong or Pocket Gal machine would put you off forever.
Look, what I'm saying is Dancing Eyes is horrible. Don't play it. Even without the pointless nudity, it'd still be rubbish. Go and play Qix instead, or, I dunno, go and get some fresh air or something. I've suffered through this so you don't have to, and the least you could do is go and have a walk in the park or something.

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