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Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: December 23, 2000
Ever have “one of those days?” Ever feel like your head’s about to explode because things just keep piling up on top of one another? Ever been seduced by a vixen in a red dress, or escaped from a hostage situation while trying to get home for your mother’s birthday? If you answered “yes” only to the first two of these questions, then Titus and Polygon Magic have teamed up to make you feel much better about the overall quality of your daily routine with their offering Incredible Crisis.
In his own words, as taken from the manual, Taneo Tanamatsuri is a simple man who just wants people to leave him alone to do his work with minimal effort. His life consists of his work and his family, which is made up of Grandma, his wife Etsuko and children Ririka and Tsuyushi. Normally, this desk jockey’s day-to-day existence is forgettable at best, but all that changes with Grandma’s announcement that it’s her birthday at the beginning of Incredible Crisis. Since the entire family has forgotten this event, no one has made any special plans, but they quickly recover and prepare for a special family meal that evening. As they escape to the supermarket, work and school, Grandma’s simple request that they all come home early that day rings in all of their ears. They leave, and thus begins the worst day in their collective lives.
Incredible Crisis is, essentially, a collection of mini games designed to test its players’ reflexes, timing, and hand eye coordination. There are moments that require rapid button mashing, while others require lighting fast reactions, but the majority require both at once, making these tests no easy matter to pass. In one game, players must press a braking button in a falling elevator by pounding on their X buttons, while dodging safes, debris and masonry falling through the elevator’s ceiling. Another plays out like Beach Head as the player controls an emplaced flak cannon to shoot down enemy missiles streaking towards a friendly alien mothership. Yet another takes place on a busy highway where a barely under control stretcher must dodge collisions with construction signs, cars and motorcycles. There’s even a trivia component where two paramedics check to see if Taneo is conscious by asking him a series of questions. Answer two in a row wrong, and the diligent doctors liberally apply the cardio paddles to Taneo’s chest in an effort to keep him both alive and accurate.
There’s more to Incredible Crisis than just the puzzles, however: Between each challenge a cutscene establishes the setting for the next one. All of the above incidents involve the first of four chapters, which follows Taneo on his voyage home. Later chapters star Etsuko and the children, but regardless of the current character, each twist of the story is bound together by a common theme of disaster. As Mel Brooks noted, however, “comedy is when someone else falls down a manhole; tragedy is when I cut my finger,” and the disastrous events in the Tanamatsuris’ day are some of the funniest situations you’ll ever find on a PlayStation. Taneo, for example, begins his day with a group dance session that has been deemed relaxing by his corporate masters. Shortly thereafter, the poor man is chased down a hallway by a runaway concrete sphere, forced to walk on a precariously mounted horizontal flagpole and later he is blown out of an exploding Ferris Wheel gondola and forced to bail water out of a sinking fishing boat. Each of the other family members endures a similar set of trials; Etsuko’s story, for example, begins with her desperate escape from armed gunmen holding up the supermarket, and continues as the vigilant robbers force her to uncover the mysteries of the Golden Piggy Bank at gunpoint. It’s hard to describe exactly what’s so funny about the vignettes without having them as a visual reference, but chances are you’ll be chuckling right from the opening.
The story’s progress is divided into chapters, and at the end of each lays an evaluation and a chance to save your progress. Incredible Crisis only gives players a limited number of lives in which to complete the game. Some of the tasks have obvious failure conditions, such as an expiring time limit, or the protagonist having been mashed into a pulp. Others are regulated by the stress meter, which fills up as the hero’s situation worsens and drains when they feel in control. For example, in the dancing sequence a missed move bumps the stress meter up, while a properly timed move lowers it again. If the meter tops out, the character goes insane and another life is lost. After each chapter is completed and saved, the mini-games of which it was composed unlock in a special mode that skips the story and proceeds right to the challenge. Completing chapters also gives players a chance to examine their performance and possibly garner an extra life or two for a spectacular performance.
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