tailofthesun1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Tail of the Sun for the Sony PlayStation, published by Artdink and released in the United States in April 1997.]

Wild, pure, simple crap.

Artdink is no stranger to this site, having been responsible for some of gaming's more interesting efforts during its 13-year reign as publisher of niche titles. For all the innovation and fresh ideas present in Artdink's games, however, there's no denying that many of these titles are acquired tastes at best, and can be actively unlikable at worst.

Tail of the Sun is one of Artdink's hardest games to defend. It's not for everyone, and what little enjoyment you'll glean from it will likely be of the ironic variety. If you can appreciate the comedy inherent in watching a narcoleptic caveman being mauled to death when he falls asleep during a fight with a mammoth, however, Tail of the Sun could be worth your time.

tailofthesun2.jpgBetter living through baked goods.

Back in the prehistoric era, there apparently wasn't much to do other than eat, sleep, and die. Consequently, this is what you'll spend the bulk of your time doing in Tail of the Sun. Controlling one member of a growing tribe of cavemen at a time, you'll venture out into the chunky polygonal landscape in search of nourishing cookies scattered throughout the land, in order to feed your hungry family back home.

Yes, cookies. In one of Tail of the Sun's more bizarre twists, a core element of gameplay involves the collecting and eating of cookies -- all of which were officially licensed from a Japanese bakery and rendered with a loving attention to detail, according to an in-game advertisement. These cookies, when eaten, will enhance the abilities of all of your tribesmen, allowing them to hit harder, run faster, and swim for more than a few seconds without drowning.

Once your tribe becomes strong enough to travel to the far north without dropping dead of exhaustion halfway, so begins your search for mammoth tusks. By hunting down the mammoths of the north and slapping them until they explode, your caveman can gather their tusks and begin to construct a tower, with the goal being to build it high enough to reach the sun.

It's unlikely you'll get to this point, however, as the game's glacial pace is all but an immediate turn-off, and is a problem that's only compounded by your character's habit of falling asleep at any given moment. This will lead to cheap deaths that are somehow hilarious in their tragedy; there's nothing that can be done to prevent your character from drowning after he falls asleep while swimming, so why not laugh about the futility of it all?

This is the most exciting screenshot I could find out of the 100 or so I took.Oh look it's a mammotZZZZZZZ

As one of the few living and sane humans who has ever played Tail of the Sun to completion (look, I was a bored teenager who would rent damn near anything during the PlayStation era so long as it was new, all right?), I can say that the ending is totally worth it. The game features multiple endings depending on how well you accomplished your goals; the one I received was a surrealistic description of how my tribe eventually murdered and cannibalized itself into extinction. I guess spending much of the game beating my tribesmen to death out of boredom wasn't such a good idea after all.

While Tail of the Sun may have just barely been entertaining enough to finish back upon its first release, it's difficult to imagine anyone having the patience to do so nowadays. The long load times, lulling atmosphere, and real-time sleep simulation all do their part to make the game as off-putting as possible. Still, it could be fun with the right group of friends. Try seeing what happens when you let your caveman fall asleep at the top of a mountain sometime. It's good stuff!

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]