Label Art Work["I often import games from abroad and play them. On such occasions, my imagination is sometimes stimulated more as I don't understand the language.” – Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. 'The Gaijin Restoration' is a weekly examination of underappreciated Eastern games that never cross to Western shores. This week's title is Baito Hell 2000 from SCEI. It was released in late 2005 for the PSP in Japan.]

Work Ethnic
I've been blessed with cerebral vocations. Even in high school I was a pharmacy technician, a job within the prestigious medical sphere. I got to learn about, handle, and dispense drugs, deal with insurance and grapple with an archaic UNIX system, which seemed to validate my clandestine 2600 magazine collection. (Still, a majority of the job was about counting in fives.) College led to the volatile world of the House Chair - think RA without the snitching or the free housing - and operating 16mm projectors. (I, a machinist!) Post college has led to the delicate world of montage theory spliced together with interactive entertainment. (And lots of playing games.) Still, I have a fondness for a December night spent in a NYC bar a friend tended. Free drinks aside, at the end of the night, we had the task of discriminating hundreds of beer bottles by their color. If there can be happiness in slavery, then the zen-head lives in repetitive manual labor.

vibThis brings us to SCEI's Baito Hell 2000. The title has also been translated as 'Byte Hell 2000,' but is a reference to 'arubaito', meaning part-time work. While initially touted as the PSP Wario Ware, it's really its own beast. Wrapped in surreal menus of flatulent grim reapers, sentient mushrooms and the like, offering a variety of minigames, it lacks both the linearity and the acceleration of Wario's sweatshop. With only a handful of minigames open at the beginning, you gain money for doing these paltry tasks, which are then spent on vending machines, sickly reminiscences of Shenmue's various games of chance. Also, like Shenmue, you may want to win Outrun (a new minigame), but more often than not it's a various iconic bauble, and for a hat trick of Shenmue similarities, you seem to get these less interesting trophies as repeats fairly often and fairly early.

The games are where things get interesting, as well as tedious, and often boring. The opening set has you collecting mushrooms on a highway, Frogger-style. The mystery of why there is so much fungus on the freeway is never revealed. It's easy enough and more often than not, you find yourself ending the game on purpose to collect your meager wages. Not to say all the games are devoid of challenge. Soon, you will be fielding grounders, and chopping wood while avoiding chopping rabbits, puppies and forest dwelling dolphins. Not to say all the games have any sort of challenge. One banal activity has you putting caps on pens, while a counter on the bottom of the screen tallies your work. The counter can count roughly somewhere between zero and a googleplex (the number, not the website.) The background consists of an assembly of women in hairnets. Still another poses you as the marine from Doom (see screenshot) counting how many biological people (no robots or ducks) have walked by. It's a bit a like that Brain Training exercises, but rather silly.

The Pleasure of Understanding

vibThe best games are the ones that require you to figure out exactly what you are doing. While Wario barks out a beacon verb at the start of each game, this isn't always the case in Baito Hell 2000. The wrestling match disapproves of you winning, but pays out poorly for a devastating loss. The people here want a show. You gotta throw the match, but with finesse of a vaudevillian. As the ref counts to your defeat, the closer you approach the final countdown before escaping the double nelson means the more photographers come out to photograph this dramatic battle, and the more the crowd goes wild. In other words, it's like The Sting without the Joplin. It's these minigames that make Baito Hell a satisfying game to plod through, even if it means spending a couple of minutes putting caps onto pens.

No Sex In Your Violence

no alt textLanguage is a barrier at times, with Angel dating sims being text heavy, but in general, it's a game one can get through using brute force and a handy hand in repetition. Not really a Wario Ware clone, I see a deeper analogy with the Japanese art of Chindogu, the un-useless invention. There's a beauty and a perversion in this game, developed by a duo of musicians, a distinctly modern Japanese pastiche, with its roots sipping zen. (Special thanks to Ted Reguliski for recommanding this game. Apologies for the poor quality of the screenshots, as PSP capture still leaves a bit to be desired.)

[Ryan Stevens is the associate producer on the various Cinematech shows on G4TV, which showcases many of the games written about here. He's been known to do the collaborative blog thing at That's Plenty.]