Nippon Marathon review for PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PC
Also On: Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Publisher: PQube
Developer: Onion Soup Interactive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Japan is a land of rich history and culture, but if you?re not really into reading books and prefer to get an education through the internet video clips, Japan is a land of anime, zany ads and wacky game shows. I don?t want to make any assumptions (although I totally am right here), but I have a feeling the folks at Onion Soup Interactive are probably in that latter category. Their inaugural release, Nippon Marathon showcases the Land of the Rising Sun as of bombastic neon skylines, hot springs populated with overly aggressive snow monkeys.

Nippon Marathon is a physics based foot racing game where 4 characters compete reach the end of a course, the winner being the one with the most amount of points. How does one accrue these points? A racer can earn stars by being the last man standing after all the other racers have been forced them off screen. Being the racer that performs the most actions of a certain type during the race, such as grabbing and using items, running the longest distance without being eliminated. Also being the first person to cross the finish line will also help your cause and the final factor for calculating the post-race score would be the racer?s popularity which can fluctuate depending if the racer did things that pleased the audience. The game?s eight courses have plenty of obstacles to keep the races interesting, from turnstiles, earthquakes, exploding sake barrels, these items can turn the a race on its head, changing for the fortunes of any racers caught in its wake.

The game unfortunately will not be winning any best graphics awards and in fact it feels like the developers heavily leaned on pre-built assets. The character designs feel like they were lifted from a middle schooler?s sketch book. The four protagonist?s backstories feel like they were completely generated at random. They include a lobster man who yearns to travel the world, but is conflicted to maintain his deceased grandfather?s lobster farm, a young women who dresses like a narwhal who wishes to be a marine biologist, a dog man who wishes to establish a dating service business, and an old man who wears a school girl outfit with a split personality of a school girl. These individual stories intertwine with a greater and equally weird overarching plot which involves a conspiracy regarding the past winner of the Nippon Marathon. I was not invested in the story mode and the only reason why I was able to complete story mode with multiple characters was being the devs patched in the ability to skip cutscenes in the game?s 1.02 patch.

Despite all these things mentioned in the previous paragraphs which could be perceived as weaknesses the game is an oddly fun experience. Running through the courses, trying to remain at the front of the pack, while being on the lookout for the game?s collectibles (pages from a travel guide…which oddly acts as a badly needed instruction manual that explains a lot of the game?s mechanics) was a joy. The game also includes two mini games which can extend the game?s play time. The first mini game aligns closer to the main game, dubbed L.O.B.S.T.E.R. it has players trying to run as far as possible on a randomly generated course. If the a player cannot meet or exceed the distance set by the opposing player, they earn a letter, with the game ending when one player gains all the letters of the word. Go Go Trolley Bowling is a bowling mini game where you bowl using a shopping cart. The alleys can be free of obstacles, or they can be littered with them. The pin detection can be questionable in this mode, since the game will count pins as being knocked down when they clearly have not been. Both these modes are fun little diversions which extends this title?s play time.

Superficially it would be extremely easy to pass on this title. Yet when this title was pitched to me as Onion Soup Interactive?s digital love letter to all things Japan, the inner-weeaboo in me found the title to be oddly charming. I would certainly cast a more critical eye if I were tasked to review this studio?s future titles, but for a first effort this one?s not too bad.

Note: PQube provided us with a Nippon Marathon PC code for review purposes.

Grade: B