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Virtually Overlooked: Cacoma Knight in Bizyland


Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.

Puzzle Quest
has taught us that mixing up unexpected genres and settings can make stale-as-hell gameplay seem fresh, interesting, and awesome. Wrapping up a pick-up-and-play game (like Bejeweled) in a narrative frame (like that one game I made in RPG Maker, I think I called it -- okay, never mind, I didn't make an RPG Maker game but you can imagine a funny one here) gives players a reason to continue playing the game even when it's not immediately satisfying.

Seta's Cacoma Knight in Bizyland is an attempt to perform this kind of ... contextualization with the classic arcade game Qix. The results are enjoyably nonsensical. Almost -- but not quite -- as enjoyable as the word "Bizyland." Why couldn't Bizyland have been the setting for a bunch of games like Oddworld?

Nobody (who wasn't on the Cacoma Knight team) ever sat down and decided that Qix would be great if it just had a story. For all we know, Taito gave Qix a story, but we never cared to find out. Qix was one of the most abstract of the classic arcade games, a pure example of the "video game as toy" philosophy. As a thing, you draw lines to enclose areas of the screen. If another thing touches the line before you've reconnected to the border, you lose a life. Fill up most of the screen and you move on to the next level full of more and faster things. Your guy doesn't represent anything, and neither does the Qix monster (a line). The game is nonrepresentative gameplay, not a means to deliver a narrative. So it's just kind of weird that Seta made it look like an RPG. It's rather like giving a storyline to checkers. The stated storyline is minimal, presented in a seconds-long cutscene, but the very presence of a storyline, involving living entities, strips the game of its abstractness.

Cacoma Knight is the same game as Qix functionally, except the player-controlled dot is now a guy, and the monsters are now identifiable monsters, and the playfield is now unambiguously a fleld. In fact, when I played Cacoma Knight for the first time, I thought it was going to be an action RPG right up until I moved my character and a line trailed behind him.

It turns out that Cacoma Knight is pretty fun, because Qix is pretty fun. Given the choice between the two, we prefer the SNES game, if only for the reason that by trying to make more sense out of the game, they ended up making less. What, is there really a border around certain areas of the world? And one guy's job is to draw lines between those borders, therefore saving the world? Oh, also there are enemies in the form of two hands clashing cymbals over and over again.

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