Party games have long been a staple of any gamer’s diet: Mario Party, Wario Ware, Gang Beasts – games where you can enjoy an evening of healthy competition with your friends and family.
…And by ‘healthy competition’, I mean bloodthirsty rage as your best friend steals your lead and kicks you all the way back to the start while wearing a big, evil grin on his face. But that’s okay: you’ll get back at him. You’ll get back at them all…
So, party games are inherently chaotic. The tides of fortune can turn at a moment’s notice, plunging you into the depths of despair or uplifting you with hope. Fate is fickle, and we are all motes of dust caught in its gale. But what could make these games even more chaotic, ridiculous and surprising? The way Onion Soup Interactive sees it, there’s only one option:
Nippon Marathon is difficult to grasp with words, and since I’m severely underequipped, I allowed Onion Soup to give it a shot.
“Nippon Marathon is a 4-player competitive game that’s difficult to fit into a genre. We’re using ‘Runner’ as that kind of works: really, it’s like a combination of an outlandish Japanese game show and the old Micro Machines Turbo Tournament games… Does that sound ridiculous? Players just need to get ahead of each other while avoiding obstacles and hazards. They can use weapons to stop each other, and they score points when only one remains, then they spawn in at the nearest checkpoint, and the madness continues.”
In Nippon Marathon, you can play as a girl in a unicorn onesie, an elderly man in a schoolgirl uniform, a lobster…man…thing, or an anthropomorphic dog named Snuguru. Course hazards include banana peels, mazes of doors, moving platforms, and angry shiba inu dogs – with much, much more to come. The game’s still in its early stages, but by the time it sees completion, it promises to be one of the craziest party games out there.
Asked to elaborate, Onion Soup described his plans for future updates:
“Well, we have one developer at the moment: me. We’re bedroom coding this for real, and it’s tough to fit in everything we want to do between working full-time jobs. We’ve been putting together a crowdfunding campaign which we’ll be launching early in the new year: if this goes to plan, we’ll be looking at a minimum of 10 levels, story mode, online modes, more characters and weapons, and crucially, we’ll be doing console versions – I totally love PC gaming but I also really want to see Nippon Marathon on the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One for sure!”
Already, many YouTubers are getting in on the Marathon. I can already see the impact Nippon Marathon will have on the online community: there occasionally comes a game that takes YouTube by storm and gains a fanbase from this exposure. Onion Soup seems to know exactly how to market a crazy, unpredictable game – which made me stop and wonder what his inspirations were. Was this all an elaborate, surgical attempt to grab the gaming zeitgeist? Apparently not; according to Onion Soup, Nippon Marathon happened spontaneously:
“I just fired up Unity one day and started messing around with this idea I had for a version of Frogger but with crazy ragdoll stuff going on. Once I had a basic version of it, I added a second player, and it was just ludicrously fun and extremely amusing. Then Amy and I went on holiday to the states, and we started writing a story around it. In motion, it looked and felt like a crazy Japanese game show right off the bat, so the setting just evolved from there.”
As a fan (and victim) of the Mario Party games, I had to ask that nagging question: does Nippon Marathon have the power to destroy friendships in the space of a single evening?
“Oh, absolutely, maybe even more so! Recently a YouTube group called Stumpt played the game, and one player who was repeatedly hit with melons and bananas exclaimed, “I’m going to throw my controller through the WORLD!” Seriously, though…Nippon Marathon is definitely competitive, but because of the way the rounds work, if you’re eliminated you’ll be back in the race and ready to exact vengeance pretty quickly.”
As horrified as I am, I’m also glad that Nippon Marathon is shaping up to be the stressful, insane boiling-pot of anxious lows and triumphant highs that all the best party games are. Nippon Marathon is definitely a game to watch out for.
As always, I gave Onion Soup the chance to advertise to HEAVY readers:
“When we get this game released, there’ll be nothing else like it. It will be a must-play title for anyone having a gaming party, and if we’re able to do the online mode justice, then the sky’s the limit; we’re talking Rocket League meets Mario Kart meets Takeshi’s Castle (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge in the US) with full character customisation and ranks, it’ll be totally and utterly epic! As the game isn’t yet out we’d really like for everyone to keep up to date with us via our social media and our website, comments are totally welcome. Thanks to HEAVY and its readers too!”