Note: This is a Check-out-TIme that actually means a lot to me. It reminds me of a community I used to be a part of, of a time when I was younger. A time where indie games and game makers operated totally differently from how they do now. The internet is something that we often view as a permanent archive, that something released on the internet will somehow live forever. But, that’s only partially true: Many of the digital gems from this time are probably already impossible to find. Content on the internet only lives as long as someone keeps it there. The obscure, small, and “unimportant” content can wither and die, just as any other medium can. This is me trying to keep a small part of that history alive. If you read this article, and can’t find the games I talk about here, contact me. Message me on WordPress. I’ll try to keep Ikiki’s great work on my hard drive. I hope you find something youenjoy in this article
The indie gaming scene of the mid-thousands was a unique moment in time. Cave Story had just been released, and was a simple unassuming game that few had even heard of yet. Derek Yu’s doubtless masterpiece Aquaria was right around the corner, and nobody had even considered purchasing indie games on Steam yet, or really buying anything digitally at all. In this landscape, the small indie freeware game ruled. Simple, rough games built in GameMaker or even Multimedia Fusion by high-school and college kids trying their hand at it for the first time. This was back when Cactus was putting out a game every other week, when Tim W. was still trying to balance what would become the monolithic IndieGames blog, and maybe even Home of the Underdogs got a blog post or two. There’s absolutely no doubt the indie gaming scene is stronger now. The tools are better, there’s actually viable distribution models, and indie games creators can go toe-to-toe with their AAA counterparts. But, there’s something nostalgic for me in remembering these rough-edged gaming pioneers, quietly posting a .rar file of their newest creation for free in some obscure corner of the web. And one of the quietest, but most prolific of all was the Japanese creator Ikiki.
To say Ikiki has made a lot of games is a massive understatement. At last count, I have found 56. There’s a ton of variety here, from top-down stealth games, to sidescrolling ninja sims, to grappling hook games and even a game where Luigi gets fed up with his brother and decides to spray poo all over his mansion. Some of them are surprisingly and in-depth elaborate affairs while others are simple mini-games. All of them have Ikiki’s quirky, cartoony style in spades, painting a world of naked, katana-wielding Ninjas, Mario with a rocket launcher, and grizzled commandos. Almost all of them have great controls and animation. Shooting a gun in an Ikiki game always feels punchy and satisfying, and jumping around just feels great. Most of the games also have surprisingly elaborate move-sets, and the platformers typically have you wall jumping and clinging to the ceilings in acrobatic ways. In this article, I’ll point out some of my favorites, and tell you where you can get your hands on his games and actually play them.
Hakaiman is a top-down stealth shooter. Ikiki has made a fair number of these top-down shooters, but Hakaiman is definitely my favorite of the bunch. You control a commando type, equipped with an assault rifle and grenades who breaks into a variety of compounds, stealing documents and blowing up servers. While there’s plenty of shoot-’em-up action, there’s some nods to the stealth genre: You can hide in bushes, and sneak up behind enemies and snap their neck sneakily. The level design is fabulous, with destructible crates and walls, and a wide variety of ways to tackle each mission.
Nikujin is a side-scrolling platformer featuring Ikiki’s iconic naked-ninja running and jumping throughout the world. The ninja is equipped with a fun-to-use katana, but the game’s most impressive quality is the extensive move-set in which you wall-jump, dash, and climb your way through the levels. Be sure to go through the tutorial come to grips with all the moves that you can do (the tutorial is the third option on the main menu, just underneath the grayed out one).
Bimboman is a platformer-shooter featuring a unique platforming mechanic: Concussion grenades that don’t hurt your character but rather propel him around the level. You use these grenades to jump higher and dash your commando around at crazy speeds. Add in some action cliches like crawling through vents and jumping through windows while shooting like mad, and you have yourself a fun little game. And no, I don’t know why it’s called Bimboman.
Teppodon is another platformer-shooter, that this time features a wide variety of weapons. The important tactic here is collecting weapons from dead enemies and carefully managing ammunition. The game requires a fair amount of strategy to move through the level without taking damage and dispatching enemies, all while rescuing hostages tied up throughout the level. It’s also got some great music.
Tobioriya is one of Ikiki’s simpler minigames. You play an archer, overlooking an office building. Salarymen start jumping off the building, and your mission is to shoot as many as you can, nailing them into the building before they hit the ground. You aim and shoot with the mouse, and your bow and arrow makes a satisfying “Thwack” as you hit, or miss, your target. There’s some challenge to be had here in leading your targets and being able to hit the fast-moving jumpers. I hold this as a high example of how Ikiki knows how to make a game with satisfying controls and animation that complement one another.
Curryki is another one of Ikiki’s strange minigames. This time you’re controlling a Curry-making machine. Plates of rice are placed onto a griddle on one side of the machine, and you must shoot batches of Curry onto the other side. The plates are then smashed together like a waffle iron. In this way, you have to look at the pattern of rice plates and “mirror” them with your shots of curry on the opposite side. It’s a strange task to be asked to do, and bends your brain in unexpected ways.
Momigi 2: A more traditional side-scrolling SHMUP, in which you play as a hero in a jet-pack propelled suit of armor who must shoot and punch his way through crowds of enemies.
Playing Ikiki’s Games:
Ikiki’s current site seems to be located here, though it doesn’t have all of his games hosted on it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have the strongest presence on the internet, and his older sites seem to lead to sad and dormant 404’s. On top of that, the language barrier makes it even tougher to play and enjoy his games. Luckily, the intrepid YouTuber Syreion has made videos for almost every Ikiki game out there, explaining them and showing them off. You can find an archive that Syreion has made of all of Ikiki’s games (up to 2012), to actually download and play yourself here. They include descriptions of the games and controls in every folder. These breakdowns are great because they also list the less-intuitive special moves that you can perform in almost all of Ikiki’s games.
There’s a certain era that Ikiki and creators like him represent. Unfortunately, these games are usually not well documented, and I fear that they may simply disappear off the internet if people forget about them and nobody hosts them anymore. These are games that simply don’t have the audience to guarantee and preserve distribution forever. So, please, check these out. Play them. So much attention is given both to big time AAA developers, and the nebulous double-A Indie developers that seem to suck money and attention, that it’s worthwhile to scour the corners every so often and stumble across something humble, quirky and special.