Tanaka's Friendly Adventure
Has this ever happened to you? You want to throw a great party, so you invite everyone. You invite everybody that you know, and everybody that they know. You invite the guy from across the street with the really white teeth, and the girl with the shampoo commercial hair. Everyone. Then, on the day of the party, the only person who actually shows up is the weird kid from down the street with the strange skin condition(s) and chronic halitosis. Don't worry, we've all been there before, and we've gone through that post-party depression stage of playing The Cure and crying all night. But thanks to bentosmile's simple little flash game called Tanaka's Friendly Adventure, tear-filled party failures are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
We can just live vicariously through little pixelated Tanaka. You see, Tanaka is also throwing a party, and it's your job to help him invite his friends. Using the [arrow] keys or the [WASD] keys guide Tanaka from one screen to the next. In each screen you will come across a friend, who is then invited. After you've located a few friends, the game ends automatically.
Once Tanaka has invited someone, they stay invited. After each game you can click on the Party button from the main menu to see all the friends you have collected, view their stats (among which are vital attributes such as Longness, Opacity, and Wattage), and read up a little bit on their backgrounds. There are 72 party guests in total.
Tanaka's Friendly Adventure was offered first as a windows-only download where it raised a few eyebrows, but now that it's been translated into Flash, just about anyone can experience bentosmile's strange little first foray into game making.
Analysis: To be fair, there's not a whole lot of gameplay in this game. Without it seeming to incorporate any rhyme or reason, you negotiate an area reminiscent of the Lost Woods from the first Legend of Zelda for a while, collect a few friends, and bam! That's it, game over, please play again.
But that's when Tanaka's Friendly Adventure starts to rope you in. Each party guest you find has its own animation, stats and description, and each description is very well written, with dashes of humor, absurdity, and a little social commentary if you are looking at it in just the right way. Indeed, Tanaka is quite deceptive in this regard, showing you something that at first seems amusing in an almost trivial way, until you come across that one guest whose flaws resonates with you.
The other area in which Tanaka's Friendly Adventure can be a little deceptive is in the gameplay. It may seem that all you do is walk around until the game declares itself over, but as you collect more and more friends it becomes clear that there is a methodology attached to their locations. You will need to engage with this puzzle aspect of the game if you hope to invite all 72 guests to your party.
Sure, Tanaka's Friendly Adventure is simple and silly, the effect finished off with big blocky pixels and a repetitive chiptune soundtrack. But what has earned bentosmile's freshman attempt so much interest is the way this very simple game unfolds into something greater and more meaningful. It holds up a mirror to society and slyly asks it to take a good long look. Before you know it, everything in Tanaka's Friendly Adventure takes on meaning, even Tanaka himself, a stylized paragon who respects authority and always tries his hardest. The success of this game is that we even begin to question the sanctity of the main character's status as archetypical hero.
Either that or we simply can't resist, you know, trying to catch 'em all.