When you think about the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mario, Bubble Bobble and Metroid are probably some of the first titles which come to mind. Chances are you probably didn’t immediately think of Yo! Noid. Well, now I have played it so nobody else has to.
North America seems to have an abundance of games featuring fast food mascots. Burger King had 3 different games featuring Sneak King, McDonald’s has had 3 different games revolving around Ronald McDonald and french fries. There have also been games starring Chester Cheetah of Cheetos fame and Cool Spot, the 7 Up mascot. But probably my favourite would have to be Domino’s Pizza’s entry Yo! Noid for the Nintendo Entertainment System, not because it’s a good game (it really isn’t) but because the Noid character has such a bizarre story behind it.
The Noid is a weird claymation style character who wears a red jumpsuit and bunny ears. He first graced North American television screens as part of a Domino’s Pizza ad campaign called Avoid the Noid. Domino’s used to have a policy where if your pizza didn’t arrive within 30 minutes of ordering then it would be free. The Noid, wacky funster that he was, would do anything and everything to stop pizzas being delivered on time.
Then one day something strange happened: Kenneth Lamar Noid, a 22-year-old mentally ill man, had been watching the Domino’s ads and become increasingly convinced that they were directed at him. He also believed that Tom Monaghan, the head of Domino’s, had it in for him and had actually based The Noid character on him. So, on January 30th, 1989, he decided to do something about it.
Lamar Noid walked into a Domino’s outlet in Chamblee, Georgia and took 2 employees hostage. He demanded $100,000 and a getaway car. He also offered to exchange one of the hostages for a copy of The Widow’s Son by Robert Anton Wilson, but then changed his mind. After around 5 hour, Lamar Noid became hungry and demanded his hostages make him 2 pizzas and a salad. They obliged and then escaped while Lamar Noid was eating. Eventually, he surrendered, prompting a witty Georgia Police spokesman to tell the press, “He’s paranoid.”
After this, the Noid disappeared from television screens (and presumably Domino’s pizzas started being delivered on time now they were no longer being sabotaged). Domino’s claimed that this had nothing to do with Lamar Noid, but that seems very unlikely. Of course this was not the kind of publicity Domino’s were seeking, so the ridiculous mascot was (for the time being at least) retired.
So, as you can imagine, when I saw this for sale at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo , I just had to pick it up. It being published by Capcom meant it couldn’t be all bad, right? Wrong. This game is terrible. Like many games in the NES library, its high difficulty just saps all the fun out of it.
Yo! Noid is actually a Famicom Disk System game with a coat of paint. In the original game, Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru, you play as a ninja boy whom, accompanied by his robotic falcon, must rescue kidnapped children from different stages all set within an amusement park. In Yo! Noid, you play as the Noid whose weapon of choice is a yoyo, of all things.
The game takes place in New York City where an evil clone of the Noid named Mr. Green is up to no good and has unleashed a team of wild creatures (which are apparently slimy monsters but I never got far enough into the game to actually see them) that must be stopped before they, uh, slobber on everything? I am just taking a stab at it here because that part is never actually made clear.
Meanwhile, the city Mayer (no, not Mayor but Mayer, who or whatever that is) has decided that only the Noid has the power to defeat them and save the day. I’ve never actually played Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru so I can’t tell you which game is better, but to be honest, I don’t need to play Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru because I know it simply has to be better.
Yo! Noid plays like most side scrolling platformers. You walk left to right jumping from platform to platform and hitting bad guys with your yoyo and that’s not so bad, although the controls feel a little floaty. But then there is also the water level at the bottom of the screen; it rises and falls and if it touches you, you die. If a bad guy touches you, you die. If you bump into a fish, you die. And every time you die, you are sent back to the very beginning of the level. Games like Yo! Noid send me into a spiral of self-doubt. Is this a bad game? Or am I just really, really bad at video games?
As far as NES games go, Yo! Noid is incredibly frustrating. Nothing about it makes you want to push through your disappointment and annoyance to see what comes next, it just completely lacking charm or charisma, much like the mediocre pizza product it’s representing.
The overall look of the game is dull and there is even slight blurring. At first, I thought I was just having compatibility issues between my NTSC cartridge and PAL TV, but after some investigation I realised that, no, the game actually does just look like that. Meanwhile, the music and sound effects are so mundane I can’t actually even recall them. Apparently, though, there are those who enjoyed this game. In fact, there is a group of people out there who thought the Noid and his game were so great that they actually deserved a 3D sequel. If you like Playstation and N64 era games, it’s actually not too bad for freeware. You control the Noid through a sea of polygons in a Mario 64-esque style. It is more fun that the NES game, however, the camera angles can make it a bit nauseating.
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