Yet again, the mail came- and this Yuke’s/Hudson joint along with it. Succinctly titled Utchan Nanchan no Hono no Challenger: Denryuu Ira Ira Bou, it’s a video game version of one of those buzz wire maze games. You know, the one where your steady hands guide a metal loop around a bendy piece of wire and there’s an Operation-style buzzer if metal touches metal? Pretty much that, just kicked up a few ridiculous notches.
The interminably long title has its roots in a Japanese game show whose name requires an even deeper breath before pronouncing: Utchan Nanchan no Honō no Challenger: Kore ga Dekitara 100 Man En. Translating roughly to Utchan Nanchan’s Challengers of Fire: 1 Million Yen If You Can Do This!, it was a moderately long-running Japanese game show of the Takeshi’s Castle/MXC variety where successful challenge completions could net one ~$10,000. “Frustrating Bar” was one such challenge, and popular enough that it led to multiple video games and imitators worldwide. Even Nintendo wasn’t immune to its charms, borrowing the same basic concept for Kuru Kuru Kururin.
Now, if you read EGM circa the turn of the millenium, you may recall a similar Playstation game that became a bit of a running joke called Irritating Stick. Scored tremendously low and chastised for its simple concept and suggestive title by pretty much everyone else too, it ended up in bargain bins faster than branches in a log shop. The gameplay isn’t that terrible, honestly- it’s just super omega ultra turbo levels of niche, and Ira Ira Bou here is an N64 entry in the same series. You’re basically either going to enjoy the time and extreme patience required to hyper-carefully use an analog stick to navigate a big dot through twists, turns and other obstacles against an incredibly brutal timer, or you’re not. Niche things tend to be polarizing by nature, and this game is no exception.
Later levels get crazy complex, with the final one featuring that Metropolis-esque lady on the cover in a section that I’m nowhere near skilled enough to get to yet. While there’s only 6 fairly short mazes in total, getting even partially through most of them is an honest achievement of skill and dexterity that will require hours of retries to hone. For better or worse and similar in spirit to Hudson’s Caravan shooters, Ira Ira Bou is just a simple score attack puzzle game that’s all wrapped up in its own uniquely challenging shell. Long story short: if all or most of the above has your personal salivary glands primed and pumped, please rest assured that this little morsel will leave your hunger pleasantly satiated.