One Piece Mansion
When lots of people live in the same house or block of flats, you can bet that there is always going to be some friction. Take my humble abode for example. I live in an old house split into eight flats. Above me there is an alcoholic pensioner who makes strange moaning noises and falls over a lot. Next-door is a quiet man who comes and goes in the early hours of the morning carrying full rubbish bags. Down the hallway a beard on legs likes to strum his electric guitar tunelessly and loudly. Underneath me a hyperactive, shaven-headed loony plays Cher and S Club 7 songs at six in the morning. It’s fair to say we all get on each other’s nerves from time to time. Of course I am not an angel, my late night gaming habits mean that occasionally others in the house are disturbed by shouts, yells and the occasional game flying out of the window.
The joys of modern living then, and quite frankly one of the more bizarre ideas for a puzzle game. Yet One Piece Mansion takes the concept of placing varying tenants in one block of flats and juggling them around so they cause the least amount of stress to the adjoining inhabitants. You play as Polpo, a successful landlord. At the beginning of the game his rival landlord Chocopape kidnaps Polpo’s sister and blackmails Polpo into managing 7 Mansions with varying Mission goals before he will give her back. These mission goals are basically build a mansion so many stories high, accrue a certain amount of cash or build so many rooms.
You begin with a few rooms and tenants. The rooms are squares, which you construct next to or on top of each other. You can also build lifts to let Polpo travel around the mansion. Each new room costs money to build, which you acquire from the rents due at the end of the month from each tenant. Once a room is built you can select from a list of available tenants and move them in. Now it’s here the strategy begins. Each tenant gives out “vibes.” These can be good vibes or bad vibes. These emanate in various directions depending on the tenant. For example sweet girl Ai-Chan emanates good vibes in all directions. Left, right, up, down and at each corner. She is a great calming influence. Her vibes are represented by eight thick green arrows. Now other tenants will give out bad vibes, for example the hairy DJ will play his music loudly and gives out red bad vibe arrows at each corner. Some characters with give out good vibes in one direction and bad vibes in another. Your task is to juggle the tenants so that the bad vibe effects in one direction are cancelled out by a calming vibe on the other.
If too many bad vibe arrows are pointing into one tenant’s flat they will begin to get stressed. This affects their own vibe output. Good vibes will become less and bad vibes stronger. If their stress metre fills up they become so mad they explode taking out the room and incurring a big financial penalty. Your task is complicated further by squatters moving in who give out negative vibes, steal from your tenants and even set the place on fire! As Polpo the landlord you spend most of your time grooving down the bottom of the mansion. But if squatters move in and start leaving their flats to harass your tenants you can take control of Polpo and ride the lifts up and down to either put out fires or blow your whistle at the squatters and send them scampering back to their room. The only way to get rid of these pests is to move your annoying tenants around them so they stress the squatters into leaving. With multiple squatters and a range of rowdy tenants you can find stress rising quickly and things getting out of control. The game them becomes a hilarious test of reflexes as you combine chasing round after the baddies with quickly moving the ever more annoyed tenants around the mansion. If too many rooms explode, you run out of cash and fail the mission!
That, basically is the game. Manage your mansion well and you’ll soon fill the mission goals. This is where I have my main complaint about the game – it’s too darn short! Only seven missions to complete, it’s not enough! This is such a fun and quirky game; I really wanted to have more challenges to undertake. There is an infinite mode where you can keep building a mansion as long as you like, but the lack of missions in story mode is a major disappointment. I did find that there is a lot of replay factor in the game, as you can save your high scores and fastest times etc. But it’s still a short game and the hilarious cartoony visuals and sense of humour made me want it to go on a lot longer.
The characters are all drawn as chunky and typically weird Japanese manga types. Lots of big heads and eyes, and extravagant hair. The music is high-speed J-pop style madness with lots of loud whistles, bangs, and satisfying explosions. The character animations are funny and change as the characters become more stressed out. For example the “Modern Couple” are a two bean shaped things that kiss constantly when unstressed, as they get more stressed the female will begin to yell at the male and finally they will start fighting violently at peak stress levels! You can choose to zoom in and look more closely at your tenants and as you walk around as Polpo little word balloons will appear as the characters mutter things to themselves. You really do get a sense of managing your own place full of eccentric people and its all credit to the developers (Capcom) that they have imbued these little mad people with genuine personalities, you really do find yourself having experimenting with the effects of each tenant on another. This does add immensely to the replay value, but the lack of two-player mode (listed on the box bizarrely but I’m damned if I can figure out where it is) also reduces the longevity somewhat.
One Piece Mansion is a great little title. Released at the end of the PSX’s lifespan it remains one of the better examples of the kind of oddball stuff that Sony’s broad church of gaming is happy to bring into your homes. It also came out at a budget price and so I personally did not feel short-changed by the overall shortness of the gaming experience. One Piece Mansion is not a typical puzzle game, and not everyone will like it. But if you appreciate fun, loud, silly and manic games with a highly Japanese flavour then this title is an excellent addition to your collection.