It was launched weeks ago, but as of this writing this game has not been picked up by any of the major retailers in Australia. It's easy to see why. Not because Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What did I do to deserve this? is a bad game, but because it's different. Playing it for the first time is an alienating experience, and a typical person's lifetime of accumulated gaming know-how will prove useless in solving its problems. It's a bit like one of those fish-out-of-water comedy movies, where a city slicker has to live on a farm ― hijinks and disaster ensue.
Your role: the Lord of Destruction, the omnipotent overseer of a vast underworld dungeon. Your mission: to excavate the perfect subterranean labyrinth, nurture an army of powerful monsters, and repel the progressively stronger bands of heroes sent in to capture your loyal servant, the Overlord Badman. This can get tricky, because you can't control any of your minions directly.
The only thing you can control is your cursor, a pickaxe that hovers over the game grid. If a particular square has enough nutrients in it, then a little green blob creature will be released when you smash it. It if holds enough spiritual energy, then a will-o-the-wisp will pop out and start moving slowing in predictable patterns. These creatures exist to be gobbled up by higher forms of life, which in turn will, hopefully, gobble up all those troublesome heroes.
It plays remarkably like a cross between Minesweeper and Viva Piñata, but is far more tense than either because the clock is always ticking. You only have a limited amount of time to expand your dungeon network between waves, and its layout must be exacting. The blobs and wisps infuse their energies into (and suck energies out of) the blocks around them, and only through concentrating this vile life-pus can you summon higher monsters: lizard men, succubi, and dragons.
The action moves quickly, and it's difficult to keep track of events on the jumbo-sized map, even with deft use of the zoom function. There is little room for error, so planning is essential. It all comes together, or it all falls apart, and quickly. As you learn, you can expect to fail. A lot.
So why bother? Because it's fun ― and because there's nothing else like it on the market. The art direction is uncompromising, and the retro-style chunky pixel graphics belie great complexity. The Badman himself speaks in backwards-masked Simlish, and is rendered like a long-lost CGA villain from the primordial early 80s.
The arcade-style main game is supplemented by dozens of bite-sized challenge stages, the latter a School of Hard Knocks tutorial in the former.
This game isn't quite the return of Dungeon Keeper; it's more an exercise in triage than clinical strategy. But it's still unique. Invasion of Privacy, Badman! stands apart in a world of knock-offs and re-runs, and is further proof that the PSP has some of the most innovative games on the planet.