Something I like to do before starting a book, movie or TV series is come in cold. I don’t want to be watching trailers before I see a movie, and I’d rather not read a synopsis before starting a book. I trust the creators, and want to be surprised at precisely the moment they intend to surprise me. Tell me there’s even the existence of a twist and you’ve half-ruined it for me.
It’s an approach I also take with games, and so far it’s done me proud. From Portal to TUNIC, I feel like ‘not knowing’ has only improved the experience. But there’s always an anomaly to prove everything wrong. Welcome, Happi Basudei.
Let’s set the scene: having booted up Happi Basudei, I found myself in a typical Chuckie Egg or Joust-like throwback and immediately felt at home. I’m old enough for this to be my comfort zone. I was an egg in a pixelated 2D level, with enemies bouncing around me, coins twinkling in various corners of the screen, and chilli peppers that just had to be power-ups.
So, I did everything that I thought I should do. I collected all the coins. But the level didn’t progress: the frogs kept hopping and the snails kept sliming back and forth. So, I collected the chilli pepper. A circle of fire appeared around me and realisation hit: I had to kill everything. So I did, and it was harder than I thought, as the chilli ring didn’t last more than a few seconds. But killing the creatures didn’t progress anything either. I remained sat on an empty screen with only my confusion for company.
I started to panic. Perhaps I needed to collect the enemies? No, that killed me. Score was deducted, and I had to start again. Perhaps I needed to survive, outlasting the time limit that ticked down? Nope, that just removed some points from me, and back to the start I went. No clues flashed onto the screen, aside from some gibberish about samsara. No Microsoft paperclip arrived to ask what my problem was. No tutorial elbowed itself in; no loading screens offered clues.
Off I went to Youtube to watch a runthrough, and there was a bemused reviewer to help me out. “Yeah, um, you don’t need to do anything to progress. You have to sit out the timer, and not collect anything. If you have any points at all, you will fail”. You what, mate?
The Youtuber was correct. In Happy Basudei, you have to keep at zero points and sit out the timer. If you collect a coin or kill a creature, you will get those pesky points, and you will fail when the timer reaches the end. The clue, apparently, was in the word ‘karma’ that sat next to the score on the death-screen. This was, we must assume, a lesson in virtue: those who kill or chase wealth will find some kind of karmic retribution in life.
So, we swallowed down the bile and played Happi Basudei on its terms. You want us to avoid all these coins, chillis and enemies that you’ve dropped into the level? Fine.
So, we sat in the centre of the screen, not moving for ninety seconds. Level 1-1 done. The next level put some snails on the same platform, so we occasionally had to press the jump button. On level 1-3, the biggest challenge was getting to an empty platform, as there were coins in the way. It works, sure, but is it fun? Oh lord, no.
World 2-1 finally offered something different. Cupids circled us, firing arrows, and we had to dodge them, bullet-time style. But since every other platform had enemies on, we found ourselves in a loop of jumping and moving, jumping and moving, for a couple of minutes. This approach continued for a couple of levels, and a boss.
After the boss – which had us cowering on a lower platform, moving left and right – and ten levels of Happy Basudei, the game ended. It was over. An ending played that fundamentally misunderstood the nature of phoenixes (you have to watch it to understand), and we emerged with 1000G for about fifteen minutes of work – after fifteen minutes of fumbling and intense rage, of course.
Through all of this, Happi Basudei didn’t even feel good to play. The controls are somehow borked, as there’s no ability to correct the direction of a jump after you’ve pressed it. Jump and, without fail, you will leap vertically upwards. You have to be pressing a direction with the jump if you want to be able to correct it. It might not seem like much, but when you’re playing for only fifteen minutes and the only thing you can do is jump, it becomes a fundamental element to get wrong.
The irony is that we’ve just spoiled everything for you. Hypocritically, we have gone against our own opening paragraph. But, rest-assured, we are doing you a service: Happi Basudei is phenomenally atrocious, a water-cooler joke between developers that somehow wound up on the Xbox Store, miraculously dodging anything that might resemble quality control.
Happi Basudei is a prank at your expense, with the pranker not bothering with any kind of foreplay. No one wants to be the subject of that. Pocket the £4.19 and run like the wind.
You can buy Happy Basudei from the Xbox Store