By ShellShock
Revised on 01/08/11
   

 

 

Trip World

Players: 1
About: Platforming
Courtesy of: Sunsoft
Back in: 1992
Originally on: GameBoy
Also on: N/A

 
           
 
Meet Yacopu. Sunsoft's Kirby-esque, Pikachu-ish little furry life form living in a planet threatened not by generic world domination schemes, prophesied cataclysms, or clichéd alien invasions; but by... nothing? If Trip World's inhabitants want nothing but to cuddle and play with Yacopu instead of ripping his body apart, devour his guts, and enslave his soul, is there even a game in here?

Living in the holy mountain of Mount Dubious together with his grandfather, the guardian of the supernatural Maita Flower, Yacopu enjoys his home's peace and harmony as a member of the "Shabubu" race (which, of course, is slang for "Pokemans"). Yet one fateful day, the magical flower is stolen from underneath grandpa's watchful eyes by a shadowy figure, causing the planet to fall into unrest and prompting heroic Yacopu on a quest to return said powerful and iconic relic.
"Unrest" is the key word here. While the game's manual guarantees unending quarreling, anarchy, and the end of peace if the Maita Flower falls into the wrong hands; its oblivious inhabitants seem to believe otherwise. Butterflies flutter playfully over Yacopu's ears as he passes by... opossum-like creatures excitedly dash towards him in order to smell him from closer... and our protagonist can't even get a vigilant owl perched on a hanging rope bridge to even look his way... What's going on here? Where's all the fighting and madness that damned flower is supposed to be causing?

Japanese cover

The fact is that, technically, calling Trip World's creatures "enemies" would be wrong. Most will playfully nudge and push Yacopu around (keep in mind that the protagonist of Trip World takes no damage from touching or bumping into other sprites except for projectiles, including bosses). Some will shy away in their protective shells or beautiful camouflage until you are far enough that they don't feel threatened anymore. And the small minority will only get pissed off after being attacked first, or actively attack Yacopu on sight. This minority is composed of a handful of creatures sprinkled throughout the game's five stages, among them a cute napping cat that wakes up when approached and proceeds to use his spinning tail like a propeller and dive bomb you; a relentless and highly determined bunny-like critter that bashes you in the head with an umbrella; an enormous, happy bumbling idiot of a cat whose attempts at befriending and stalking Yacopu through multiple screens are even more annoying than his clumsy shoving and pushing; and most bosses and mini-bosses (a particular one seems equally interested in carrying staring competitions from afar rather than performing his boss duty).

European cover

To complete his quest, Yacopu counts with three types of skills: a simple and straight forward kick; some basic terrain traversing, shape-shifting skills; and advanced morphing techniques granted by special fruit pick ups. His (very) short ranged kick is so small and unimpressive you will have to squint to see it, yet remains fundamental for getting around as well as defeating bosses even if it takes some time to execute effectively because of its ridiculously small hit box.
He can also switch between his normal land-based form and a fish-like shape for underwater action, or even to an airborne creature, by pressing Up or Down + Jump; in this way reaching higher platforms and navigating flooded sections quicker and more efficiently. His airborne skills take time to master. There's some very rhythmically-awkward button tapping necessary to keep him in the air, he can't change direction while flying, and he uncontrollably drops to the ground if he bumps into anything. Maneuvering underwater, though, is a lot more intuitive and he can shoot bubbles from his mouth to take down enemies. Still, it's evident that there wasn't much thought put on elaborating and expanding these concepts because they are only useful in a handful of instances throughout the entire game.
Yacopu's final and most powerful transformations come from power-ups sometimes found throughout the levels: "flower" Yacopu has a flower on his head and can paralize enemies by hitting them with seeds, "tail" Yacopu attacks with a very useful long range tail whip, and "ball" Yacopu can gain speed by bouncing wildly against walls and platforms in the form of a ball.
Yet another two easily overlooked mutations are also possible in the last two stages of the game once you get some practice. Because power-up transformations are time limited, if you are quick and skilled enough to snatch a second different fruit while the first one is still in effect, Yacopu will turn into other two strange forms: "mini" Yacopu, an exact minituarized copy of normal Yacopu whose purpose I can't figure out; and "super" Yacopu, a tall two-legged giant with an amazing fireball attack that can K.O. any living creature in the planet with a single hit. Yes, including bosses.

Manual art
Yacopu's flying, swimming, and normal forms.

There's no denying that Trip World is a very short game. While the 4-point health gauge, 3 lives, and no continue options offer great difficulty balance for its 5 brief stages, bosses with somewhat erratic and unpredictable attack patterns are the only roadblocks players encounter since they usually take a handful of lives to figure out. Remember that enemies don't directly hurt Yacopu by touching him, meaning that swiftly cruising through each stage in less than 2 minutes by dodging and pushing critters out of the way, speed-run style, is perfectly possible. That's why it seems evident that Trip World is not about the destination, but about the journey. A great upbeat platforming soundtrack by Sunsoft with a little bit of jazz, classical, rock, and atmospheric tones mixed in; the highest level of tile and background detail the primitive screen can handle; and some of the cutest and most smoothly animated sprites on the system are there to make players stop, take a break, and appreciate the world's flora and fauna as if it was real. Sunsoft even went the extra mile by avoiding repeating enemy sprites almost completely and keeping each of the stages' rooms and decor as different as possible (a fancy trick largely responsible for Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood's excellence). This amazing but memory-consuming design decision brings the game world closer to reality because every single room, hall, creature, and set piece are almost completely unique and therefore players only get to see them once throughout the entire quest.

Mr. Gimmick / Gimmick!
CrispyYuichi Ueda (Batman: Return Of The Joker, Galaxy Fight, Waku Waku 7) is the Chief Director and Chief Programmer of Trip World, which in turn is often perceived as the portable counterpart or spiritual sequel of NES's Mr. Gimmick (a.k.a. Gimmick! in Japan). It doesn't come together as well or have the same game mechanics as Mr. Gimmick, but they do, however, have very similar graphic styles and themes, general stage structure, bosses and mini-bosses, sprite interaction and physics, and were both released by Sunsoft in 1992. Still, comparisons between both games' credits lists proves they are unrelated even if Mr. Gimmick's designer, Tomomi Sakai, is credited as Trip World's advisor.
Note that, unlike Trip World, Mr. Gimmick has no transformation abilities, and enemies DO want to and WILL kill you in horrible and frustrating ways until you give up.

Not everything's cute and pink in Trip World, though. Unfortunately, since the bosses are the only challenge, the stages' only function is that of an oversized petting zoo you'll be dashing through once you have seen everything there is to see. It's a great trip the first time around, honestly. But who goes to the zoo every month?
The game's briefness is most likely due to the amount of different sprites implemented, which, understandably, can be forgiven given the ambition and uniqueness of the project. Still, Yacopu's flying and swimming forms feel underused and underdeveloped because terrain layouts that would make fun and clever use of them just aren't there. His "mini" form, too, has no apparent use whatsoever.
In the end, Trip World doesn't work as well as a game as it does as a new experience. Its charming planet, unique interaction with the wildlife, and overall purpose of existence reminds me a little bit of what the present XBLA, PSN, and WiiWare indie scene have to offer; yet I can't help but think that a final round of tweaks and polish could have easily catapulted this unique Sunsoft obscurity from good to master piece. Did they run out of budget or time and had to wrap it up before they could elaborate its ideas further to make the final game a more solid and consistent package?

Yacopu in Japanese magazine

It's nearly impossible to find a complete Japanese copy of Trip World on the internet, and the only loose cart I have ever seen dabbled in the triple digits. This is also one of those few GameBoy games that saw a discrete release in Europe but never made it to North America, and remains even more elusive than the PAL versions of Parodius and Pop 'N Twinbee.
Unknown to many, Yacopu showed his cute face once again in 1995 as one of the interplanetary warriors in the beautiful but hardly playable Neo Geo fighter Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors. According to the game's plot, he happens to be the pet of hidden boss Rouwe, but in reality he serves his purpose as a "mirror match" game device because of his ability to shapeshift into whoever challenges him. His trademark kick made it in the game, as did an arranged song from Trip World.

 

Sources:

- Thanks to Chris Covell for bringing this game to my attention in his Forgotten GameBoy Gems article.

- Check out Frank Cifaldi's wonderful Mr. Gimmick exploration on YouTube. A work of love.

 

 

Soundtrack:
World 1
World 2 (section 1)
World 3 (section 1)
World 4
World 5 (section 1)
Credits
 


 

 

 

 
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Yacopu uses his most powerful attack.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
This bumbling idiot of a cat follows Yacopu as far as he can.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
One of the many characters that only appear once in the game.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
 
Trip World - GameBoy
 
Trip World - GameBoy
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Yacopu can paralize creatures with his flower power.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Flying over danger.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Yacopu's home.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
"Mini" Yacopu plays with some cat friends.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Two of the last mini bosses.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
 
Trip World - GameBoy
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Use the fireball to dispatch bosses in one shot.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
These little guys happily jump around our hero, nothing more.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
"Mini" Yacopu dispatches a resting owl. Why?
 
Trip World - GameBoy
"Tail" Yacopu has a nice long range tail attack.
 
Trip World - GameBoy
Yacopu in Galaxy Fight: Universal Warriors