*This review won 3rd Place on VidoeGameGeek’s Monthly review Contest for March 2013. The theme was Licensed Games.*
VIP warrants a different type of review; I am going to show you the game from beginning to end, describing the odd mechanics, the bad story, the boss battles, and the mini-games as I progress. There might or might not be comedy.
VIP stars Pamela Anderson. It’s based on the TV show, but I could care less about it. In normal reviews, this is where you see the history of the show, it’s reception, and the game’s similarities to the show—there’s going to be none of that. If you want to learn about the show, search Wikipedia or buy the TV series on DVD through Amazon.
The game starts with you getting a call from a doctor who says people are after him. You are bodyguards for hire. He says people are at his house, but then later says he’s in the middle of a surgery. Your Receptionist asks him if his practice and his home or the same thing, leading to a very, very poor opening attempt at a joke. Apparently the TV show was tongue-in-cheek (with Pamela Anderson as a bodyguard, I can’t imagine it ever being serious).
Anyway, you drive to his house and see men in suits and shades (I’ll call them Thugs, since the manual calls them that). It looks like the thugs just sat around on the doctor’s lawn waiting for you to arrive. It should have taken you some time to drive through a major metropolitan city to get there, at which they should have at least gone into the doctor’s house and started looking for him.
This game can best be described as an ON RAILS ACTION GAME. What does that mean? Well, you have no control over where your character moves or walks. Once they get to a location, they stand still and enemies run toward them. You are then given a sequence of 2 buttons to press on-screen (they can be any of the 8 buttons [4 directional, Circle, Square, Triangle, & X). The manual states “you need rhythm,” to master this game, but all you need to do is hit the symbols in order, and within 2 seconds.
Combos come into play here in an unusual way. By hitting the 2 buttons, you attack the thug, but then you rack up Combos, which increase your points by 50 points with every hit. This means that by the 10th consecutive hit, you go from getting 100 points her punch to 600 points per punch. However, as soon as you mess up, your Combo is lost, and you must start over.
The weirdest part is how the buttons you push don’t correlate to how many combos you perform. I selected 2 buttons for Pam to punch the thug once, just once. Then, another time I selected 2 buttons, and she hit them three times with her bag for the same response. You have no control over this and it’s completely random how many times they will hit the thugs.
And yes, you read 2 things right from above; there is a score, and you attack people with your handbag. This is as stupid as it sounds, and looks even more ridiculous in action. Did Pam fill her bag with cement then let it dry?
Lastly, is Counters. If you hit the last button in the sequence at the same time, (or slightly before) the time ends, you get a Counter, which gives you a x2 to every attack you make to that enemy from the button press (which can be 1 – 4 based on what you read earlier). Trying to get them on purpose is not worth it, as you could very well miss a Combo line which is worth more points to continue than failing and resetting your score to 100.
You start learning how to shoot with Red Sports Bra Woman. How? Your character stands in one spot while you control the green circle on the screen. You shoot at enemies with a handgun in the same way as an early 90’s light gun arcade game; only you don’t have a plastic gun and its now 2001 (when the game was made). Combos work the same way here, but you can miss and not screw up the combo. The Combo is based on inaction here. If you shoot down all 3 thugs, you must kill another thug within 2 seconds or your combo is lost. Basically, you will never extend your combo beyond 6-8 in these rounds.
As for damage, you cannot move your character. If you fail to shoot someone in the short time frame (though most thugs stand with their guns pointing at you far too long) you are hit, then your character ducks behind somewhere while the other thugs shoot, and you won’t move back out until it’s safe.
You get health (green balls) and score multiplies (yellow balls) here and in the fighting stages, and they magically fly to you no matter where they are. This is nice, since you can’t actually move your characters to collect them.
You then switch between fighting as Pam & Red Sports Bra Woman until you get into the mansion. Then, I am not joking, you Tap X to push the door open and push the thug resisting it back. Pam then puts her hand in the air and shouts, “Yes,” as if this is the most important thing she has ever done.
The first level ends and you get a status screen. It tracks your Accuracy, Max Combo, Counters, & Total Points. It then grades you. It counts up my point total from 0 upwards, which is crazy to watch because every 5 seconds is only 10,000 points going by. I then realized that my score was over 200,000, so it took over a minute for the score to tally. Then, I am given Rank: B. Surely I should play again to get a better score. Pam’s face is in the lower left corner. If you get an A ranking, she will hold her hands up in a pose right after your ranking is determined. I feel so rewarded.
It is here you can save your game, but you can also buy photos and movies with your score. Your score IS currency. For instance, the photo costs 10,000 points. However, if you give up your score, how can you ever get a truly high score if you are always spending it? Though I don’t see myself saying to a friend that I got an insanely high score on a video game with Pamela Anderson in it, then asking him what his highest score was. For one, he won’t have the game, and two, he will wonder why I played this game in the first place (as I’m sure the readers of this article are doing right now)
There are 40 photos and 24 movies to unlock. However, the pictures actually spoil the game by showing scenes that happen in the future. In addition to computer shots, there are also model shots from the 4 women and 2 men of the TV show (though most pictures are of Pam [surprise!]). I then buy my first move, and guess what it is. If you guessed that the opening cut scene must be paid for, you guessed correctly. Seriously, f___ you, VIP. Every video game lets you watch these for free after you watch them in-game the first time.
No, I didn’t play the game again on Normal Mode as I’m not a masochist and there are no difficulty settings for this game. The game gets harder (ha!) starting with Level 2. Now, for every thug you must press 3 buttons, and you will have to hit 4 if you are surrounded by a 2nd thug. You must still press this within the 2 second time frame. It just got real.
This is also where the rails segment become apparent in the fighting. All the thugs have predetermined times they will enter the screen. If you fail to hit the thug, he stays there as his friend comes toward you, and a 3rd thug could appear in the room because he was supposed to at that time–meaning your reward for failure is a harder game, as now you have to make 4 button presses in the same 2 second time frame, and maybe even 5 if you really suck.
have to fight them both, with 1 extra button (now 3) to press within the same 2 second time limit.
However, the game is good as helping you along. If you fail 3 times, you will get a simple Triangle button to help you. Halfway through the game, however, this becomes useless because 2-3 hits kill you before this option can appear. Also, it makes you learn the game as you progress by starting the game with 2 buttons, then progressing to 3 by the 2nd level, and 4 buttons at the last level. These are two compliments of the game, but will they be the last?
You finally get to the Doctor’s operating room. Pam says, “Are we too fashionably late?” Groan.
I see that only 3 photos and 1 movie have unlocked for me to purchase, and then it dawned on me that I have much longer to play than I anticipated.
The first Boss is a sniper on the roof that you run away from. You view Pam and Red Sports Bra Woman running, and you must hit either left or right when the icon appears on screen. Do the VIP characters have spider-sense or see the future? They run so slowly as if their lives aren’t important, then simply walk the direction you push to avoid a sniper bullet. Also, the Doctor appears to have teleported away because he only exists in cut scenes. You never see him in-game even though he should clearly be there.
I just realized the doctor you saved left someone to die on the operating table. Once you find the doctor, you escape, leaving the person on the operating table from the opening cut scene to die from poor surgical practices. It’s doubtful he spent time fixing him and told him to hide, as the doctor probably went right to hiding in his closet.
Two new characters, Black Man & Ponytail Woman appear. Their Receptionist; who you find out is really a computer hacker, says she will flood the cell phones with 4,000 oms (or noms) to block their communications. First off, how does she do this? Is she blocking every phone in the city? That’s not possible because the other characters communicate to each other later. How did they find out who the bad guys were? And how did she know which phones to ‘hack’ since they don’t know who the bad guys are yet? Did I mention this was 2001? Arghh!!!!
Anyway, Pigtail Woman is a stealth level (and I have no idea how she knew where to go; is this a business?) where you only press 1 button to move around. Hilariously, most guards can’t see you even though they are staring directly at you; it’s when you’re moving (and by moving, I mean pushed the button to see what your character does) that you have to worry.
You start out with a wavelength that alternates between up and down. You control a small white dot in the center of the wavelength. With your white dot, you press either up or down to move the white dot where the wavelength’s top or bottom is. The only problem is you have 1 ½ seconds to do this, as the screen doesn’t scroll, it performs a jump cut to the next wavelength that was next to it (before eventually cycling back repeatedly), so that while you are selecting up, you will now press the new center white dot you are controlling up when you wanted to move it down. This is just aggravating and just feels like a game with no skill made to waste 3 minutes of your life (more if you fail).
Next, Black Man magically appears driving a car for the thugs to chase him. How did he find them? GPS was not invented yet, and he found a moving car that was somewhere in the city—oh, he is talking on his cell phone while driving really fast, so maybe Pam told him where they were every few seconds. And how was he able to convince them to stop following Pam’s car when they have the Doctor they want? And how does he arrive back at the VIP’s safe house without having someone follow him there? This…if this is how the TV series is written, I’m glad I’ve never watched it.
You find that the Doctor did some facial reconstruction for the mob boss DeCarlo, and you hilariously see that the Doctor’s badge is actually just clothing texture so it looks like part of his body. The faces of all the characters in the cut scenes are good, look sort of realistic, and are able to convey some emotions. And here I am giving another compliment to this game.
Anyway, you then control Black Man as he goes out to a punching bag tied to a palm tree and starts hitting it. I’m not making this up. Pam stands by you and cheers you on the more you hit it (you hit it the same way you would a thug, but you don’t get combos). The boxing scene is ridiculous. Did the game developers have a strict rule that the game must be at least 4 hours long if someone is able to play the game perfectly? This just fills like filler. Then, once you are done, Black Man takes one last kick to the tree and a thug falls from it. What? How? Red Sports Bra Woman is on the balcony and sees this, but the top of the tree is visible DIRECTLY IN HER LINE OF SITE and it’s obvious that there is no way he could have been hiding up there, unless Red Bra Woman wanted her friends to die. I give this scene a double face palm. See what I did there?
“How did they find us?” “How many blond bodyguards do you know?” Writing 101 ladies and gentlemen; the forced explanation to cover the plot hole. It would have been easier to say that Black Man didn’t actually lose them.
You start out in shooting mode and have to shoot out the tires to the limo, even though it’s sitting perfectly still. Once that’s done, the boss appears, ducking out from the limo to shoot at you. He’s no different than a regular enemy with an extended life bar and really easy.
The worst thing is that my health with the girl I’m playing has the same health from when I played her 20 minutes ago, even though I controlled Black Man in-between her segments; not one of the 5 characters you control heals between any level; you can only heal by not getting hit and collecting health energy. This is the worst aspect of the game, as later I started at a boss with only 1 failure meaning my death. Pressing continue doesn’t help, because you start with the same level of health you had when you started that segment.
At least, when you continue, you don’t go back to the beginning of the level. If the level is divided into 3 character segments/areas, Continue starts you at the beginning of the new area (argh, another compliment—at least this makes up for the horrible health saving).
Anyway, this is the first time I felt the game got difficult, as the enemies start becoming 4-5 button combinations more often with just the simplest of failures. You then play as the Asian Man beating up Boss #2, who is just a regular 3 button press thug you have to fight for 5 minutes. Pam then follows him to a dock, and I think he’s going to get away by boat, but then, he runs on the boat, the screen loads, and he then runs across 7 boats forming a line to the beach. How can these boats be used if they are on the beach? What’s the purpose of the dock if no one uses it? And the boats aren’t logically spaced; how is anyone going to get to them without getting wet or walking across a boat someone else owns? Then, Pam somehow beats him to near death. Black Man catches up to him and says, “Tell DeCarlo how much that floor tastes.” First off, it’s not a floor, it’s sand. And second, he can’t tell DeCarlo because you kidnap and interrogate him. Learn how to properly threaten people!
So, you learn from Boss #2 that Doctor has blackmailed DeCarlo, but Doctor says he charged him a bill he didn’t agree with. You find that DeCarlo has a microchip company and learn that DeCarlo has a computer expo opening the next day, so Ponytail Woman goes to the convention/headquarters holding a gun while walking up to the entrance of this all glass building. Even once you’re inside people could see you from outside; I thought you were the stealth expert?
The Sniper is a blue trench-coat wearing man who runs from location to location trying to snipe you. This is ridiculously easy as you can see where he runs to, so you can plan ahead. The difficulty for regular fighting increases after this battle, as the price for failure is a mass of enemies; fail 3-4 buttons presses, and you will most surely die. You eventually find the computer and tell Hacker Girl that since the computer isn’t on any network, you need her here. “Oh, an away game.” When asked if she can do it, she says, “I’m the Shaquille O’Neil of computers.” … Moving on.
To hack the mini-game, you have to play the most annoying game you played as a kid. You remember those sliding puzzles? These!
And you must do 3 of these in 5 minutes. Are you trying to recreate his eye for a retina scan? Anyway, I discovered the math and pattern to beating these easily (sorry, I want to feel special) and then you ‘hack’ the system by ‘guessing’ the password. This is not hacking! No TV show knows what hacking is.
Black Man comes to save Pam, but she is busy painting her nails and doesn’t listen. He asked where the doctor is, but I’m wondering if they killed Boss #2, as he never shows up again. They’ve killed tons of thugs, so I assume they executed him. Thugs approach Pam, and you have to ‘Tap X’ to prevent them from getting in the door 3 times. The 3rd time is impossibly hard. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to get through this without a turbo controller (or pausing when your hand gets tired), and I’ve done mini-games like this since I was born. Then, the thugs enter (what was the point), and Pam throws beer bottles at them, because she doesn’t believe in using guns (didn’t you read the manual yet?). It’s still a shooting stage, through using beer bottles instead of bullets. Eventually, a Gatling Gun man forces you outside, and you fight…
Just more button combos. He’s really strong, so you can only take a few hits. Even when you win, you lose, with you and Black Man on your knees and being held at gunpoint. The scene cuts and it feels like they were executed on the spot. I only know they are kidnapped because THE MANUAL TOLD ME. Yeah, the manual spoiled it’s own story. Ironically, the manual has back stories for each of the main characters, and even the bosses, which is odd, since the villains have no character (or even dialogue) in the game itself.
You eventually play as Ponytail Woman again in a shooting stage and have to protect your friends creeping around, but it feels like they have unlimited health so it’s actually an easy protect mission. You then escape with your computer disc before the cops arrive. Oh, and once this level started, you see the raw power of the graphics; a 2nd and final enemy type. No longer is everyone wearing suits and sunglasses. Now, you can fight people with green shirts and cameo pants. Is there a secret militia hidden in the microchip building? Or did the develops accidentally confuse militia with mafia? Hacker Girl goes to the office, and everyone else goes to the safe house to find Pam & Black Man kidnapped, but find an ominous message. They race to the office and find a bomb.
In this mini-game, you have 3 buttons you can press, each under a liquid. Every time you press that button, the liquid raises. If you don’t press the button, the liquid will continue to drain. If even 1 liquid lowers completely, you lose. You can only press 1 button every second, so you have to know when to press to eventually fill all 3 liquids. It’s very simple. Think of the hostage mini-game in Chrono Trigger and that’s what it is. After you defuse the bomb, it still goes off (Do you ever succeed?). You toss it behind your desk and everyone takes cover behind a couch. Surprisingly, the mafia couldn’t get enough explosives to blow up the building as you all miraculously survive; the bomb only takes out a desk.
Determined to save your friends, you all go straight to DeCarlo’s home/castle/stronghold. Seriously, it’s a parking garage, then it immediately looks like a castle when you enter the 2nd floor.
While kidnapped, Pam says Cliche Line #12, “You’ll never get away with this,” in what sounds like a child trying to lie to their parents. After Pam & Black Man are alone in their storage room, Pam pulls out her make-up which is actually a secret phone. She contacts her friends, but this cutscene and development is not useful; they were going to come and rescue her anyway.
Though the shooting gun game never gets harder, upon reaching DeCarlo’s home, the game turns into hard mode. Now, you must input 4 buttons within 2 seconds for each thug; meaning you must hit 5 or 6 if surrounded by 2 or 3 thugs respectively. It is harder than it sounds. You have to train yourself to block out all background distractions; don’t scratch that itch or you will die.
I just realized you can try to cheat the game by pressing pause, and the button combinations are visible on the screen. You would think this would cause cheating, but the minute you hit Start, the game has a 1 ½ second delay before starting again (and you can’t press a button while the characters are still frozen between unpausing and the game starting again). It’s actually harder if you try this and is not recommended.
You start in the parking lot, switching between all the characters. Every sequence takes place in only one screen; it’s like playing an old arcade game. Complete the screen, then move on.
Then, I kid you not, DeCarlo says to use Pam & Black Man as hostages, but he sends in his thugs that you have previously defeated in hand-to-hand combat one at a time into your storage room. You easily escape and magically appear with the rest of the gang in the parking lot. You then find an elevator that takes you up into an extravagant ballroom; the elevator is hidden in a pillar in that room that only 1 person at a time can go through apparently (based on the scale of your character to the elevator).
This boss has 2 forms. First, he walks in the open and shoots his Gatling gun. Then, he hides behind a statue and tosses grenades you must shoot. If you are quick at shooting and re-loading, you can take half his health while he walks back behind the statue. His 2nd form is on another stage. He slowly walks from pillar to pillar and is completely invincible while doing this. You can only attack him when he appears from the pillar to fire, and only a maximum of two times. He still tosses grenades.
Mini-Game Fake-Out. This is not a real mini-game. You have to blow up 4 doors, but to do so, you must hit the button in order. It’s just a slower version of fighting a thug.
The helicopter is about to take off, and you have to ‘hit the engine’. However, the wording is wrong, as you want to fire at the blades. Anyway, you can’t do this immediately, as the blue sniper is back, and he’s glitchy as hell. When he pops out from behind the left pillar, you can only hit him on the right side of his body, but you can hit him anywhere when he pops out of the right pillar. The timing here must be precise or else he will shoot you and kill you in 3 hits.
DeCarlo’s bodyguard comes to fight, and this battle seriously takes 10 minutes. But, the annoying thing is he is now 6 BUTTON PRESSES! you can’t take more than 3 hits from him or you will die (less if you aren’t fully healed; which you won’t be); there is really no room for error. This takes mastering and some people won’t be able to do it.
This isn’t really a boss. DeCabra takes Pam hostage and threatens her with a gun. You tap X a lot to beat him up and win the game. All 4 women and the 2 men talk about the Doctor opening a new practice (I don’t know how that’s possible since he left someone to die at his house), and then there is a joke about someone implying getting breast implants when they were talking about something else. Everyone laughs and the credits role. It’s here you see the entire Chinese cast. I had no idea that Chinese video game developers were a thing.
Now that the game is over, you have to play it again. Yes, the final movie is 1 million points. I had to play the game another hour to get that and unlock the additional pictures and movies. One thing that is annoying is that in the Picture menu, if appears there are 8 pictures you can unlock because they have Question marks, but that’s not true. I wish they had designed the menu better so people wouldn’t think they were missing something.
Why did I spend another hour to get the last movie and some random pictures of Pam posing with a gun as if she knows how to use it?
Story: 2 out of 10
Sigh. The writing is terrible. All the jokes, while trying to be tongue in check, are not funny at all. The story is very basic, and there are loopholes and general reality flaws all over the place.
Sound: 1 out of 10
There are ONLY 2 TRACKS OF MUSIC IN THE ENTIRE GAME. It’s so repetitive and ear bleeding. The only positive thing I can say is that there is more than 1 song.
Graphics: 6 out of 10
They are slightly above average because the backgrounds are made to look realistic and come out a little average, but are all identifiable, and the cut scene models are actually pretty good for Playstation 1 technology.
Controls: 10 out of 10
All you do is push the button that comes on the screen in a certain time limit or move a cursor over a body and press a button to shoot it. Though very simple, there is nothing flawed about any of these controls except for the Sniper glitch mentioned earlier.
Fun: 5 out of 20
Eh. It’s not really engaging. It was worth a small time waster, and I enjoyed playing something different and laughing at all the horrible story elements, just enjoying the ludicrousness of it all, but….
Replay Value: 0 out of 10
I won’t play it again…ever. There would be nothing different, but yet I will still keep it because I have to show someone just how bad this game is and prove a travesty like this exists.
Extras: 1 out of 10
It gets 1 point for the pictures, but it fails at extra content for movies, since the movies are just the cutscenes you already watched.
+3 For Rising Difficulty
The game is good at starting you out in what looks like a simple game, then increase the number of buttons you have to push twice throughout the game so you actually have to improve.
VIP is not a very bad game, it’s just mediocre; but the awful story just adds to the guilty pleasure of it all. It’s worth a play, but afterward you’ll probably just want to pass it allow to someone else so they, too, can enjoy the insanity.
It’s not over; VIP was also released for the Playstation 2! Apparently, it plays the same, but has much, much more dialogue and story (plus completely different graphics). There is also a version for Game Boy Color & Game Boy Advance. I would totally pick these up at a flea market if I found them, and would then set out to waste what little time I have left in this world reviewing them.
Additions: I just realized the Pamela’s character on the show doesn’t believe in guns (this is why she only attacks people with a purse and beer bottles) yet the pictures and promos for the TV show (and this game) show her with a gun. That’s like having Batman pose with a gun for his first movie poster, only to see the movie and have it tell you he doesn’t use guns while also showing you why he doesn’t.