Vib-Ribbon, PlayStation

Vib-Ribbon is a unique game on the PlayStation. It is the only game I can think of that is mostly black and white and uses simple animated vector-style line art to present the visuals. That said: Vib-Ribbon is full of character and charm and goes to show what can be achieved when developers think out of the box.

Vib-Ribbon is a rhythm game in which you control a stick-drawn rabbit, called Vibri, who walks across a line filled with obstacles. These obstacles are synchronised to the soundtrack of the game – and the idea is to correctly react as you encounter them. There are four basic obstacles: blocks, loops, waves, and pits, and you must press L, R, X, or Down respectively to react to each one. Sometimes two obstacles are merged together, requiring the player to press two buttons at the same time.

If Vibri misses a beat and makes a number of mistakes he will transform into a frog, then a further sequence of mistakes will turn him into a worm. If he makes too many mistakes as a worm then the game will come to an end. Successful actions will evolve Vibri back into a rabbit again, and chaining together a string of successful clearances as a rabbit will evolve Vibri into “Queen Vibri“, increasing the player’s score until a mistake is made again. Small pink dots on-screen, in the shape of a circle, indicate how far you are into a successful sequence. Complete the circle and Vibri will evolve. A curved line at the bottom of the screen shows how far into each course you are.

There’s a humorous animated tutorial that explains how to play the game. It does take a bit of practise to find a rhythm, but when you do the game becomes quite hypnotic, trying to finish a sequence of songs without fouling up. As you complete rounds the obstacles then start combining together and things speed up and begin to get much harder. Beating Vib-Ribbon definitely takes some concentration.

At the end of a successful run Vibri’s points are tallied-up and a high score will see the wireframe rabbit sing a short congratulatory song based on your performance. Vib-Ribbon comes with its own set of six songs (by a band called Laugh&Peace, with vocals by Yoko Fujita), but additionally the player can generate their own levels by playing songs from their own music CDs, with the level of difficulty varying depending on the intensity of the music. There are three courses to play, at bronze, silver and gold difficulties, each with two songs each.

If that sounds strange… then, well, it is! But playing Vib Ribbon is a lot of fun and the game effectively demonstrates that flashy graphics are not required to make a good game. The graphics are excellent, in spite of the lack of colour, and are imaginatively animated. The music that comes with the game is good too.

Vib-Ribbon was developed by NanaOn-Sha (who also created Parappa the Rapper) and published by Sony exclusively for the PlayStation in 1999. The game spawned two sequels: Mojib-Ribbon (which focused on rap music), and Vib-Ripple which used digital images loaded into the game to generate levels, both of which were released on the PlayStation 2.

Final note: this game was initially commissioned as a promotion for a Mercedes-Benz car, but when that fell through development continued as a stand-alone game.

More: Vib-Ribbon on Wikipedia

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