Land Breaker, not to be confused with Taito’s excellent (but not lewd) puzzler Landmaker, is yet another example of a saucy arcade game adopting what has become known as the “outline” genre. But don’t come into this one expecting just another Qix clone — this one actually does some notably different and interesting things.
Land Breaker, also known as Miss Tang Ja Ru Gi, is the work of Korean developer Eolith. This is a company I wouldn’t blame you for not having heard of, since many of their titles didn’t make a huge impact in the west, and they were only active between 1996 and 2005.
Eolith’s games include a number of puzzle titles — including the delightfully named Linky Pipe — and what appears to be a clone of Namco’s Tank Force. The few titles from the company that you may have heard of include the Hidden Catch spot-the-difference games, some of which made it to Europe, and The King of Fighters 2001 and 2002, the former being the first game produced following the closure of SNK’s original form and its quasi-reincarnation as Playmore Corporation.
Land Breaker appeared in 2000 to relatively little fanfare; it’s barely acknowledged in the collective history of arcade games recorded across the Internet. That’s kind of a shame, though, because it provides an interesting twist on the usual “outline” formula. Yes, you’re still uncovering vaguely provocative images of scantily clad women — here provided in the form of low-resolution 65,536 colour digitised images — but the way in which you do so is notably different from other games of this type, such as Kaneko’s Gals Panic series.
Instead of starting on the stage boundary and “cutting” into the stage as in Qix and its many, many clones, in Land Breaker you control a mechanical device which can freely move around the interior of the stage. By tapping one of the two buttons, you can switch it between a horizontal and vertical orientation, and by tapping the other button, you fire out a laser in both directions.
If this laser reaches both sides of the available play area without being intercepted by something, it “cuts” the playfield, though the mildly lewd background is only actually uncovered if one of the slices you make contains no enemies whatsoever. In other words, if you cut the playfield in half, the half that has no enemies will reveal the backdrop, while the half that does contain enemies becomes the new available play area.
But what happens if both slices contain enemies? In Qix, that was the main way in which you scored big points, largely because it was extremely difficult to achieve. But in Land Breaker, what happens is that you still create the “cut”, but neither slice reveals the background. The cut does act as a barrier for the enemies, however, so when dealing with large groups of enemies you can use this to corral them into gradually smaller and smaller areas, revealing the background a piece at a time with proper timing.
The enemies mostly take the form of bouncing balls of various sizes. Towards the start of the game, you only have to deal with one or two large balls, but as the game progresses, you’ll have to deal with larger numbers of smaller balls, and occasional enemies that move in more unpredictable patterns.
There are a few power-ups available as you play, and these are collected by either capturing them in a slice or hitting them with your laser as it moves across the play area.
Lightning bolts cause your next shot to be at high speed, making it more likely to be successful. Hearts give you an extra life. Stars make you invincible for a short period — though they don’t stop your lasers being blocked by enemies. And magnets freeze all the enemies for an all too brief time. There’s also a bonus multiplier you can acquire, which allows you to increase your end-level bonus by up to four times — or potentially halve it with poor timing!
To complete a level in Land Breaker, you need to reveal 80% or more of the background image, with every percent over 80 contributing to that end-level bonus, along with how quickly you managed to beat the stage. The game unfolds in a series of episodes, each containing their own selection of 8 girls to reveal. Promotional material claims that there are “about 100 beauties” to uncover, and indeed each episode does appear to contain completely unique images — though don’t expect them to get any lewder than ladies in lingerie and bikinis.
Land Breaker’s basic mechanics are enjoyable, and it’s an interesting inversion of the Qix format in that it feels significantly harder at the start of a stage rather than towards the end when the enemies are more confined. Unlike in Qix, the first cut you make in Land Breaker has to cover the entire width or height of the play area, and when the stage starts to get a bit crowded timing this properly can be exceedingly difficult.
Which brings up the main, unsurprising problem with Land Breaker when played today: as an arcade game designed to extract money from horny dudes who want to see low-resolution images of women in their pants, it gets very hard very quickly. (Pun at least partially intended.) After just a few stages, the number of enemies ramps up to such a degree that making the initial cut in a level feels more like a matter of luck than skill, and it’s around this point that things start to get a bit tiresome.
I can’t really blame Eolith for putting the game together in this way — arcade games like this are generally designed for a quick bit of fun rather than something people want to dedicate time to “beating” — but it does leave the whole experience feeling a little meaningless after a while, particularly as your score doesn’t reset after continuing. Consequently, topping the high score table becomes more a matter of how many credits you’ve been willing to feed the machine with rather than a measure of your actual skill!
Still, for a quick blast and a quick perv, Land Breaker offers a few minutes of fun, which is all it was ever really intended to do. I can see a Land Breaker machine sitting in the corner of a smoky bar in the early days of the new millennium with a crowd of drunken students huddled around it, laughing as whoever was in charge of the controls at the time gradually revealed a hint of titty or a glimpse of thigh.
When played home alone, however, it loses a certain amount of its appeal. It’s far from the worst lewd game I’ve played — and far from the most unfair arcade game I’ve played, for that matter — but there are certainly far better options available to explore.
Nonetheless, it remains a relatively unknown and interesting part of the overall history of lewd gaming — and that is, after all, why we’re here!
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