Name: Body Harvest
Format: Nintendo 64
Developer: DMA Design
Publisher: Gremlin Interactive Limited.
The N64's Forgotten Classic
Body Harvest has to be one of the most underappreciated games ever. I bought my copy second hand off someone at school for a fiver, and he was glad to be rid of it. Everyone was "Hah! You bought Body Harvest? For a fiver? Man, you got ripped off!". But for some reason, I think they were wrong. I wasn't ripped off. I got my hands on an incredibly unique chapter in gaming history, for a week's pocket money. Score.
Body Harvest is, at heart, an action adventure type game. This genre is notoriously hard to pin down as to what sort of game it is. Body Harvest is unlike most other games I've played, and best represented by the equation:
GTA + (Zelda - Dungeons and Dragons) + B Movies
GTA's influence on the game is clear. Not only did DMA design develop both games, both involve a healthy amount of stealin vehicles which are lying around and going joy riding. However, the similarities end here - Body Harvest requires concentration and perseverance to succeed, whereas in GTA you can just blow stuff up randomly to finish each level.
Zelda - Dungeons and Dragons because while Body Harvest and Zelda share an absolutely enormous world, with houses to go into, puzzles to solve, underground bits to explore, Body Harvest doesn't have none of your crappy pointy hattedness. No elves, no magic, no reaching new levels, just Rock Hard Marines and shooty death.
B-Movies because, well, the plot if this game is pure B-Movie in silicon form. Aliens, eating all people on earth, yadda yah, live on comet, comes near to earth every 25 years, everyone on a continent dies each time, super secret research team, send final hope back in time to kill all aliens after each attack, stop the Body Harvest.
Wanton Violence speaks for itself.
Essentiall, Body Harvest is a free roaming adventure with a shoot em up on top. There are five levels, each set 25 years apart (this is the amount of time in between the alien comet being close enough to attack earth). Adam Drake, the game's hero, has been sent back in time from 2016, when the Earth was totally laid waste. He has to drop in on each alien attack and foil it, in a very spectacular way. The levels are:
- Greece, 1916.
- Java, 1941.
- USA, 1966.
- Siberia, 1991.
- Alien Comet, 2016.
Each level involves a number of different areas, usually about four. Each one is ruled over by a Processor, who co-ordinates all the aliens in that area. The ultimate goal of a level to to take out all the processors and then destroy the Shield Generator in the middle of the map, followed by a Boss. Unfortunately, there is another concern, apart from staying alive long enough to kill all the nasty people - hapless humans. Humans can be found, obviously , in villages. Periodically, the aliens beam down a Harvester Wave, which exists solely to eat humans. You, naturally, will want to stop this happening. Primarily because you have a deep seated respect for every human on the planet and cannot stand to see another person suffer, but failing that, if the aliens successfully harvest 6 humans they create a Mutant. As you can see, this is in bold, so therefore, it is not good. A Mutant is an alien with only one aim in life - kill you. It will jump insane distances to get to you quickly, and then either jump on you or shoot you. It is about the size of a house. Also, if that was not enough incentive, if you let 25 humans die in any one level, the game ends. This, similarly, sucks. So inbetween fighting the processors and shield generators, and stopping the harvesting waves, there are predictably some other things to worry about.
Ah, yes, the landscape. You have almost no swimming ability (you can, but only for a short distance. Then you sink and die. Shucks) so the game frequently makes you run around for miles to get some water transport. Occasionally the game will take a break from this, and present you with a big mountain to get over so you need to find a plane. I guess I'm selling the game short here, because the puzzles in Body Harvest are what make it really fun to play. Finding the right bits of a statue to do something else which you give to someone and they give you keys to a big tank... It all works when you play it. The game also seems to be obsessed with making everything as plausable as possible, and explaining every little gaming convention. For example, while most games set in the outdoors have barriers (either invisible, or mountains etc.) to stop you straying, Body Harvest has big blue "Shield walls", made by the shield generator. The game says that this is the way aliens attack - they send down an impassable shield wall (which stops reinforcements from helping the humans), eat everyone inside the shield, and then move it to the next section, eat everyone there, etc. Messages from your partner which can be read while the rest of the action is frozen are explained by "Hostile Action Rapid Messaging (HARM), a drug which speeds up the user's reaction time by a factor of thousands. This allows the user to read the message and understand it in a millisecond, and then the drug dissolves harmlessly into the bloodstream." Quite. A backpack which can store any amount of items is explained as having "six dimensional capabilities". If you can believe that, then this game is definitely for you.
Vehicles are spread around the levels as if a happy vehicle religion had a festival of automobiles. Most are unlocked and can be jumped into at any point, (this shows the GTA influence) so getting some transport around the huge levels is rarely an issue. Occasionally you need a specific piece to get somewhere - eg a helicopter to get through a shield portal hole which is high up. Overall though, it's best to get the fastest car or the one with the most fuel.
There is a somewhat smalle collection of weapons but there are still a decent amount besides the default pistol. Combat is usually a case of holding the "aim" button and shooting randomly, but there are occasionally moments when you can use a rifle to pick aliens off from miles away. Aside from the harvester waves, there are a hell of a lot of normal aliens which require killing, but even though they are normally huge compared to Adam, he usually destroys them with ease. The bosses and the boss stages have some of the best design in the game, with you put in a big open space, given the best vehicle in the game (the Alpha Tank, which includes a load of it's own weapons,) and told to basically shoot shit out the boss.
There is, it has to be said, a whole lot to dislike about this game. The graphics are pretty (appaling), with garish bright primary colours all over the shop (the main character's armour suit is orange) and for gamers who are less able to appreciate gameplay, this will put you off. You also often have to play for a long time - save points are only setn out after you kill a processor, so that could be a few hours solid between them. Adam's inability to swim, or climb up hills, can lead to nasty incidents, especially when involving planes. Clip a mountain top while flying, fall down, plane explode, leave Adam in middle of water, totally screwed. Still, learn to work around these glitches and you'll find that Body Harvest is one of the best adventure shoot em ups on the N64. I can't think of that many others, so this naturally makes it one of the best.
Respect to Servo5678, who has reminded me that Body Harvest had an incredibly turbulent development period, and was once described as "the N64's most schizophrenic game" by N64 magazine. The game was originally intended to be an N64 launch title but it ended up over a year late, after having changed publisher several times, and having a few complet overhauls of the gameplay. It began as a B-Movie RPG, then went to be a shoot em up, and ended up with an interesting mix of both.
10 Vaguely interesting things you can do in Body Harvest
Drive an Ice Cream Van
Put out a fire using a stolen Fire Engine
Run over zombies with a combine harvester
Save the human race wearing a suit of orange armour
Ferry some endangered villagers across a lava filled lake
Park a big car up a hill above a village, and have it roll down into it, crushing pedestrians
Run over innocent humans, with the pretext of saving them from an even more hideous death
Watch people with square heads getting caught by excreted blobs of green mucus and horrifically ingested into a huge green spider alien
Sorry. There isn't a tenth one. If you can honestly not want this game after I have told you nine good things about it, you are beyond all help anyway.
Overall, if you like games, you will want this. If you are reading this, you like games. Therefore, YOU need this game*. It should still be floating around in some second hand game shops near you, so get out there and experience one of the wierdest and best N64 games.
Harpsichord fanatic points out that another plus about BH was the incredible music. It was haunting and melodic, and sounds like it was played by a proper orchestra. Like Banjo-Kazooie, it changed depending on the situation (fast for fighting, slow and moving if you were just walking around etc). As Hf says, it was ambient and "almost mournful, great for a game like BH" - very true. Overall, that was another reason to buy Body Harvest. But did you? No. You're all idiots because you didn't. Me and Harpsichord_fanatic did, and we're cool people. You lot are just sad.
* Fault that logic, I dare you.