hap Inc.: Humor in Mobile Games
Deep within the recesses of the app store, hidden among the Candy Crushes and FarmVilles of the mobile game market, a gem in the rough is out there, patiently awaiting the discovery by the unsuspecting explorer. That gem is “hap Inc.,” and by god, what a fantastic game developer they are.
hap Inc. (yes, with lowercase) is a Japanese mobile game developer that specializes in one thing: Creating enjoyable, funny-as-hell games that subvert your expectations at every turn. These games are sometimes challenging and sometimes trivial, but they all share the same quirky sense of humor that offer a glimpse into a unique and wildly disturbed mind.
My entry point into the world of hap Inc. began with a title known as Hidden my game by mom! Proudly sporting its bizarre translation and all, Hidden my game by mom! was love at first sight. You play as a young Japanese boy. Your over-protective mom has hidden your video game system away from you, and it is your task to explore the living room to find it. This often involves using items and thinking around corners in order to get a hold of the game while also avoiding the wrath of mom.
In general, Hidden my game by mom! plays like your typical escape-the-room puzzle game. What makes this game really stand out is the consistent variety of straight up weird shit that goes down in hap Inc.’s world. With each new level, the living room undergoes bizarre transformations that present hilarious obstacles that the boy must overcome to get his game. Grandpa, baseball players, elephants, circus employees, even the predator from the Predator series, this game features a cornucopia of gimmicks with the sole intention of making you laugh.
Imagine getting arrested in your home for picking up a stray wallet, or digging through the couch cushions, only to discover your disappointed mom laying in wait. This game’s gimmicks are so surprising and delightful that I often found myself messing up on purpose just to see what funny scenarios were waiting around each corner. The game even has a pretty powerful ending for how short it is, and the developer found a creative way to weave the storytelling in with the gameplay elements.
In the handful of weeks that I’ve been sitting on this article, a sequel to Hidden my game by mom! came out. It’s a great follow-up to the original title and has no shortage of new ideas and oddities that build upon concepts introduced in the first game.
Another notable game, FreeKick, pits the player against the wild and variegated goalies of an opposing team. These goalies, taking the form of motorcyclists, Neo from The Matrix, and even the predator from the Predator series (wait what?), all work to bewilder and confuse the player in new and hilarious ways, challenging their timing and judgement in equal measures.
Compared to Hidden my game by mom!, Crazy FreeKick is pretty skill-based, showing off hap Inc.’s versatility. Each new level is designed to make you fail, surprising you at every turn with crazy shit that will jump out of nowhere. Just like with Hidden my game by mom!, the goal is to make you laugh and have a good time, and boy, does it accomplish that with flying colors.
Aside from Hidden my game by mom! and Crazy FreeKick, hap Inc.’s repertoire features quite a tidy list of B-listers. They’re not quite as involved as the newer titles, but they mark significant steps in the designer’s path toward this unique, bizarre style. Games like Batting, Crazy Pitcher, and Behind You!! are all relatively basic reflex-based games that pit players against swarms of incoming baseballs or challenge them to get their groove on without being discovered by mom.
My favorite title from these mid-tier games absolutely has to be Judge!, where you literally play as an umpire, required to make good calls throughout the course of a normal baseball game. This involves calling strikes and balls, as well as paying attention to plays and fly balls, deciding whether the ball landed in bounds or if the runner got to the base quick enough for a safe call. There actually doesn’t really seem to be much of a joke here, but the execution is on point, with a ton of variables thrown in that make each run feel unique. You score points for each batter you can process, emphasizing the unbiased nature of the umprie profession. Honestly, there’s a ton of replay value here, and I can see myself holding onto this one for quite a while.
Even further down the list (in my opinion), you can find rough gems like Toast Girl, where you can play out your fantasy of being an anime high school girl running to school with a slice of toast in your mouth, Crazy Horizontal Bar, where you spin around a gymnastics bar and execute bizarre landings, and Crazy Chaser, where you play as a stalker, hiding every time the woman you’re stalking turns around. These games are all relatively shallow and rough around the edges. The most depth you’ll find here are probably the ending sequences and images.
One of the truly charming things about hap Inc.’s games is that they all seem to exist in the same world, creating a unique and crazy universe that encompasses all of these titles. This is accomplished by an overarching and characteristic hand-drawn art style, as well as the use of recurring characters and themes, such as the predator or the cast of household family members that all seem to exist comfortably in the domestic limbo of quotidian Japanese life. Each game feels linked to the last one in some way, building a larger narrative about the virtues of getting a little crazy from time to time.
While each game features some pretty loopy subject matter, it is undeniable that they each possess a clear vision. There are very few wasted parts in each game, despite the fact that the developer seems to have had no shortage of wacky ideas to include in their zany world. This results in a very streamlined and focused experience with just about every game in hap Inc.’s repertoire, and this is especially true with the more recent titles.
From vision to execution of the final product, hap Inc. is a developer that excels with humor in mobile games. On top of all this, each game is absolutely FREE! This is not a paid endorsement; it’s just really impressive to me that hap Inc. has managed to accomplish all this and keep their games free at the same time, all in the name of providing the world with a little bit of quirky fun. From surprising escape-the-room games to challenge-based, weird-as-hell sports titles with everything in between, hap Inc. may just be one of the most interesting budding game developers on the app market. Check ’em out some time.
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